Author: Bill Gaston

Published: 2004

Genre: Fiction

About Sointula: A woman sets out in a stolen kayak to find her estranged son with an incompetent travel writer as her companion.

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Review of Sointula

Evelyn Poole, wife of the mayor of Oakville, is called to the deathbed of a former lover in Victoria. After he dies, Evelyn throws everything away — her clothes, her money, her life — and sets off in a stolen kayak to find the son she hasn't seen in ten years.

Peter Gore, a newly separated and newly retired high school teacher, has just arrived in Victoria where he is determined to fulfill his dream of writing a book.

Tom Poole, son of Evelyn, former drug dealer, damaged physically and mentally, is spending the summer alone on a secluded beach, recording data for a whale researcher.

She stretches stiffly and feels how all night the sand wouldn't conform to her bones. She spent more of last night awake than asleep. Dizzy, even lying down. She thinks she might have thrown up but sees no evidence in the sand.

Sometime during the night she also felt sick about Roy. Feeling guilty about Roy. She sees her husband as he is this minute, three thousand miles away, at his desk in Oakville City Hall, overlooking that weird blue of his lake, biting into a deli sandwich, an unfocussed stare, worried. Wife incommunicado. What's it been, five days? Six? Roy expecting her home or at least a phone call, an explanation. She's phoned just that once, left a message with bare facts only. All he knows is her "old friend" died and now she's looking for Tommy. And maybe he's seen that she's left her pills on the nightstand.

Isn't that what she's doing? Looking for Tommy?

...from pages 17-18

It was clear early on that the inevitable meeting of mother and son was never the point of this book; the journey was. And although the journey was slow, the book was not.

At first Evelyn seemed like a bored housewife, escaping from a husband who wasn't a bad guy, just slightly uptight and oblivious. She'd had a tumultuous relationship with her son, she'd romanticized her relationship with her former lover, Claude, and she had been living her life in a haze of anti-depressants. But as her journey progressed, Evelyn gained strength and clarity and earned my respect.

I didn't like Peter Gore very much when he was first introduced. In fact, I thought he was a bit creepy. But as the story went on I began feeling protective of him and his many flaws and weaknesses.

Tom (or Tommy) was the hardest character to sympathize with. Appearing distant and indifferent, except where the whales were concerned, he didn't allow anyone to get too close, including me as a reader.

There was a good deal of wry humour throughout the book. The setting, the wildlife, the bits of history, and the odd but interesting facts all enhanced the story. I don't know that I would want to spend time with any of the characters but I was cheering for each of them to find some kind of peace.

One of the reviews linked below calls Gaston a “hugely skilled storyteller”. I would agree.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 13 May 2008.

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More Reviews

Tom Snyders,, 14 October 2004
“Gaston is a hugely skilled storyteller...”
‘The Runaways.’ Cherie Thiessen, January Magazine, March 2005
“The author is a master at creating characters with deft understatement and dead right dialogue.”
Melissa Edwards, Geist Magazine, Spring 2005
“Although his characters are either clinically depressed or in mental collapse, Gaston's story is never bleak.”


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Added 13 May 2008.
Updated 07 September 2013.