A Novel

Book - 2006
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From Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize winner Kevin Patterson, an epic first novel of north and south, infused with stark beauty, startlingly realized characters and fierce truths. Born on the tundra in the early 1950s, Victoria knows nothing but the nomadic hunting life of the Inuit until, at the age of ten, she is evacuated to a southern sanitarium for the treatment of tuberculosis. For six years she has no way to contact her parents. She grows healthy, learns Cree and English, becomes accustomed to books and radio, sunbathing and store-bought food. When she is finally sent home, she steps off the plane into a world that has changed radically. Even her father, Emo, a legendary hunter, has come in off the land to hunker in on Rankin Inlet at the edge of Hudson Bay. And Victoria herself has become a stranger to her family and her birth culture. Vividly evoking the modern contradictions of the north -- walrus meat and convenience foods, dog teams and diamond mines, midnight sun and 24-hour satellite TV -- Patterson takes us into the heart of Victoria's internal exile, as she marries and raises a family. Many love her, but none can heal her. Not her son, who disdains the settled life she has bought for him and who struggles to be like his grandfather. Not her daughters, who embrace the pop culture of the south. Not her husband, Robertson, who slowly becomes estranged as he pursues the economic opportunities the north offers white men. Not her Inuit lover, who can offer her only glimpses of her lost childhood. And most especially not the local doctor, Balthazar, who has come to Rankin Inlet from New York City to escape scrutiny and seems fated to harm instead of heal. When violence strikes Victoria's world, followed quickly by horrifying medical tragedy, Kevin Patterson shows how the tenuous bonds of friendship, love and family fly apart. And then at last, with great feeling, he evokes the unexpectedly tender ways in which the survivors struggle to their feet and carry on. It was morning, again, and she was awake and so were the kids, but they had all stayed in bed and listened to the walls shaking. Nine, or something like that, and still perfectly black. She had been dreaming that she had been having sex with Robertson and she was glad she had woken up. Even the unreal and fading picture of it had left her feeling alarmed -- though that eased as the picture of the two of them, entwined, had faded. In another conscious moment she was able to blink the topic away and out of her thoughts. As it had been. She could hear her girls, Marie and Justine, whispering to one another in their bedroom. She couldn't tell what they were saying. She heard the word "potato." Pauloosie, her son, her oldest child, was silent. She listened carefully and thought she could hear him turning in his bed. And then the wind wound up and just howled. As a girl she had not been this restless, waiting out storms with her parents on the land in a little iglu, drinking sweet tea and lying on caribou skins. It had been more dangerous then but less frightening. Storms make an iglu feel more substantial somehow. --From Consumption
Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, 2006.
ISBN: 9780679314370
Branch Call Number: FICTION PAT


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Jan 31, 2015

Truly loved this book. Very in-depth characters, great and unusual plot -- outstanding setting. I learned a lot, which I like, but the writing didn't make it seem "preachy" or even "teachy"

May 22, 2012

Consumption is not what I expected, but pleasantly surprised in reading it.

Get to know Victoria and her family, as they are, living in the harsh Arctic in 1950s being self-sufficient on the land (ice) with their nomadic tendencies. With contact of the "Southerners", they learn that Victoria is ill and must go South to a sanatorium in order to recover. During her stay there, she finally recovers, but heartbreak follows her.

Years later she is sent back to her village, to parents, who thought she was dead and where home isn't home anymore. She is constant struggle between her 'old' world and her 'new' self. The old way of things vs. modern technology and devices from the "Southerners" that is influencing their community and dividing its members with affluence.

Get to know the other characters of Rankin Inlet and beyond to show similiarities in culture clash and challenges of living to where we will all be consumed in one manner or another. But, also of the opportunity of reconnecting to each other

jaelle May 07, 2012

I don't know why this book was on my reading list, perhaps because it was a Butler Book Prize award winner.
But I enjoyed it very much, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about our Northern First Nations People.
I found it sad and enlightening at the same time.

brianreynolds Feb 18, 2012

Kevin Patterson's Consumption is rich in information about the Arctic, the Inuit, the transition that contact has forced upon them especially in last half century, the medical problems facing not only people of the north but humankind over the past several centuries. For those people who read fiction for information about new places and people, this should wash. I enjoyed the book on that level as well. For anyone looking for a good novel, there is lots that a reader has to forgive beginning with multiple points of view all peering out of the same rather colourless minimalist glasses. At the start we are led to believe that the central character is an Inuit woman who, though medical circumstances, loses her culture and tries to find some reasonable accommodation in a rapidly changing north. That story gets hijacked by a equally engrossing tale of capitalism versus democracy or history or foolish pride. Which in turn becomes a story of murder and of men and women surviving against an unforgiving nature. In the end we discover the real story might be the guilt trip of a kindly, narcotic thief, doctor who is finally able to put everything into (his own) perspective. What cobbles it all together, however, is a fascinating collection of facts, argument, and theory, none of it fiction.

Oct 12, 2011

Simply the best Canadian novel I have read in 45 years of reading. Every reader I know has received this novel for birthdays the last few years. 1 complaint: there are 2 editions & the contents are juggled in The Other edition - the one with this cover is the good one. Excellent work by an unappreciated writer.

Mar 25, 2011

Lives on Salt Spring Island, was a medic in Afghanistan. Spoke on NPR 3/25 of different stages of development and the health problems that become prevalent.

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