The powerful American debut of Canadian bestseller Moore does for Newfoundland what Empire Falls did for dying smalltown Maine and The Sportswriter did for suburban New Jersey. Seventeen-year-old Colleen Clark and her mother, Beverly, can't overcome their grief over the sudden death of David, Beverly's husband and Colleen's stepfather. While Beverly copes by dieting and retreating into herself, Colleen downloads videos of beheadings off the Internet and tries her hand at eco-terrorism ("I wanted to change things," she says about dumping sugar into a bulldozer's gas tank) before running away to Louisiana-where alligators troll the bayou. Madeleine, Beverly's older sister, scrambles to finish her cinematic opus before her heart-heavy with longing for her youth and gradually weakening due to an unnamed medical condition-gives out. Frank, a 19-year-old still reeling from his mother's death from cancer, obsesses over Colleen and finds himself intertwined with Valentin, a Russian gangster with his own tormented past. Powerfully drawn secondary characters-an actress in Madeleine's film, Valentin's lover-add depth to this generous novel. (Sept. 21) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Set in Newfoundland, Canada, a place most Americans and even Canadians have never been to or know much about, this novel reveals a lot about its setting and even more about its characters. Because the tale is told from the different points of view of the many characters, it is sometimes hard to keep track of the actual plot, which is filled with brilliant images. The story centers on two characters: a mother who has recently lost her husband to an unexpected death, and her teenage daughter, who reacts to the death by becoming an "ecoterrorist" when she puts sugar in the gas tank of equipment used to cut down trees in the forest. Other characters include her aunt, a filmmaker who is dying but anxious to finish her last work, and Frank, a teenage dropout whose ambition is to go into business with his hot dog stand, but who is threatened by a Russian mafia member. The author is excellent at getting into the heads of these characters who are all trying to survive a past or future tragedy, and she tells the story in an uniquely visual way, like a film with each character's story spliced together to create a complete story, beginning with the image of an alligator who holds a person in his jaws. That man, like the characters in the novel, finds a way to survive.
Moore's outstanding first novel begins with a series of loosely connected, sharply focused chapters; as the novel progresses, the connections between characters and events tighten. Colleen, a Newfoundland teen who grew up quickly after the death of her beloved stepfather, has been convicted of ecovandalism. Instead of undertaking the required community service, she runs away to Louisiana to meet Loyola, the alligator man featured in one of her Aunt Madeleine's films. Meanwhile, Madeleine is racing to finish her greatest film yet, knowing she will soon die. Beverly, Colleen's mother and Madeleine's sister, attempts to cope with the death of her husband and to understand the changes in her daughter. Then there is struggling actress Isobel, who stars in Aunt Madeleine's final work; Russian emigre and sociopath Valentin, who burns down Isobel's house for the insurance money; and Frank, a hot-dog vendor and would-be lover of Colleen. Moore's novel, set in St. John's, Newfoundland, is a carefully crafted microcosm of time and place featuring nuanced characters who quickly gain readers' sympathy or horror as their pasts and futures unravel. It won a regional prize in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Highly recommended.-Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The lives of several interconnected people in St. John's, Newfoundland, appear to be both ordinary and off the beaten path. Readers first meet teenage Colleen, who has just put sugar in the gas tanks of forest-clearing equipment-and been caught. Through her, they meet her aunt Madeleine, a middle-aged, self-absorbed indie filmmaker in the midst of making her crowning achievement. The woman leads the peripatetic life of an artist who is also responsible for finding the money to finance her projects. Widowed Beverly, Colleen's mother and Madeleine's sister, is trying to cope with her sorrow and not quite paying attention to her daughter. Other characters include Frank, who grew up poor and is saving his hard-earned money, and, living above him, Augustin, a ruthless Russian sociopath who's seen and done it all. He meets and sleeps with Isobel, a fading actress whose final "big" role will be in the film. The eponymous alligator appears in one of Madeleine's films that Colleen sees early on; near the book's end, she goes to Louisiana in a quest to meet the man attacked by the animal, who survived and runs an alligator farm. The plot is just sufficient enough to form a book, although there is a fiery climax. However, the best part is the fresh writing. There are frequent flashbacks, done seamlessly. With lively, real, expressive writing that pulls readers into the story, this slice-of-life novel will be popular with teens.—Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VACopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Crises in intersecting lives mark the U.S. debut of a prize-winning Canadian writer. With cool prose and scrupulous observation, Moore assembles a loosely linked group of characters, almost all based in St. John's, Newfoundland, in a novel which has some of the formal separations and isolations of a collection of stories. Seventeen-year-old Colleen Clark has been running wild and is now in trouble for pouring sugar into the gas tanks of bulldozers in an attempt to save the endangered pine marten. Her mother, Beverly, reminisces about her beloved, dead husband, Colleen's stepfather. Beverly's older sister Madeleine, a filmmaker brimming with ideas, impulses and memories of her full and committed life, is working on an all-consuming project. Frank, whose mother recently died, runs a hot-dog stand and is being threatened by Valentin, a soulful Russian thug. Other characters are absorbed in this spreading social pool as Moore's narrative line loops back and around to fill in their multiple hinterlands. Forward progress is therefore frustratingly slow until late on, and also muddied by uncertainty as to which of these people matter. Instead, descriptive notes and insights are as carefully applied to each character and scene as in an illuminated manuscript. Frank and Colleen meet at a wet T-shirt contest and she robs him of his life savings, heading to Louisiana to find the survivor of an alligator attack that appeared as a terrifying illustration of accidental catastrophe in one of Madeleine's documentary films. Colleen survives the alligator farm, Frank survives Valentin's beatings and murder attempts although he is burnt and battered. And Madeleine, well . . . Heavy with luminous detail,Moore's fully-imagined characters and their dramas possess complexity, if not much motion.