I recognized the anonymous town in first-time author Tara Gereaux’s teen novella, Size of a Fist. The mill’s closed, there are “many boarded-up shops,” and abandoned homes. I know this town because I was raised in a number of small towns that echo it and I’m familiar with many more, and because I could relate not only to the physical aspects of the town’s decline, but also to the disreputable activities of the youth who inhabit it – including Addy, the protagonist of this New Leaf Editions’ book – and the tangible desire to get away.
Drinking, drugs, driving while impaired, “colourful” language, bullying, adolescent sex, and generations of familial dysfunction: this is no Disney story, but Gereaux does shed light on the underbelly of small-town life that some might argue is the norm, rather than the exception. There’s value in holding up that mirror: it presents a truth. The Regina writer portrays a community where the only chance of upward mobility is to be outward bound.
This book is more documentary than commentary, and I like that, too: there’s no sense of authorial judgement here, and if after a near fatality Addy utters “Everything is always so hard,” her life is proof that she’s earned that pronouncement.
The night before Addy and her boyfriend, Craig, are about to “escape” for “the city,” they go on a final bender with friends. There’s much alcohol, and roughhousing, and because Craig’s inebriated, Addy has to drive. Imagine seven people squashed into a vehicle. Imagine a party in a cemetery (same place Addy’s mother used to party). Imagine one couple partying with a baby in tow.
It’s the reality of the scenes that struck the strongest chord with me, ie: Craig, anxious to exit, tells Addy: “‘Look, the tank’s full, I downloaded tons of music. I called my cousin this morning, too, and he said they just got a fridge and stove for the basement. For us.’”
There’s a heartbreaking image concerning Jonas – a bullied boy who lives with his abusive and alcoholic father. The boy’s mother is dead, and at one point he smooths her long dress on the floor, “crawls on top of it,” and curls into a fetal position. Jonas plays a major role in the novella, and I encourage you to read it to learn how the plot surprisingly twists.
Addy’s mother is another mean character: she says things like “Get outta my face,” drinks too much, and is having an affair with the local RCMP officer. It’s abundantly clear that Addy never really had a chance.
It’s a sorrow that this is real life for some people. Like those I know who refuse to watch the news (because it’s “depressing”), some folks would scan the back cover text and put Size of a Fist back on the shelf. Then there’s the rest of us, who prefer not to go through life wearing blinders. If you’re in the latter camp, good on you: you’ll appreciate what Gereaux has accomplished here.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM