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Acknowledging humanity

Megan Gail Coles novel next selection in Memorial’s book club

By Heidi Wicks

Coast Lines, Memorial University’s book club, seeks to unite students, alumni and friends through a common love of reading and discussion, exploring together the breadth and depth of Newfoundland and Labrador novels by world-renowned local authors.

With more than 450 members, the format involves an online discussion of book club selections, with a special author event at the end of each reading period.

Latest selection

Coast Lines‘ first selection, Michael Crummey’s (BA’88) The Innocents, follows two orphaned children fighting for their survival in an isolated Newfoundland cove. The second selection, Kevin Major’s (B.Sc.’73, Hon.D.Litt.’11) One for the Rock, a crime novel that follows tour guide Sebastian Synard along the cliffs of St. John’s harbour.

The Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club cover is a pink coloured deer in front of a yellow background.The current selection is Megan Gail Coles’ (BA’03) Scotiabank Giller Prize-finalist Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, which promises to keep readers riveted and uncomfortable.

The novel bores into the intimate lives of employees of The Hazel – an elite restaurant in St. John’s.

Exposing class, gender and racial inequalities and tensions over the course of one Valentine’s Day during a violent winter storm outside, The Hazel there’s a torrid nest of betrayal, unrelenting abuse, addiction and hurt inside.

Ms. Coles says her hope for the book is for people of diverse backgrounds to recognize each other’s hardship and shared struggle. She delivers a fierce and unrelenting evaluation of the class divide present in our society.

“It is the responsibility of the well to ensure the protection of the vulnerable.” — Megan Gail Coles

She says that, ultimately, it’s the “only way forward.”

“Our income disparity is the worst in Atlantic Canada,” she said. “We have the richest rich people and the poorest poor people. The novel is a reflection of this lived experience. Sugar-coating it only further disenfranchises myself and the people I hold dear.

“If you have never encountered this level of suffering (of the characters in the book), then I am happy for you,” she continued. “You are fortunate. But many people are not and it is your duty to acknowledge their humanity. It is the responsibility of the well to ensure the protection of the vulnerable.”

Despite the difficult and devastating stories of the novel’s characters, Ms. Coles says she has hope for the future of people like Olive and Iris, two characters in the book.

Megan Gail Coles at the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize ceremony in Toronto, Ont.
Megan Gail Coles at the 2019 Giller Prize ceremony in Toronto, Ont.
Photo: Submitted

“The fact that a woman of my background is even being asked her opinion gives me hope because, just a generation ago, my thoughts wouldn’t have been considered, let alone requested by a publication such as this. I would have been dismissed outright because I was perceived as a nobody from nowhere.

“But this was always false,” she continued. “We are all somebodies from somewhere and our perspectives and experiences are valuable to our collective society. I think we have made great strides toward challenging dominant narratives that reinforce the opposite. Yet, I also think we have quite a long way to go. I hold these beliefs simultaneously because they can both be true at the same time.”

Book club details

Join Coast Lines today!

Small Game Hunting from the Local Cowards Gun Club is available in print, e-book and audio book formats from all retailers. Book club members may receive a 20 per cent discount by contacting the Memorial University bookstore.

The Coast Lines with Megan Gail Coles author event takes place on Tuesday, May 4. Register for the event here!

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