"The Matter With Morris" by David Bergen

Everyone is wondering what is the matter with Morris? His son Martin was killed in Afghanistan after Morris, a pacifist, dared him to join the army. Now he has been let go from his job as a newspaper columnist and his grieving wife has left him. He has withdrawn all his money from the bank, cut off most of his contact with the outside world, is trying to rescue a prostitute and has immersed himself in the works of great thinkers. Will Morris be able to find the answers he is looking for or is he forever lost?

The Matter With Morris is about a man in crisis, dealing with the consequences of his actions and words while trying to understand the nature of the world around him. Morris Schutt is a very interesting man. He's not Mr. Popular nor does he care to be. He doesn't always think before he acts. But he is trying to figure out how to fix his mistakes, or at least how to stop making them.

My feelings on this book are mixed. I thought the premise of the story is good and relatable - how one deals with grief in our current time of international conflict. There is a lot to question about our world, the people who run it, and those who are fighting our wars. I could agree with Morris on many of his viewpoints, especially with his reflections on how the great thinkers works still apply today. Morris' letters to the Prime Minister and the corporation who manufactured the gun that killed his son were poignant.

But there was also a lot of disconnect from Morris for me. I'm not sure why given that the book is all about Morris and how he drifts through his time of crisis. The writing style is simple and Morris is easy to follow. I did feel a bit more for him toward the end of the book.

I think in the end, I was expecting more from this book because it has been shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and other books from the longlist were able to pull me in quicker than this one. I do think that this is worth a read however, that David Bergen has some interesting observations on life and war and how they intersect.


  1. I'll have to look for this one -- it's unusual to see a novel with a Canadian perspective on the war in Afghanistan, I think?

    I noticed that you are currently reading The Debba -- how do you like it? I read it a few weeks ago and am still trying to decide how I feel about it.

  2. Suzanne, I've only just started The Debba so I don't have any opinions yet!

    This is the first novel I've read that includes Afghanistan as part of the plot. Jane Urquhart's Sanctuary Line also includes the death of a solider in Afghanistan, but I haven't read it. It was interesting to see it included in a work of fiction.

  3. I saw the tail end of something about this on the news either this morning or yesterday, but missed what the book was about. Thanks for filling me in.

  4. I've read David Bergen before and I think he's a talented author. I'm dying to get my hands on this book and I think your review has got me even more excited - great job! :)


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