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All True Not a Lie In It

by Alix Hawley

The first novel by B.C.-based short-story writer Alix Hawley deconstructs the traditional narrative concerning frontiersman Daniel Boone (1734–1820). Perhaps America’s first mythologized hero, Boone was an international legend in his own lifetime and remains so today. Newspaper reports, dime-store novels, and school textbooks laud his acts of daring, his hunting skills, and his personal contribution to U.S. manifest destiny. Here, however, the fictional Boone, who narrates the story in hindsight, is haunted by the dead, and feels guilt over his obsession with the Kentucky wilderness and the price his family pays for his weakness. And more often than not, his few successes come not because of his actions but despite them.

All True Not A Lie In It (Alix Hawley) coverWhat Boone does have is a good public relations man with an agenda. A childhood acquaintance resolves to write about Boone’s exploits, and the exaggerated stories soon catch the imagination of the public. A mythology is born, and Boone becomes an unwitting victim of his own fame, often disappointing himself and those around him – sometimes with deadly consequences, because he can’t live up to the hype and appears almost to float toward his destiny, unable to stop it or himself.

Hawley masterfully creates both a dreamlike world and a fearful fantasy. We get to know her Boone intimately, the narrowness of his childhood existence, the idealization of his dead brother, Israel, whom Boone strives his entire life to emulate, and the trauma caused by the loss of his son. The unremitting cruelty and turbulence of the 18th-century frontier environment is palpable. The country is vast, but the deep,
almost suffocating forest, where death can lurk behind any tree, keeps one from seeing clearly, and friend or foe can appear or disappear in an instant.

The book’s magic, however, is in Hawley’s treatment of Boone’s inner life. All True Not a Lie In It, published, appropriately, under Knopf Canada’s New Face of Fiction imprint, may come closer to disclosing  the “real” Daniel Boone than those who originally manufactured and perpetuated his myth