Deloume Road Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Feb 9 2010
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Quill & Quire
Told in more than 100 chapters and written from the perspectives of 12 characters across three timelines, Matthew Hooton’s debut novel, Deloume Road, is nothing if not ambitious. Unfortunately, despite smooth prose that evokes a rural Vancouver Island community in a lush, sensual manner, the story suffers from underdeveloped characters, twee stylistic transitions, and credulity-straining plot twists.
Ten-year-old Matthew divides his time between hanging out with best friend Josh and babysitting his mentally challenged little brother, Andy. The boys shun impoverished Miles, who lives in a trailer at the junkyard, terrorized by his abusive dad. When Miles disappears, wheels are set in motion for a tragedy in which all four children are implicated.
Other plot strands abound. A friendship develops between two neighbours: Irene, a pregnant and recently widowed Korean immigrant, and Al, a First Nations painter struggling to forget his Korean War experiences and worried about his own missing son, a pilot in the first Gulf War whose plane has gone down. Irene, whose soldier husband recently died in the Persian Gulf, fears her baby may be stillborn.
Hooton can craft lovely sentences, but virtually every short chapter ends with some eloquent encapsulation – of an aspect of nature or a revelation of one of the boys’ thought processes – a habit that quickly becomes precious. Deloume Road addresses big themes of birth and death, secrets and shame, but in ways neither refreshing nor inspired. Hooton’s explorations of the intersection of language and identity, addressed through the subplot featuring Al and Irene, are much more interesting.
The characters and their conflicts stir emotions – simple ones. Depending upon their general inclinations, readers will either wonder at golden boy Matthew and pity his rattily dressed foil Miles, or vice versa. Other prominent players, like an unnamed butcher who harbours the runaway Miles, are little more than archetypes driven by obvious motivations. By the end, the one person we predict will face disaster does, and everyone else’s problems are resolved in ways so clearly calculated to warm readers’ hearts that some may find themselves smacking their foreheads in disbelief.
A GLOBE AND MAIL "BOOK YOU SHOULDN’T OVERLOOK"
"Vibrating with mystery and magic."
—The Vancouver Sun
"A tremendously intimate experience… Deloume Road reveals a careful, artful polish."
"Intriguing… Hooton's writing is effortless and evocative."
"Flawlessly and spellbindingly [written]… Deloume may be too wild to tame, but Deloume Road must find its way onto your nightstand."
"A novel with real, haunting power."
"A delicate meditation on the cyclical nature of history, and the strength of communities."
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Top Customer Reviews
Hooten sets the stage for his novel with beautifully lyrical descriptions. I could feel the heat and taste the dust of Deloume Road. The rural road is home to a loose collection of houses on Vancouver Island.
" This is the end of the road, but if you turn around, it's the beginning."
We meet an unknown narrator who hints at something dark from the past.
"I want to explain and show you the place as I saw it then. Before it happened." And later - " I didn't mean for it to happen. We were just kids."
We quickly meet the inhabitants of Deloume Road. I did have to backtrack a few times in the beginning just to make sure I had all the relationships straight. Also interspersed are journal excerpts from Gerard Deloume, who tried to tame the wilderness in 1899 - and then killed himself. His death reaches into the next century, with tragic results.
The island is a separate world from the mainland and Deloume Road is yet another smaller microcosm.
"What was it about arriving on the island, about passing over water from Vancouver, leaving the continent behind? Felt like he was heading towards the edge of the world."
Hooten's skill with imagery is impressive. The mind set and emotions of a newly widowed and pregnant Korean immigrant are especially moving. Some of the secondary characters, such as the two young girls, felt extraneous. The story begins slowly but the pace quickens as the events of that August move towards their inexorable conclusion. Indeed, I found myself not wanting to turn pages as the ending grew near, knowing what was to happen.Read more ›
This is a wonderful first novel from a writer of deft skill that leaves this reader in no doubt that Matthew Hooton has a long and illustrious literary career ahead of him.
Not only does Hooton set this work in that magical place but his descriptions are pure poetry. You can taste the river. He also reminds us that country life is different for kids. You see things riding your bike to school or over to a friend's house that a city kid would never believe. Hooton lets us experience this reality without being gratuitous.
Finally, the suspense is amazing. The book builds it quietly and slowly as the forest, river, road and characters come alive AND you just know something is going to happen. I loved the way the story moved from character to character and back and forth in time - all the while building suspense. When I think about it, that's pretty amazing in itself.
If you enjoy suspense and poetic descriptive writing about an exotic place, you'll love Deloume Road
Most recent customer reviews
Masterfully written and intensely gripping. The author's strong use of voice creates deep connection with the characters, drawing the reader into the world seen through the eyes... Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2011 by Reader/Writer
I found myself reading very slowly through this book as I really wanted to allow the brilliantly descriptive images to come to life in my mind's eye. Read morePublished on June 2 2011 by STE
Deloume Road is an excellent debut from an exciting new Canadian author published by Knopf. Hooton has (seemingly without effort) created an ensemble novel in the tradition of... Read morePublished on Feb. 17 2010 by Maggie James