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Deloume Road by Matthew Hooton

abstract:Canadian author Matthew Hooton spells his first name with double t's and his last name with double o's. This inherent symmetry is reflected in his prose, and who knows, may have been the subliminal force in his entire life, starting from the moment when he began to practice printing those consonants and vowels with a large diameter pencil on lined paper in primary school. After all, one of the first things we learn to print is our own name. That means that Matthew Hooton, with double t's and double o's, has been writing parallel and contrasting letters his whole life. I think that is rather a clever observation, and one that portends well for readers, because his first novel, Deloume Road (Knopf, Canada 2010) is the embodiment of sublime and subtle symmetry. Deloume Road is located on Vancouver Island on the "wet coast" of British Columbia where the dense forest grows to giants with just enough space between the trees to permit a few rays of light to penetrate down onto the forest floor and sustain a carpet of thirsty ferns and moss. It's the perfect playground for brothers Josh and Andy and their neighbourhood pal Matthew on this particularly hot August. Other folks living on Deloume Road will factor in the story as well, and their narratives, told in chapters as short as one paragraph, will skilfully lead the reader into a gentle and ominous tension that is contrasted by the pastoral setting of this country road community. Not since John Vaillant’s GG winning novel The Golden Spruce (also set on Vancouver Island) has there been a writer able to capture the essence of the Pacific Northwest and bring us a host of meaningful characters whose lives intersect in touching and disturbing ways.

article:

March 30, 2010

About the Author

Matthew Hooton grew up on Vancouver Island and obtained his BA in writing from the University of Victoria. He obtained his MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University where Deloume Road was unanimously awarded the inaugural Greene & Heaton Prize for the best novel to emerge from the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing. He has read fiction at the Bath Literature Festival and has worked as an editor and teacher in South Korea. He now lives with his wife in Victoria, BC. —Knopf


Excerpt from the first chapter: The Road

Just over the Malahat pass with the old Bamberton cement works behind you on Highway 1 heading north on Vancouver Island, take a left onto Shawnigan Mill Bay Road. Pass dairy farms, orchards and a cidery; each isolated along the road, as if dropped into massive and seemingly timeless clearings from the sky—no hint that this land was painstakingly carved out of forest by hand, horse and dynamite nearly a century ago. There aren't any towns here, and few businesses to speak of, only roads sparsely littered with houses and the occassional farm shop, all of it a wilderness suburb of the small town of Mill Bay. Five miles or so of this, then on your left Deloume Road begins at the top of the hill.

The rest of the chapters are titled by the names of the character whose turn it is to lead the reader through the story. Matthew, Andy, Josh; then Al Henry, Irene, the Butcher, Miles Ford, Sam Toews and Avril. It's as though Hooton has taken each character arc and written them on a separate paper and then torn all the papers up into bits and then pieced the linear story of Deloume Road together with top bits and then middle bits and then end bits of each character arc. In the parts of the story where the characters appear together, he even switches from one perspective to the other in successive chapters within the same "scene", carrying the plot along from within this shift in point of view. It's as though the reader were looking at a single cut gem stone with each character arc represented in one glinting facet or another that when held up to the light at various angles allows the viewer to behold the entire story by gazing upon the single stone. The result of this technique is to create within the reader a tension where we know something ominous is about to happen, but we don't know which character the shadow will be cast upon. Will it be the tragic loss of Al Henry's son in the bush plane crash, or the unborn baby of the widowed Korean immigrant Irene? Or will it be the mistaken intensions of the butcher and young Miles Ford? Or will something happen to the close relationship between the boys themselves? Something is going to happen on Deloume Road.

When I was a child my grandparents lived on Vancouver Island and my parents used to pack me and my sibblings into the car each summer and drive across the country from Ontario to go visit them. We had to catch the ferry across the Straight of Georgia from Vancouver to Victoria and the island always held a sort of wild and remote fascination for me, located as it is at the furthest edge of the western Canadian continent. The combination of cathedral forest, boiling waterways and pastoral land that we passed through on the journey was thrilling compared to the orderly little streets and houses of my Ontario home town. Deloume Road brings back those memories of lazy afternoons in the summer heat at the edge of the forest and the Pacific, where ancient peoples fabricated useful spirit stories to warn children of the dangers held within the natural world. Deloume Road is a modern story where innocence and mayhem conspire one hot August on Vancouver Island.

 

 

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