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Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada

by Will Ferguson

Predicting readers’ reaction to Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw is a simple task. If you know a few basic facts about Canada, and if you like Will Ferguson’s writing – and, judging by the success of his novel, HappinessTM, and his non-fiction books, including Why I Hate Canadians and How to Be a Canadian (co-written with his brother Ian), many people do – you’ll enjoy this book. That’s because Beauty Tips, a compilation of tales Ferguson spins from a three-year series of trips across Canada, takes place only partially in the passing landscape.

For the most part, the stories happen inside Ferguson’s head. He takes readers to places as diverse as the wild coastline of Labrador, the Arctic tundra, the self-proclaimed “republic” of Madawaska on the Quebec/New Brunswick border, and the quaint Olde English streets of Victoria. But those and many other areas really function as backdrops for Ferguson’s lively, thought-provoking riffs on Canadian culture, his views on our collective sense of geography, and his sustained analysis of the way Canadians of all races and creeds interpret our nation’s history.

Of course the downside here is that if you find yourself stifled by Ferguson’s continual presence in these stories – both as an active participant in discussions and adventures, and as an omnipresent narrator and commentator – Beauty Tips will be a tough slog. But that’s unlikely. Anyone who can spin a tale as well as Ferguson, while peppering it with trenchant and often humorous commentary on what it means to be a Canadian travelling through Canada, will easily grab and hold the reader’s attention for the more than 300 pages that make up the book.