Those Pink Mountain Nights is about a pizzeria in Canmore, Alberta. It’s about Berlin, an academic overachiever, Cameron, a high school dropout, and Jessie, a flirtatious rich kid, who all work at Pink Mountain Pizza, operating under call signs of “The Gray City,” “The Dropout,” and “The Tease.” But Jen Ferguson’s second novel, told from each of their perspectives, is about much more than that – as readers witness the wintry small-town setting painted and repainted through the characters’ eyes. They become starkly aware of the toll perfectionism – to be a “model Métis citizen” – has taken on Berlin Chambers’s mental health and sense of identity. They learn about how, following the life-shattering tragedy of his cousin’s sudden disappearance, Cameron Sound has been allowed to fall through the cracks by the same adults that were supposed to protect him. They understand Jessie Hampton’s rebelliousness as a fight for autonomy and a radical exploration of identity to reclaim a body that has been snatched away and dismissed by cancer, heteropatriarchal gender expectations, and familial abuse.
Ferguson’s characters are vividly multi-faceted, as real as the people we see every day whose complex identities and stories we willingly look past in favour of stereotypes. She injects complexity and nuance into the exploration of themes that are often absent from mainstream literature, shedding light on ignored realities of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people and their communities, on the grief experienced from the loss of friendship, and on the need to consider one’s own biases and impact through an intersectional lens when engaging in activism.
At its core, Those Pink Mountain Nights is a story about learning to see the individual beneath the label, about healing through companionship, and about fighting for what makes you whole. Berlin, Cameron, and Jessie’s campaign to save their beloved local pizzeria from being sold to a sleazy corporation even as they seek closure about their friend’s disappearance forms the heart of the story, and is best summed up by Berlin: “When we can let the things that bring us together fall apart, become places without souls, it’s another way we learn not to care about each other.” Through the novel, readers – Indigenous Peoples and settlers alike – learn to care just a little bit more about the people they live next to, and listen to the hum of the universe that makes them whole.