Selected as the 2012 Title for One Book Toronto
A girl faints in the Toronto subway. Her friends are taken to the hospital with unexplained rashes; they complain about a funny smell in the subway. Swarms of police arrive, and then the hazmat team. Panic ripples through the city, and words like poisoning and terrorism become airborne. Soon, people are collapsing all over the city in subways and streetcars and malls, always prompted, they say, by some unidentifiable odour.
Alex was witness to this first episode. He’s a photographer: of injuries and deaths, for his job at the hospital, and of life, in his evening explorations of every nook and cranny of the city. Alex is a diabetic, now facing the very real possibility of losing his sight, and he’s determined to create a permanent vision of his city through his camera lens. As he rushes to take advantage of his dying sight, he encounters an old girlfriend the one who shattered his heart in the eighties, while she was fighting for abortion rights and social justice and he was battling his body’s chemical demons. But now Susie-Paul is fighting her own crisis: her schizophrenic brother has been missing for months, and the streets of Toronto are more hostile than ever.
Maggie Helwig, author of the critically lauded Between Mountains, has fashioned a novel not of bold actions but of small gestures, showing how easy and gentle is the slide into paranoia, and how enormous and terrifying is the slide into love. This is a remarkable novel: romantically and politically charged, utterly convincing in its portrait of our individual and societal instability, and steadfast in its faith in redemption.
|Publisher:||Coach House Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Maggie Helwig has published six books of poetry (most recently, One Building in the Earth), two books of essays, a collection of short stories and two previous novels, Where She Was Standing and Between Mountains. She is the events and sponsorship coordinator for the Scream Literary Festival. She also works for the Social Justice and Advocacy Board of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a strange little gem of a book set in Toronto. A girl in a subway collapses for no apparent reason, saying she smelled something like roses, and shutting down the subway line while the Hazmat team investigates. Then it starts happening all over the city as a post-911 paranoia settles in. Meanwhile, Alex reunites with a girl, Susie-Paul, who broke his heart years ago, and remembers her troubled relationship with his friend Chris. Susie enlists his help to find her homeless schizophrenic brother. Alex is a medical photographer but has diabetes and may be slowly going blind from retinopathy. At night, he photographs all the fascinating secret places in Toronto. Gradually all the disparate parts of the book become connected as Alex finally admits his love for Susie to himself, and we find that the "falling down" girl had a sort of connection to Susie's brother Derek, who was living in a tent in a ravine. The settings and dialogue ring true and Alex is a compelling character. Fascinating, unusual, haunting! Highly recommended.