Kathy Page’s latest novel opens with the discovery of an enormous prehistoric fossil in remote B.C. Anna Silowski, a renowned palaeontologist and consummate heartbreaker, is prospecting in the native community of Big Crow when, after separating from her colleagues, she stumbles upon what appears to be a giant spinal column protruding from the riverbed shale. It’s soon clear that the fossilized skeleton belongs to a previously undiscovered genus of winged reptile. It is the find of Anna’s career.
But this is not a novel about a palaeontological excavation. (Indeed, for all the hype given to the winged beast in the early part of the novel, we never really learn much about the thing.) Anna is a woman with issues: a fear of commitment, a quasi-incestuous relationship with her brother, and a 50/50 chance of inheriting a degenerative neurological disease. All of which are unearthed in the novel’s first chapters. It’s soon apparent that the main focus is not the unique fossil, but Anna herself.
Page is particularly adept at sustaining tension and releasing it. The book’s weakness, however, is the character of Anna. She fails to become a captivating protagonist, despite (or, rather, because of) the litany of personal obstacles facing her. After a lengthy and extraneous exposition of Anna’s history, Page shies away from revealing much of her heroine’s motives in the novel’s second half. As a result, Anna becomes increasingly enigmatic. As well, Anna’s reliance on Scott, a pothead-with-potential from Big Crow, yields many awkward and unnatural moments, frequently steering the book into melodrama.
The awkwardness and lack of explanation could be deliberate, a manifestation of Anna’s dormant brain disease. But this implication is not explored, and as a result, it’s difficult for the reader to feel much empathy for Page’s protagonist.