Register Friday | October 23 | 2020

The Spring 2020 Book Room

There is no better way to lure a reader into a story than by killing off a literal canary, the extractive industry’s preferred harbinger to human health, at the very beginning. Shortly after that, a local creosote plant closes in the rural Ontario painted by Paddy Scott in his hilarious new novel, The Union of Smokers (Invisible Publishing), and it becomes apparent that death and demise will loom large in Scott’s world. It’s set in the fictional town of Quinton, based on Trenton, Ontario—think post-­industrial Yoknapatawpha County, but with fewer people who might remember a time of prosperity. The battle of community versus capital (and creosote) is handled with compassionate humour. Young Kasper, the novel’s folksy, chain-smoking child narrator, waxes on his community by saying, “People can get trapped by their own need to survive, even if it kills them,” and it’s hard ...

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