Half-Bads in White Regalia by Cody Caetano

The Caetanos move into a doomed house in the highway village of Happyland before an inevitable divorce pulls Cody’s parents in separate directions. His mom, Mindimooye, having discovered her Anishinaabe birth family and Sixties Scoop origin story, embarks on a series of fraught relationships and fresh starts. His dad, O Touro, a Portuguese immigrant and drifter, falls back into “big do, little think” behaviour, despite his best intentions.

Left alone at the house in Happyland, Cody and his siblings must fend for themselves, even as the pipes burst and the lights go out. His protective big sister, Kris, finds inventive ways to put food on the table, and his stoic big brother, Julian, facilitates his regular escapes into the world of video games. As life yanks them from one temporary solution to the next, they steal moments of joy and resist buckling under “baddie” temptations aplenty.

What I thought

As I approach my 300th post, and also over 300 reviews, this may be one of the most challenging books I've reviewed. 

Caetano's memoir came my way via the team at Penguin Random House, and as I do with many books, I fell in love with the cover. I later learned it was designed by Kate Sinclair, a previous guest on AD. 

Busy with other deadlines, appointments, and preparing for treatment, I didn't take the team up on the offer of an ARC at the time. Scrolling through Instagram a couple of weeks later, I caught sight of Cody's Half-Bads in White Regalia in the hands of a few literary agents and folks I follow.

Reading the blurb again, I decided I needed a copy, and it couldn't wait. I lined up outside Indigo before the store opened on a rainy Sunday. It felt immediate.

I started reading soon after. The reason it's so hard for me to review this book is because when reviewing I'm typically peeling myself away to take notes and photos of excerpts I want to remember. I didn't want to do that with this book. I wanted to give it my undivided attention from start to finish. It felt so incredibly special. 

Cody Caetano’s words feel like a gift bestowed upon the reader. I wish I could package up the essence of this book and share it with every one of you. It was truly breathtaking, and simply stunning at every turn of the page.

You need to read it, and as Cody might say, “telling you.” 

It won't let you down. 

Photo by Kris Caetano

Cody Caetano is a writer of Anishinaabe and Portuguese descent and an off-reserve member of Pinaymootang First Nation. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto, where he wrote this memoir under the mentorship of Lee Maracle. Excerpts of Half-Bads in White Regalia earned him a 2020 Indigenous Voices Award for Unpublished Prose.

Half-Bads in White Regalia is available for purchase in paperback at Indigo or in e-book or audiobook format from Kobo. Check Penguin Random House Canada for additional retailers.