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2004 / Fiction / $27.95
9781894031943 / Trade paper / 256 pp
The Chisholms are a rollicking, unpredictable family living in the north end of Sydney, Nova Scotia. At the start of the summer, fourteen-year-old Michael, his older brother Sidney and two of their friends build a raft on the tar ponds. It seems the ideal start to the holidays. But over the course of one summer, Michaels family gradually stops making sense. He has always been more than willing to call his parents by their first names and is generally supportive of Rory and Glorias "democratic" style of parenting, until suddenly faced with changes he cant swallow. But it is his brother Sids reaction that will bring about the greatest change of all.
The novel begins with an ominous Christmas dinner disaster and winds its way through encounters with nosey adults, a pukey car trip, practical jokes, family fights, trips to the corner store and summer days on the raft. Along the way Michael introduces us to Tim Carson next door, Sids friends Rene and Alex, Rosemary Hawthorn, Louis V, Miss Shaw and the rest of the supporting crew in this chapter of his adolescence.
With a surprisingly keen appreciation for the citys industrial landscape, Michael describes the inner workings of the tar ponds, railway yard, warehouses, docks, scrap piles, steel plant and used car lot that comprise his arcadia. Perhaps the most poignant and thoughtful scene in the novel takes place on a hot afternoon as Michael sits on the hood of an old Datsun looking out over a junkyard, smelling vinyl upholstery and listening to the song of a cicada.
This is a thrilling first novel, bristling with humorous encounters, witty family banter, camaraderie and a boys response to overwhelming uncertainty and loss. Campbell has captured the idiosyncrasies and tenuous alliances on which family life and childhood friendships balance. Michaels inquisitive character and acute sense of humor make for a narrative that is both youthful and wise.
This book is a Smyth-sewn paperback with a jacket. The text was typeset by Andrew Steeves in Dante types and printed on Rolland Zephyr Laid paper.
Tarcadia is an impressive debut, showcasing a writer firmly in control of his subject matter, with a fine eye for comedy and a magic sense of pacing and timing When Campbells next novel comes down the pike, it will be eagerly anticipated. Lee Shedden, Calgary Herald