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on January 19, 2015
Recently, I attended an authors' night. Alison was one of the evening's guests. It was for her memoir 'Between Gods'. I took a shining to her, so when I got back home, I reserved her novels from the local library.

What I was expecting was the usual CanLit, spare writing so typical of the genre. That wasn't quite what I ended up with.

Yes, it was spare. Yes, it was CanLit. But there was more.

I've always thought of CanLit as the literary version of indie flicks. A film based more on characters within situations than a movie with a story containing characters. Here, Alison pushes the boundaries so that what results is more than the novel equivalent of a precious art-house film; she's managed to season the tale with no small amount of 'populist fiction' attributes.

I loved her depiction of the main characters' world in contrast to their individual adventures; all three threads of the narrative we evocative. So 'Well done, you!' to her for that. But she managed to top herself with how she made Ellen and Adam elicit distinct reactions in me: I didn't like Ellen for being a wuss, no matter the reasons (yes, I'm talking about YOU, Ellen's Mother...), and I really, really, really didn't like Adam. At all. He seemed like the poster boy for the 'All Men are D&%$heads Society'...but somehow –for me– she manage to present him with all his galling attributes without making him into a boring stereotype. (But I did wish him a cruel end. LOL)

'The Sweet Edge' might not be for everyone. But I certainly enjoyed my time reading it.
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on August 1, 2006
Alison Pick's The Sweet Edge is a short and spare novel about a twentysomething couple, Ellen and Adam, whose relationship has gone awry after three years together. They spend the summer apart, Ellen working at a boring job in a city she doesn't like and Adam taking a long-dreamed-of canoe trip alone into the Canadian North.

That summary pretty much tells you what's annoying about these characters, neither of whom I liked much at the beginning of the novel. Adam is the poster boy for Self-Absorbed Jerks Afraid of Committment, while Ellen is typical of the kind of woman I meet so often in novels and so rarely in real life: passive, indecisive, a bystander in her own life.

Things change during the novel, however. Adam's trip up North is the classic man-against-the-wilderness-finding-yourself journey, but there are twists he hasn't forseen: the trip forces him to confront his own weakness and his need for other people. Meanwhile, Ellen goes on her own journey of self-discovery without ever leaving Toronto, though she does travel around it quite a bit. Her voyage is made not in solitude but in community; the group of new friends who help Ellen "find herself" are among the most engaging characters in the book.

Starting out by disliking the major characters is not usually a good sign for a book but by the end of The Sweet Edge I found myself caring about Ellen and Adam in spite of their flaws. I was interested to see how Pick would end the novel and I wasn't disappointed (though a bit frustrated by a detail that, in a very postmodern way, is left hanging at the end).

The language is one of the delights of The Sweet Edge. I'm not always keen on novels by poets (Pick is best-known as a poet and recent winner of the prestigious CBC literary award for poetry) because too often the language takes centre stage, leaving plot and characters to fend for themselves. Here, however, Pick's subtly elegant prose is always used in the service of the story, so that you never forget you're reading a novel -- a very well-written novel, but not one that screams, "Look at my prose! How lovely it is!" Rather, we're drawn to look through the clear window of Pick's prose into the lives of two people who are flawed and fallible, but who are also able to change.
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on January 12, 2006
I found the book mildy entertaining, but would not recommend it to friends. The book was a little too "chick-lit-y" for my tastes. Also, the main characters, Ellen and Adam, are way too entirely self-absorbed (maybe I was too in my mid-20s?) to illicit any kind empathy from me. I thought (more like hoped) that Adam would have died at the end,thinking the author was headed for a "reincarnation" idea here with Clare-Ann's baby. These two lead a pretty dreary existence and are kind of pathetic. Not many insights here. And what the h*ll was in that box anyway? I thought that would be my reward for patiently wading through this story. Ellen, honey, do yourself a favor and dump this chump! Then maybe get some therapy and be on your own for awhile.
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on February 13, 2007
Deliverance meets self searching and the end of a relationship in this first attempt at writing a novel. We must give leeway and applaud the effort of putting so many words in order. The plot is less than gripping, however. Boy goes on canoe trip, breaks ankle, surprise surprise. Girl works at a gallery and tries to find herself now that the relationship is over, maybe. Motivations get muddled and cardboard characters do their best to escape their cut out forms. Why is it worth reading then? Well the story is easily ingested in an hour or two, there are no linguistic fireworks or brilliance to slow the read, it flows to a conclusion that is altogether expected.
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on February 24, 2006
If you love to be lulled along through a story that tugs at your slightly buried heartstrings, The Sweet Edge will do just that! I loved this book because I think it brought important issues together, (the spiritual seeking of the twenty-something person, an urban/wilderness conundrum so prevalent in Canadian identity, couples' search for love in this post-modern world) and made them clash through the two main characters. Maybe it's true that you will identify with it more if you are in your twenties/thirties, but there are lots of us out there! Read it and love it!
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on March 3, 2006
This book is a pleasure to read. The kind of story you can sink into with characters so well crafted they can be endearing and annoying. A couple explores themselves and their individuality within the mundane of the day to day in the city and the thrill and peace of an arctic adventure. Pick writes beautifully with a keen eye for observation. You won't want disturbances once you pick it up. The Sweet Edge is the most enjoyable novel I've read in a long time.
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on March 4, 2006
The Sweet Edge is a tour-de-force by Alison Pick, one of Canada's most talented young writers. Her poetic ability is clearly visible in this, her first novel, a story which brings fresh insight to the age-old tale of young love. The dialogue is excellent, as is Pick's evocation of two vastly different settings, the frozen Arctic and the hot, hip Toronto art scene. I quite simply could not put this book down.
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on February 22, 2006
This story is about the inner journey of love that happens inside head and heart of the hero and heroine, and yet the story is also shapped by the actions and adventures they take in their lives. The writing is beautiful, almost poetic language - which made reading it as much a pleasure as the story itself.
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on May 23, 2006
The kind of book you want to savour, delicious page after delicious page. Beautiful and clever imagery aside, I also found it somewhat of a page-turner by the end and couldn't stop thinking about the characters for days after I consumed the book...
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