Deloume Road by Matthew Hooton
Vintage Books, London, 2011
I broke my book buying ban and must blame the Canadian Book Challenge. I ordered this one and several others by Canadian authors when I realized my library would not be purchasing them because of budget cutbacks. Thank goodness for Better World Books.
This book reminded me of other stories about boys growing up together, Different Seasons by Stephen King being one of them. It is the story of a rural community, somewhere down a road between Victoria and Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. In a summer during the first Gulf War four boys spend time riding their bikes, exploring the woods and just enjoying their free time. The adults in the community have their own stories, some more aware of the boys then others, and mingled with this is the history of the place and connections with the town’s founder. As hot August moves toward September tension builds until the final, terrible event.
This is a beautifully written book, Hooton certainly knows how to convey a sense of place, and the children, their thoughts, and behaviors are so like children I know. They remind me of myself, my siblings, and my friends growing up close to the woods in Maine. I wanted to love this one, but found I only liked it. There are many characters with many stories. For me some worked, some didn’t and I found myself distracted by things that felt unnecessary to the story.
Don’t let my thoughts dissuade you from reading Deloume Road. I found some of it truly wonderous.
Blades of grass grow waist-high along both sides of Deloume and tangles of blackberry bushed and crabapple trees border the dairy farms in patches, filling the space between the road and the fence, cutting the cows off from view in places. Children stop here in August, laying their bikes in the grass on the roadside and wandering deep into the mess of thorns and branches, eating berries as they go, until it appears from the road that they are impossibly far in and must have sprung from the fertile ground. They pick sour apples and bite into them, squinting and chewing their bottom lips as they wait for the sourness to pass, the bitterness sharper because of the blackberries they have eaten. The smell of overripe berries and the buzzing of fat insects surrounds them. That night the children will have stomach aches but won’t complain in case their mothers see their stained fingers or thorn-scratched arms and know. from page 3.