Can you go home again? In the case of Amiah Williams, the hero of Jaclyn Dawn’s debut novel, the answer is… sort of?
Amiah returns to a tiny Alberta village from Vancouver to help tend to the family farm after her father’s had an accident. But, in a small town, everybody knows everything about their neighbours, and it’s only exacerbated by the presence of a tabloid called The Inquirer, which has replaced the staid old weekly paper. The Inquirer uses anonymous tips and prints unsavoury gossip — and the people of the village lap up every scandalous and salacious story.
While the book offers anything but a romantic look at rural life, it touches on several uncomfortable subjects — from how small-town women are expected to be dutiful wives and mothers, to how a person who leaves her town behind is not-so-quietly resented for packing up and leaving.
An emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend provides the foil to the story. Dawn is intentionally vague about just how abusive the relationship between Amiah and Mike was; and that makes it effective. The fact that the narrator doesn’t feel totally comfortable sharing the history of her relationship makes her identifiable with so many who don’t come forward about the emotional and possibly physical abuse they suffer.
Canadian literature is filled with stories that look whimsically back at small-town life. This is anything but that. The Inquirer is a refreshing departure from so many tired Canadian literary tropes.