CW: Sexual assault, animal abuse.
“This might hurt a little. Be brave.”
More than a little honestly because this book sure packs a punch. During a blizzard on Valentine’s Day the staff at The Hazel restaurant have their own storm brewing, one fueled by betrayal and hurt. As the long day goes on tensions rise as more customers come in to avoid the storm, leading to painful revelations, hard truths, and heartache before the final course is served.
I’ll be honest, I was skeptical of Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club when I started reading it. It’s a book that’s a tad bit too long with way too many characters, and like other reviewers have said it really does take about 150 pages to really get into the story, which I don’t see that as a good thing for any book. And the fact that Coles doesn’t use quotation marks to differentiate when characters are speaking doesn’t make this book any easier and I don’t blame reader’s who do give up on it for those reasons, but it is worth sticking too. Once you get into the flow of the novel and figure out who exactly everyone is and how they’re connected it becomes a good story.
This book is filled with a lot of emotion and I love a book that makes me feel things. It’s very much a #MeToo book where characters are victims of the patriarchy, mostly women obviously but we also see how some of the men (particularly Calv and Damian) struggle with what it means to be a “man.” It’s easy to feel the anger in this book, Coles has filled her novel with it. There’s a lot of hurt as reader’s are warned before the book begins, but the warning doesn’t make things any easier. There are two very disturbing scenes in this book, one featuring animal abuse and the other a graphic sexual assault scene. Neither are easy to read, they’re brutal, so hard to read, and just hard to stomach honestly. This is a book that will make you angry, that will make you sad, that will make you want to scream and cry. It’s a book that will make your heartache, that more than a few will identify with the characters and their choices. It’s a book that will make you want change, and that will have you feeling hope that things can be different.
I absolutely adore Coles writing style, she writes such beautiful prose and with one of the character’s she writes using Newfoundland dialect which worked really well considering this technique sometimes doesn’t. Learning that Coles is a playwright makes her excellent use of language clear and perhaps helps me understand her choice to write dialogue without quotations, though I don’t agree with it. That being said, while I did end up enjoying this book I could definitely see it more successful as a play, if the cast were cut down that is.
And without spoilers, that ending BROKE ME!
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is worth the read, though it takes long to get into and there are way too many characters, it is a story worth reading. Unforgettable, brutal, and heartbreaking Canadian read that deserves to be on your bookshelf.
Publication: March 10th 2020
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Pages: 440 pages (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Canadian
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤
“Valentine’s Day, the longest day of the year.
A fierce blizzard is threatening to tear a strip off the city, while inside The Hazel restaurant a storm system of sex, betrayal, addiction, and hurt is breaking overhead. Iris, a young hostess, is forced to pull a double despite resolving to avoid the charming chef and his wealthy restaurateur wife. Just tables over, Damian, a hungover and self-loathing server, is trying to navigate a potential punch-up with a pair of lit customers who remain oblivious to the rising temperature in the dining room. Meanwhile Olive, a young woman far from her northern home, watches it all unfurl from the fast and frozen street.
Through rolling blackouts, we glimpse the truth behind the shroud of scathing lies and unrelenting abuse, and discover that resilience proves most enduring in the dead of this winter’s tale.”