cover image Shot-Blue


Jesse Ruddock. Coach House (Consortium, U.S. dist.; PGC, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-55245-340-7

Ruddock’s complex debut novel set in Canada’s north is a story of a tough but character-forming hardscrabble life and of the deep bonds and rivalries created among people who live together far away from urban civilization. In the first section, Rachel and her teenage son, Tristan, live out in the wilderness, determined to survive without help from anyone else. When Rachel doesn’t come home one day, Tristan continues to live alone for a time. In the second section, the land has been sold and Tristan has ended up back at his former home, now turned into a holiday lodge. He lives among strangers and works as a backwoods guide. He becomes closest to Tomasin, who also works there, and the relationship between them is tender, tragic, and perplexing. This poetically written book is full of riddles, of characters talking past each other and misunderstanding one another in the vein of a Shakespearean love tangle. Loneliness, the very human inability to communicate with one another in a way that reveals our deepest selves, is the point. The novel is a fine corrective to fiction that assumes that people are rational actors and that motive is straightforward or even discernible. (Mar.)