Before I started to read, I was worried Deloume Road, with its rural Canadian setting (Vancouver Island), would be one of those CanLit novels Victoria Glendinning derided (where the characters brood in Muskoka chairs) but I gave it a chance because it’s one of the Knopf Canada New Face of Fiction titles for 2010. I’m so glad I did. The novel opens quietly, with a description of Deloume Road. In short chapters from many perspectives, we’re introduced to the local residents: a confident, capable boy who calls the shots with his best pal and his mentally challenged little brother; a young loner who tries to stay out of the way of his tyrant father; a Ukrainian butcher who takes unenviable work as a pig farmer, saving every penny to bring his wife and son to Canada; a lonely Korean widow who is 8 months pregnant; a Native artist waiting for word on his pilot son whose plane has crashed. Amongst their stories, unfolds that of Gerard Deloume, who committed suicide in 1899. I was initially concerned about the number of narrators, but it works. There are many voices, but they remain distinct.
I love the pace of the book–it’s perfection. It starts gently, building to a slow simmer, rising surely and fatefully to a smouldering climax. Despite the setting, and the melting pot of residents on Deloume Road, this is not a ‘Canadian’ book, but one of universal themes. In a world where comfort can be had from unexpected sources, it is also withheld when self-preservation trumps morality. It’s a hard world. It is the strong who survive; yet, sometimes, faith is rewarded too. Seemingly innocuous actions can have far-reaching consequences; our actions have repercussions. I read this book in a day, but I’ll be thinking about it for much longer.