Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fiction: Grace River by Rebecca Hendry

There is something almost inexplicably charming about Rebecca Hendry’s voice in her debut novel, Grace River (Brindle & Glass). Her sentences are long and muscular. Strictly speaking, many of them are too long, but this somehow adds to the charm of the voice and enhances the small town themes of the book.

Here, for instance, on the very first page, the fictional town of Grace River is described:
The main street is what the town has put all its high hopes into. The storefronts are redone with that heritage look everybody’s so hot about these days and the hanging flowerpots, which makes it kind of feel like you live in a decent place with decent people, if you forget about the rat foo yung and the pot-selling just around the corner.
Grace River is a small town in the interior of British Columbia where everyone is either employed by the local smelter or in an industry that supports it. When an environmentalist shows up and begins poking around, trouble is inevitable.

But wait: that almost makes Grace River sound like a humorous story, and it’s certainly not. In fact, there’s a certain humorlessness about the navel-gazing of youth that is, at times, faintly disturbing. Everything is dire for the four friends whose stories make up Grace River. Everything is slightly larger than life. That’s part of the charm here as well, I think. A certain youthful energy that gives the book its power. And does that energy come from the author or her characters? Well, that’s the magic in a good story, I think. You can just buckle up, and let the author take you on her well-crafted ride.



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