by Rebecca Hendry – $19.95
Grace River is set in a smelter town in interior British Columbia. In this fast-paced novel, the author takes the reader on a journey into the lives of four friends.
(a) Jessie: she lives with her husband Daniel and daughter Lily and works at Nick’s Diner, a cafe frequented by workers of Axis, the town’s smelter plant.
(b) Jackson: he is a smelter worker and is married to Caroline. Jackson and Caroline have two boys, Travis and Brooks.
(c) Kali: she is a newcomer to Grace River, having moved there with her daughters (following a break-up with their father) from Vancouver Island. Kali works part time at Earth’s Bounty Health Foods and has a boyfriend Mike, who works at the smelter plant.
(d) Daniel: he is the husband of Jessie and is also a smelter worker.
Grace River is a small town, full of redneck workers. The town is unhealthy and polluted, largely as a result of the Axis Smelter Plant, the main source of income for the town.
Life is going on as usual on a hot summer day; men go to work or hang out at Nick’s Diner, the local bar and home for lives which revolve around the plant workers’ shifts. Axis runs twelve-hour shifts, day and night, seven days a week.
One early morning at Nick’s Diner, a newcomer shows up. Immediate speculation begins: who is he and why is he in Grace River? It turns out his name is Liam and he is an American environmentalist. He is in town to take samples from the Grace River. Lead pollution from Axis is a grave concern.
The four friends are also concerned about pollution from the plant but the plant also their source of income. Axis routinely does blood testing for toxins on its workers but it is suspected that the blood test could be skewed in the plant’s favour. Jackson gets tested at another location and finds out that his toxic levels are high.
Then there’s an incident at Axis, which results in a worker being hospitalized with what could be a life threatening sickness caused by exposure to the toxins. As well, Mike starts to act strangely and his friends are worried about him.
With the intrusion of Liam, the environmentalist, into this close-knit community, life in Grace River takes a turn to drama and violence. Insecurities are revealed and in some cases acted on, fueled further by toxic poisoning.
This is a powerful novel, which explores the damage we all do to our environment and the damage, unintentionally, we do to our families and friends.
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