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The Sweet Edge

by Alison Pick

The Sweet Edge<.i> chronicles the gender wars as seen through the contemporary lens of poet Alison Pick. Upon first glance, the novel is merely a tale of two self-absorbed, befuddled young people lost in the urban morass and unable to get a grip on life’s purpose. Their behaviour comes very close to gender stereotypes: the neurotic, needy girlfriend and the freedom-lovin’, commitment-phobic young man.

Ellen has “issues,” not the least of which is her extreme dependence on the approval of others. Despite those issues, she has ended up working at a trendy art gallery in Toronto and found the man of her dreams. Adam is the quintessential hippie wannabe, quick to criticize the politically incorrect errors of others while willfully ignoring his own controlling, stubborn selfishness. He essentially dumps Ellen to find freedom – and conceivably, himself – in a solo canoe trip near the Arctic Circle.

These two are clearly meant for each other.

But if the reader is patient while the characters demonstrate their most annoying characteristics, the rewards are indeed forthcoming. Extremely deft writing, the use of beautiful yet always appropriate poetic language, vividly descriptive narrative, and a deep understanding of the central characters combine to create a moving and powerful story.

Rather than simply creating stereotypes, Pick presents the tragedy of those who live a life locked in stereotypes of their own making. Thus the transformation to fully rounded, responsible, and ultimately lovable human beings is welcome, believable, and engaging. While one could be dismayed at the lack of a more feminist sensibility in these people, the portrayal of the universal urge to love and be loved, combined with talented writing, ultimately saves the novel from being merely a contemporary and cynical comment on the endless conflict between men and women.