Published by Dundurn on February 14, 2015
Genres: Family Life, Fiction, General, Literary, Sagas
eARC provided by Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
After generations of prosperity in the mining town of Brighton, Newfoundland, Jack and Angela McCarthy find themselves jobless. In order to keep his family together, Jack accepts a job in a gold mine in the wilds of northern Alberta. Arriving in Foxville, the McCarthys find themselves resented, bullied, and cast as outsiders. When Jack’s best friend, Peter, is swindled out of his savings and resorts to stealing from the mine, his attempts at reversing their fortunes thrust both families into even deeper torment. A powerful, poetic novel dealing with the effects of poverty, the harshness and beauty of Canada’s north, the perils of theft, and the timeless value of community and family among displaced Newfoundlanders, Saltwater Cowboys is a classic cautionary tale that presents a stark glimpse into the lives of families struggling to survive in unfamiliar terrain.
I just finished reading Saltwater Cowboys. I gotta say, it was a bit depressing. All the struggles and trying to get things right. The writing in this story was really good, well written with well developed characters. I had no problems picturing the scene. The emotions in this tale aren’t easy to imagine, and not easy to connect with. The struggles seemed a bit too simplified, too troubling. This story was disturbing because it felt like it could have been the real story of a families struggle to survive, just told in a way that I couldn’t really sympathize.
This story follows two families as they try to do better for themselves. Jack is miner who finds himself laid off at the beginning of this story. His wife, Angela and three children, convince Jack to leave his hometown of Briton, Newfoundland to follow his childhood friend Pete to Foxville in Northern Alberta, to a new place with a better job opportunity. Jack is so grieved to leave the only home he has ever known, but for his wife he takes the plunge. In Foxville, these two families feel the pressure of displacement and greed creeps its way in. They move from homes they loved to a mobile home park in a town that doesn’t want them there. Pete and Wanda find a few new ways to get money, albeit a little illegal. Pete tries to convince Jack to join him and get out of poverty. This story displays the struggles of immigrants in a strange land, the danger of envy, and the follies of the human heart.
I don’t think there was anything really wrong with the story, although it did move very slowly. There is a lot of interactions the story didn’t really need. I would have liked better to just have Jack’s POV, or just Angela’s. We start in Jack’s head and his story, his admission of weakness, his lack of original ideas was enough to make me like the character. Angela doesn’t really develop until the halfway point. We see her interacting in the home and with others but we never really get to know her until way late in the book. A bit too late for her to be the heroine. Pete and Wanda have staring roles but we don’t get to really understand them enough to like them, especially after their greed is exposed. The epilogue was the best part of this story. The bitter way life has panned out for the characters is just sad.
I wish I could say I liked this book more, but at it’s close I am left feeling meh about the whole book.
About the Author
Dayle Furlong is originally from Newfoundland and currently lives in Toronto. She studied Literature and Fine Arts at York University, and Creative Writing at Humber College, where she was granted an Award of Merit Fellowship for Fiction from the Summer Literary Seminar in 2011. Her first book of poems, Open Slowly, was called “reminiscent of ’70s feminist-Atwood” by Governor General’s Award–winning poet George Elliott Clarke.
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