I’m both surprised and saddened that until reading A Rescue in the Rockies, I was unfamiliar with Edmonton writer Rita Feutl’s titles for children and young adults. Surprised, because this is a writer at the top of her game, and saddened, because had I known how good she is, I would’ve been recommending her books long before now.
Her latest book – a fast-paced Banff-set novel which sees its 14-year-old heroine through several historical time travel adventures with Stoney Nakoda characters (and detainees in a WW2 internment camp ) – was gripping, credible, well-researched, political (espousing Canadian First Nations’ history and human trafficking in Europe), and fun, and that’s just the plot – the writing itself was topnotch.
Feutl uses a familiar situation to get the ball rolling: the protagonist, Janey, is forced to be somewhere she doesn’t want to be (though as places go, The Banff Springs Hotel’s not too shabby) with people she’d rather not be with: her grandma; grandma’s boyfriend, who’s been hired by the hotel to play Santa; and the boyfriend’s 16-year-old Austrian grandson, Max, who just happens to have “the bluest eyes”. It’s almost Christmas, and the author presents wintery Banff well, with “the smell of exhaust from the tour buses idling in the cold, the flurry of tourists taking selfies”. Janey wants to be with her parents, but they’re in Cambodia (“Mum” works for an international aid organization), and we learn that Max would love nothing more than to be with his father, wherever he may be.
I applaud Feutl’s ability to seamlessly impart, in a page two paragraph, that Janey’s experienced earlier time travels (Rescue at Fort Edmonton is the prequel to this book), and also how easily she “transports” Janey – and Max – between present and past. Their galloping adventures are made realistic by Feutl’s attention to language and cultural sensitivity. When Janey meets Mary (a Stoney Nakoda girl) in the past, Mary tells her that “Wasiju” is what the Nakoda call white men – it means “takers of the fat”. Mary explains: “When we hunt and kill an animal, we use all of it. But your people take only the fat and the meat. The rest is left behind.” Without giving too much away, Janey’s warning to the Nakoda about residential schools is significant, and it’s nothing short of brilliant how Feutl ties all the subplots together in a powerful conclusion.
Yes, there’s a strong anti-racism element here. Even Granny, who was “born in northern Alberta,” is on board: “I think [racism’s] all about fear, kiddo.”
Serious topics aside, this is 100% a book that young readers will love because Janey is relatable, ie: she’s squeamish about Granny’s love life: “This wasn’t a single-car fender-bender kind of accident, Janey thought. This was one of those huge, 10-car pileups with sirens wailing and lights flashing. She forced herself to look away …”.
Simultaneously knowledgeable, brave, self-deprecating, and generous, Janey’s an ideal heroine, and I wish her many more “Rescues” to come.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM