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Scotch River

by Linda Little

Casper Hutt is a barely literate Alberta ranch hand and former professional bull rider whose life is changed by a piece of registered mail. He has been left the deed to some land in Scotch River, Nova Scotia, which draws him back to the place where he was born, a return that raises many more questions than it answers. Scotch River, Linda Little’s second novel, is the engrossing tale of how Cass Hutt learns his own life story and the story of his family.

The characters here are either tragically flawed or flawed by tragedy, making them sympathetic to the reader, even the hot-tempered Earl, who’s got a scheme up his sleeve to get his lobster licence back just as soon as he’s finished this one last beer. Cass, by contrast, is strong and reliable but severely hampered at times by the shame – to say nothing of the practical repercussions – of his illiteracy as well as his past as a hustler, seducing city men with barely a second look from under his Stetson and a scuff of his weathered cowboy boots. Eleanor Holmes, Cass’s grandmother, has canonized her dead son, Murray, which colours her attitude to her other two sons.

Little is a sensual writer, in particular when capturing the smells of things, from disinfectant and sour milk in the barn where Cass works the night shift milking cows to the marijuana and greasy rags in the trailer of Earl’s 21-year-old son, Wayne, the hapless, abused kid whose accidental violent demise is a central event of the book. Bridges, railbeds, barns, and trees are frequently used markers that give readers an acute sense of place, allowing us to focus and creating a sense of tension and, sometimes, claustrophobia.

Little captures the small, bitter indignities family members heap on each other; the secrets, the lies, and the new lies to cover old lies; the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others.


Reviewer: Stephen Knight

Publisher: Pengiun Books Canada


Price: $30

Page Count: 336 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-670-06543-9

Released: April

Issue Date: 2006-4

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Fiction: Novels

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