Susan Haley

Susan Haleys first two novels, A Nest of Singing Birds and Getting Married in Buffalo Jump, were made into movies for CBC-TV. Most recently she has published The Complaints Department (2000), Maggie's Family (2002) and The Murder of Medicine Bear (2003). Haley and her partner ran a charter airline in Fort Norman, Northwest Territories, for 15 years. She now lives in Black River, Nova Scotia.


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The Complaints Department
Susan Haley

2005 / Fiction / $27.95
9781894031981 / Trade paper / 336 pp


Gaspereau Press is pleased to present this redesigned edition of Susan Haleys fifth novel, The Complaints Department, first published in 2000. The novel takes place in the village of Prohibition Creek, a fictional Dene community in the Northwest Territories. We first encounter Robert Woodcutter on the steps of the local Band hall, having just lost to his brother Danny in the election for chief. When Danny begins to outline his plans for improving local affairs, Robert points out a hole in his list of committees. And so the local complaints department is born, with Robert Woodcutter as its sole administrator and attorney.

The novel centres on the Woodcutter family and on the relationship that develops between Robert and Rebecca McCrae, whose allegiances gradually shift, from a defense of her position in Dannys band office, to Roberts way of doing things. Like many others in the novel, Robert and Rebeccas relationship hinges on the towns transitional status, as the last of the old ways are steadfastly maintained alongside a newer, non-traditional approach.

Issues of governance and authority lurk around every corner in Prohibition Creek. When Roberts wife tells him to leave, he and his friend Haga (the town fool) reclaim an abandoned fish plant. Before long they are deep in the paper chase required just to build an outhouse. Haley delights in these kinds of absurdities, capturing their inanity, and detailing the labyrinth of shortcuts and forgeries that have long characterized the attempts of national bureaucracy to replace local systems.

The Complaints Department features an unruly crew of family and local curiosities, including Roberts mother Ama and her boyfriend Elvis, Rebeccas uncle Herod, Dannys dissatisfied wife Roseanne, and Roberts own wife, the sullen but capable Mary Ann. Haley demonstrates a genuine understanding of life in Canadas northern populations, and an appreciation for the range of archetypes recognizable in all communities of certain size.

Prohibition Creek is a place where magic, dreams, visions and storytelling permeate everyday life, but where these forms of guidance are increasingly being driven under by a kind of power that operates from the top down. Ever evasive of authority, Robert instead relies on stories he once found in a little green book in the school library, a volume of knowledge he takes to calling The Book of Dene. Drawing strength from storytelling and from his occasional participation in the ways of life still maintained by his mothers generation, Robert works to rebuild the relationships upon which his place in Prohibition Creek depend.

This edition is a smyth-sewn paperback bound in a letterpress-printed cover. The text was typeset in Adobe Jenson by Andrew Steeves and printed offset on laid paper.

Review:
A beautifully produced novel that should be required reading for those of us who can only imagine life in a native north. (Citation for the Owen Sound Sun-Times 50 Best Canadian Novels for 2005 list)

Haleys strength here is in her depiction of family relationships in a context of rampant alcoholism and changing values, shown with all the bumbling awkwardness that adults evince when called upon to treat their parents and siblings like autonomous human beings. Linda Besner, The Dominion

Replaces Previous Edition: 9781894031264

Other Books by this Author

Petitot: A Novel
Susan Haley

2013 / Ficton / $31.95 CAN / $31.95 US
9781554471263 / Trade paper
The Murder of Medicine Bear
Susan Haley

2003 / Fiction / $49.95 CAN / $49.95 US
9781894031776 / Fine
The Murder of Medicine Bear
Susan Haley

2003 / Fiction / $27.95 CAN / $27.95 US
9781894031769 / Trade paper
Maggie's Family
Susan Haley

2002 / Fiction / $49.95 CAN / $49.95 US
9781894031592 / Fine
Maggie's Family
Susan Haley

2002 / Fiction / $21.95 CAN / $21.95 US
9781894031585 / Trade paper
The Complaints Department
Susan Haley

2002 / Fiction / $49.95 CAN / $49.95 US
9781894031257 / Fine
The Complaints Department
Susan Haley

2002 / Fiction / $18.95 CAN / $18.95 US
9781894031264 / Trade paper
Blame it on the Spruce Budworm
Susan Haley

1998 / Fiction / $17.95 CAN / $17.95 US
9781894031066 / Trade paper

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