13 December 2023

by Ruth Chorney
Published by 7SpringsBooks
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$25.00 ISBN 9780993975790

Ruth Chorney’s Saskatchewan-set novel, Haunted, transports readers to interesting places—geographical and otherwise—and it’s just the kind of book that makes me wish more Saskatchewan people would read the good literature that’s being produced within their own province. This engaging story’s set in the rural community of “Deer Creek, population 1242” in the northeastern part of the province, where moose roam, a hoodie is called a “bunnyhug,” and the local

Co-op’s where you’ll meet neighbours, friends and the resident hermit/bootlegger. It’s a book about starting over, and accepting the kindness of neighbours. It’s also about generations of family, guilt, and doing what needs to be done. And it’s Saskatchewan, so the weather also gets its share of ink.

There are elements of the supernatural in this mostly realistic story, and like that other writer (Stephen King) who also combines realism and the supernatural to great effect, Chorney scores the right balance between making her characters and situations appear credible—ie: protagonist Marny’s husband needs work, so it’s off to the potash mine he goes—and also preparing us for the suspension of disbelief that’s required when Marny’s four-year-old sees auras and entities, and her mother, Saige—“a flake most of her life”—hosts séances.

Marny, a young mother of two, is trying to keep it all together after housing challenges force her and her family to leave their small apartment “in a somewhat sketchy neighbourhood” in Vancouver and move into her deceased grandparents’ rural home on three quarter sections. Five-year-old Griffin’s response to arriving at the “two-storey house with loose railing from the upstairs balcony banging in the wind” is: “̒It’s like that Hallowe’en movie’”. This is also the novel’s first line, and Chorney’s well-wrought descriptions root us in the long-abandoned rural property and flesh out the neighbours who are keen to help the family settle, like John in his “Dodge Ram cap,” and Tera, who runs a trail-riding business, and may know more about her husband’s mysterious disappearance than she’s letting on. Tera and an older neighbour, Gloria—both well-drawn characters—help Marny plant a garden and teach her how to preserve vegetables.

Chorney’s wisely chosen to structure the story via both Marny and Tera’s distinct points of view, and I noted that especially near the last third of the book, the author does a fabulous job of leaving cliff-hanger chapter endings: we have to wait to learn how a riveting situation unfolds, as the chapter’s narrators take turns. This author has formidable handles on pacing, plot and characterization.

I previously reviewed Chorney’s satisfying novel, Conspiracy—another Deer Creek novel, with a completely different plot. In Haunted the Kelvington, SK author again spotlights the relationships between multi-generational characters and the beauty of the prairie landscape. Real-world events like COVID, the gentrification of cities, the 1993 “’War in the Forest’” protests at Clayoquat Sound, and the mass stabbing at the James Smith Cree Nation find their way organically into this page-turning new novel, which I really hope you’ll read.


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