Deloume Road marks the debut of Matthew Hooton, one of Random House Canada's 2010 New Faces of Fiction - "devoted to bringing spectacular first time Canadian writers to readers.
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. Though the outcome was inevitable, I found the conclusion to be somewhat disturbing. Without giving away the plot, the similarity to a heinous Canadian crime made me cringe.
Overall, this is a book I enjoyed and a strong debut by a talented new Canadian voice.
Deloume Road actually exists - I wonder what the residents think of this story?
Read an excerpt of Deloume Road. Or catch up with Hooten on Facebook.