Bards and Sages Publishing, $10.00, ISBN 978-0-6151-4563-1
Contemporary Fiction, 2007
Foot Ways is a most unusual kind of comedy with some dark undercurrents. Combining poetry with whimsy and a healthy dose of foot fetish (really), this short but eccentric story is one of the most quirky and memorable that I’ve read in a while. And I love it when that happens.
I am not going to reveal too much about the story because much of the joy one gets from this book is derived from discovering and being surprised by the revelations and twists in the story. Basically, the story revolves around a mysterious man, Mr Rufe, who will show up every year at the first day of spring with his dog. His presence in that town to women is akin to the presence of the Pied Piper to the rats of Hamelin – women rush to him in droves. Why? Well, that is what the reader will learn as she turns the pages.
The story is told from the points of view of several characters, with each taking turn being spotlighted in a chapter. There is Mary Marchant, or Polly Jr as she is known to her family, who as a young girl hates the presence of Mr Rufe because the old man makes her father uncomfortable and his presence requires her to abandon her favorite playpen so that Mr Rufe can sleep in it. Her point of view serves as a most amusing introduction to Mr Rufe. Mary is a precocious young lady given a delightful voice by Ms Sadler. But her mother, Polly, is an even more memorable character when she tells her side of the story.
Through Mary’s sheltered viewpoint, Polly is a distant tyrant, but Polly turns out to be a more complex character than that, as Mary begins to discover by the end of her narrative. I find myself moved by Polly’s platonic relationship with the much older town doctor and really, Polly is a marvelous character, so much more similar to Mary than the young lady can even begin to comprehend. The final few chapters hint at the possible identity of Mr Rufe but leaves enough questions to cast some doubt on any certainty that the reader may come to after reading those chapters.
Foot Ways is, in many ways, a work unpublishable by mainstream publishers because of its length, potentially disturbing undertones that the reader may detect from Mr Rufe’s interactions with young Mary, and the way this book doesn’t offer a conclusive resolution to the mystery that is Mr Rufe. I am grateful, therefore, that the independent publisher Bards and Sages Publishing would take a chance on this delightful story. I have a very good time reading and re-reading this thing of beauty.