Queen's University

The wisdom of Grandma

For a guy who self-describes as being "dull, boring, and banal," writer Iain Reid has a lot of interesting things to say.

Ask Iain Reid, Artsci’04, to describe himself and he will tell you. “I know my shortcomings,” he says. “I’m not really a happy-go-lucky, adventuresome, fun kind of guy. In fact, I’m very un-fun.”

Reid explains that if a friend called to ask him to go on an impromptu trip to Las Vegas or some other “fun” place, he’d likely decline. “I’d need to know stuff like – what kind of airplane is it? Where will we be staying? Will the food be fresh? Is it flu season?” he says. “I’m a homebody. Dull, boring, banal. A crotchety old man in a young man’s body. Mostly I like to stay home and read and write.”

Iain ReidIain Reid is one of the many authors will
appear at the 2013 Kingston WritersFest.
(Photo by Lindy Mechefske)

For a guy who self-describes as being “dull, boring, and banal,” Reid has a lot of interesting things to say. And it’s apparent that staying home to read and write is serving him well. His first book, One Bird’s Choice: A Year in the Life of an Overeducated, Underemployed Twenty-Something Who Moves Back Home, has been translated into both Chinese and German and won the 2011 CBC Bookie Award for Best Non-Fiction Book.

Reid’s second book, The Truth About Luck: What I Learned On My Road Trip With Grandma (House of Anansi, $18.95), is billed as a comic memoir about family connections. Reid, who had promised his grandmother a trip for her 92nd birthday, brought her to Kingston for a “staycation” in his basement apartment. Over the course of their five days together they explored the Limestone City’s attractions and restaurants and told each other the stories of their lives.

Throughout the book, Reid’s grandmother never ceases to charm. She’s relentlessly plucky, humble, kind, gracious, and generous. She’s also fun and possessed of an unusually high degree of common sense. At 92, her memory is still sharp, and so she tells Iain about her experiences in the Great Depression and in WWII, when she served as a nurse on the frontlines.

Reid, who was 28 at the time of his “road trip” with grandma, is now 32. His grandmother is 95 and was the first person to whom he showed a hard copy of the book. “I learned the truth about luck from Grandma,” he says. “She experienced real adversity. When I heard her stories, I realized how good I’ve had it. How my difficulties paled by comparison – and yet how fortunate she views herself.”

The Truth About Luck is a compelling read because of the obvious respect which Reid accords his grandmother and her stories, and the refreshing lack of sensationalism in his writing.

Reid book cover

With two non-fiction books to his credit, Reid is turning his hand to writing fiction. He also writes regularly for the ­National Post and Kingston Life magazine.

Reid advises aspiring writers, “The rules for writing are: don’t follow rules; there are none. Know yourself, keep writing, and put in the hours.”

Iain Reid will talk about The Truth About Luck on September 25, when he appears on stage at the Kingston WritersFest.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2013 Issue #3Queen's Alumni Review
2013 Issue #3
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