Set in the quaint Canadian town of Old Aberdeen (a stand-in for Ottawa), Proulx’s provocative second novel (after Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet) follows the rupturing of the reasonably idyllic lives of one family by the events of one traumatic evening. Mia and Michael Slate receive a grim visit from the accountant at Michael’s property company and learn that his business partner has cheated him out of his share of the company’s profits, plunging them into sudden bankruptcy. Several streets over at a friend’s booze-filled house party, their teenage son, Finn, drunk and rejected by Jess, a family friend with whom he’s locked in a forbidden affair, falls into a hallucinatory sleep (“my body gone, my heartbeat floating”) in the snowy backyard. When he’s found, his hand is so severely frostbitten that it must be amputated. This development, along with the bankruptcy, sends Mia, Michael, and Finn spiraling apart from one another. As layers are peeled back to reveal the underpinnings of that night, the Slates learn hard truths about chance and intimacy, and how even minor acts of vengeance can metastasize into tragedies that cause irreparable damage. Gorgeously written, Proulx’s narrative offers a fascinating plot and both a searing exploration of the butterfly effect of trauma and the uncanny persistence of love in improbable circumstances. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2018 Release date: 08/28/2018 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.