Project: Choose any section of dialogue from the novel “Last Night in Montreal” and discuss why it works.
At this point in the novel we get a glimpse of who Christopher is, or who we think he is anyway, through a conversation with Peter.
Peter comes across as a “good guy,” the one who has been trying to find the lost girl. So, by association and from the faith Peter exhibits for Christopher in this conversation, we believe Christopher must also be a “good guy.” Peter likes Christopher and nothing seems odd or out of order about him at this point, so we like him too. We get the feeling he might even be the eventual hero who could potentially save the day.
By having Christopher point out that Lilia is “the same age as” his own daughter, Michaela, we can’t help but assume that similarity would make him feel even more connected to the case. Looking back, who would have guessed that his connection would turn into obsession and cause him to eventually ignore and abandon his own child?
While we might wonder why Peter needs Christopher’s help, Christopher does not. If the case is “solvable” as Peter put it, why has he not yet been able to solve it? In hindsight, his dialogue may have been a clue about the tension and conflict to come and maybe even a sign that Peter, too, had been obsessed with the case. His words and his tone lead to this conclusion. He sounded physically and emotionally exhausted, like he’d tried everything. That would explain why Peter sought out Christopher’s help. Peter mentioned in this conversation that his own wife, Anya, had recently left him. Was that possibly due to his obsession with the case? Was this foreshadowing for what would eventually happen to Christopher?
Without questioning any of this, Christopher seems confident that he will have no problem getting to the bottom of it. With the clue (the torn Bible page on which Lilia had scribbled the note) in hand, Christopher says “Good lord. I could find her in ten minutes with something like this.” He boasts that it’ll be easy to find Lilia. Maybe he’s being overly confident or maybe he simply doesn’t get it at that point. What’s interesting to me is that Peter doesn’t try to defend why it’s taken him so long or why he still hasn’t solved the case. Shouldn’t Christopher’s comment have caused a reaction in Peter? I would have thought so but Peter just lets the comment slide by which seems unusual. I couldn’t help but think he held his tongue because he was ready to move on, to be done with it already. He wanted his life back and he recognized Christopher as his only hope.
Of course, even at this early point in the novel, we know it’s not going to be easy for Christopher. It can’t possibly be as easy as he thinks it’ll be or what would the book be about? Still we are instantly interested in seeing the story unfold, getting to know Christopher better and experiencing the challenges he’s bound to face along the way. We want him to succeed if it means he’ll be helping Lilia but we also want him to grow and teach us a thing or two along the way.
In two brief pages of dialogue, we learn so much about Peter and Christopher. We get critical information to look back at later and we know that Christopher is going to be an important character. Of course, at this point in the story, we have no way of predicting how much searching for Lilia will change Christopher and/or our feelings about him, how obsessed he will eventually become or how his mission to “save” Lilia, who as it turns out in the end had already been saved by her brother and father, will so negatively impact his life, his health and his family.