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Rock Reject

By Jim Williams (Fernwood)

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Williams’ debut novel, winner of the inaugural Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature, packs a solid educational punch and boasts an engaging plot. In 1974 Peter, heartbroken and guilt ridden, flees his urban home and the unbearable pressures and perpetual disappointment of his successful perfectionist father, to be a grunt monkey in an asbestos mine in the wild northern country. The details of his guilt, and the horrible thing he did, are revealed slowly as he struggles with class shock, dust pollution, anti-Reserve racism and bossism. These factors eventually politicize the young protagonist. At times the characters are a bit cardboard cutout, revealing their life stories in monologue to move the plot forward. But the story is a good one, and an important ode to the men whose health has suffered from the greed of industry, particularly as asbestos mining in Canada stumbles about the stage, lingering too long after having been dealt its death blow.

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