Debut novelist Norman tells the story of a couple who attempt to make a home in a town with a dark history.
The independently wealthy Delano “Del” Grainger lives outside a Canadian prairie town called Edgeworthy, on land that he also rents out to a neighboring farmer. He resides there with his partner, Ivy, although the two have been having relationship troubles of late. Strange things have been happening in the area, as well; for example, a mysterious, large hunting dog, which seems to have come from nowhere, is stalking around the area, and Del’s one true local friend, English transplant Peter Fawcett, recently hanged himself. The death causes Del to question how much he really knows about the town where he lives—a place where “the locals…always asked for but did not easily disclose personal information.” At an auction of Peter’s things—his wife is selling their place and returning to Great Britain—Del finally meets the well-to-do farmer who rents his fields, a giant of a man named Walter Stevens. Walter tells the story of Del’s land, which was long the property of the local Romanoff family—and its scion, the unstable Hunter Romanoff, has sworn to get it back. Del comes to realize that Edgeworthy has secrets that he may not be able to crack. Norman’s prose is deceptively simple in style, painting the subtleties of Edgeworthy and its people in direct, muscular language. He particularly excels at dialogue: “You’ll like him,” one character says to describe another, “eventually. Most people do. Men, anyway.” It’s an intriguing take on the genre of the small-town novel, in which a brooding, silent figure is both the protagonist and a newcomer; indeed, the ways in which Norman shows these qualities to be weaknesses are surprising. Readers will experience a ghostly pleasure in watching Del move around the cold prairie locale in this slow-paced narrative, seeking answers to questions that are, in large part, about himself.
A moody, finely textured literary work.