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."