This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
REVIEWED BY AMANDA KEATS
In a cold wintery Montreal, people are going about their lives. There is the life-model coming between two best friends, the gay man living in denial with a woman and the former waitress looking to make it big in New York.
Rowena Macdonald takes an honest look at the everyday lives of Montreal's inhabitants as they strive to find work, love, acceptance, fulfilment and happiness and beautifully weaves their tales together in one clever book. Though the stories could easily stand alone as a series of short stories, there are links to connect them to each other. A person who is in the background of the first story suddenly becomes centre stage in the next.
There is no real beginning – middle – end to this book, rather a glimpse into the people's lives over the course of a year. It is a snapshot, nothing more, but in looking at how each life connects to others around it, Macdonald manages to build a bigger picture of what makes people move from one city to another, what makes them accept their lives and what makes them finally say that they've had enough and want better. The connections are great if you remember them but it doesn't detract anything from each person's story if you don't remember exactly where you read about them earlier. It is an adult book, as it deals with adult stories – apart from one – and the sex and complications that go along with it. But it does not use sex as a selling point or make it the raunchy focus of the book. It simply glides along and is relevant when it is relevant.
The only real downside to the book is that if I were not reading it for Novelicious, I would not have given it a second glance. The title is based on a Canadian food dish but doesn't really translate to UK audiences. The cover, a picture of a slightly banged-up looking Chevy, does not do the book justice at all as it goes no way to explaining what makes the book such a great read. It is in fact a rather tenuous link to one of the stories within.
The fact that the book feels like a compilation of short stories but is linked enough to feel like one complete book, plus the straightforward narrative and dialogue used, means that Smoked Meat is an enjoyable and easy read – though not remotely patronising. It would be ideal for the commute or for a holiday read as it's very easy to dip in and out of.