Sarah Leipciger, a native of Peterborough, Ontario, now living in London, U.K., starts off her debut novel with a literal bang: a young man accidentally hits a woman with his truck while driving on a mountain road. From this dramatic opening scene, and with masterful control over her story, Leipciger immerses the reader in the lives of her characters and the landscape of northern B.C.
Tom Berry, scarred by the loss of his wife, doesn’t spend much time talking, preferring instead to occupy himself by fixing up the broken objects he finds discarded around him. The narrative shuttles back and forth in time, filling in Tom’s early life and the circumstances that led to him becoming a single father to two children. Leipciger also explores Tom’s present, including several chapters about his experiences tree planting.
Other chapters are related from the viewpoint of Tom’s son, Curtis, who is devastated both by the end of a romantic relationship and his role in the car accident.
Leipciger is a skilled writer who excels at evoking her setting and developing rich, realistic characters. Her writing is bold and visceral, with sensual descriptive passages and a strong command of dialogue.
The plot moves slowly, but this doesn’t matter: Leipciger is more concerned with the careful development of character and setting than with a blockbuster story. Despite being a first novel, the author already displays a powerful facility with language, setting, and character that in future work will undoubtedly make her a master.