Thomas King's first novel in 15 years explores the aftermath of environmental disaster and the danger of ignoring our surroundings. Samaritan Bay on the northern British Columbia coast was once a thriving tourist destination. Great sea turtles laid their eggs on the beach and the hatchlings made their way to the ocean. Sea and shore life was abundant. There was a First Nations reserve at nearby Smoke River. Then came that awful day, The Ruin, when something poisoned the river and everything died, including most of the humans.
The book opens as Gabriel Quinn contemplates his life on the beach before he ends it. He never quite gets around to killing himself. A group of survivors keeps him interested enough to hang around. Mara, Sonny, Crisp and the dog, Soldier all play their role.
Meanwhile back in Toronto, Domididion, an fossil fuels/agricultural chemical giant is looking for their missing head scientist, none other, than Garbiel Quinn. The CEO,A series of spills from tailing ponds on the Athabasca River demonstrates how quickly we forget environmental disasters and how easy it is to divert attention from them. The spill affects the Athabasca River and the MacKenzie all the way out to the Arctic Ocean.
Alternating chapters let the characters tell their story as they all but Dorian search for redemption in some way. The ending (spoiler alert) is uplifting as the turtles return and life re- appears in the ocean. I am too skeptical to believe the earth heals itself so easily. Still, King has written a page turner.
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