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#1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads Finalist, Scotiabank Giller Prize By turns savage, biting, funny, poetic, and heartbreaking, Megan Gail Coles’s debut novel rips into the inner lives of a wicked cast of characters, exposing class, gender, and racial tensions over the course of one Valentine’s Day in the dead of a winter storm. Valentine’s Day, the longest day #1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads Finalist, Scotiabank Giller Prize By turns savage, biting, funny, poetic, and heartbreaking, Megan Gail Coles’s debut novel rips into the inner lives of a wicked cast of characters, exposing class, gender, and racial tensions over the course of one Valentine’s Day in the dead of a winter storm. Valentine’s Day, the longest day of the year. A fierce blizzard is threatening to tear a strip off the city, while inside The Hazel restaurant a storm system of sex, betrayal, addiction, and hurt is breaking overhead. Iris, a young hostess, is forced to pull a double despite resolving to avoid the charming chef and his wealthy restaurateur wife. Just tables over, Damian, a hungover and self-loathing server, is trying to navigate a potential punch-up with a pair of lit customers who remain oblivious to the rising temperature in the dining room. Meanwhile Olive, a young woman far from her northern home, watches it all unfurl from the fast and frozen street. Through rolling blackouts, we glimpse the truth behind the shroud of scathing lies and unrelenting abuse, and discover that resilience proves most enduring in the dead of this winter’s tale.


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#1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads Finalist, Scotiabank Giller Prize By turns savage, biting, funny, poetic, and heartbreaking, Megan Gail Coles’s debut novel rips into the inner lives of a wicked cast of characters, exposing class, gender, and racial tensions over the course of one Valentine’s Day in the dead of a winter storm. Valentine’s Day, the longest day #1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads Finalist, Scotiabank Giller Prize By turns savage, biting, funny, poetic, and heartbreaking, Megan Gail Coles’s debut novel rips into the inner lives of a wicked cast of characters, exposing class, gender, and racial tensions over the course of one Valentine’s Day in the dead of a winter storm. Valentine’s Day, the longest day of the year. A fierce blizzard is threatening to tear a strip off the city, while inside The Hazel restaurant a storm system of sex, betrayal, addiction, and hurt is breaking overhead. Iris, a young hostess, is forced to pull a double despite resolving to avoid the charming chef and his wealthy restaurateur wife. Just tables over, Damian, a hungover and self-loathing server, is trying to navigate a potential punch-up with a pair of lit customers who remain oblivious to the rising temperature in the dining room. Meanwhile Olive, a young woman far from her northern home, watches it all unfurl from the fast and frozen street. Through rolling blackouts, we glimpse the truth behind the shroud of scathing lies and unrelenting abuse, and discover that resilience proves most enduring in the dead of this winter’s tale.

30 review for Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    The epigraph reads "This might hurt a little - be brave." Lord thunderin' Jesus there is dark stuff ahead rendered in some of the most compelling prose I've read from this year's Giller shortlist. Jaw-dropping at times. It's Valentines Day at the Hazel in downtown St. John's Newfoundland and no one is getting out unscathed. It's a bleak #MeToo novel, examining toxic masculinity, an enabling culture, and little in the way of a clear or even hopeful path through. Megan Gail Coles is unflinching, co The epigraph reads "This might hurt a little - be brave." Lord thunderin' Jesus there is dark stuff ahead rendered in some of the most compelling prose I've read from this year's Giller shortlist. Jaw-dropping at times. It's Valentines Day at the Hazel in downtown St. John's Newfoundland and no one is getting out unscathed. It's a bleak #MeToo novel, examining toxic masculinity, an enabling culture, and little in the way of a clear or even hopeful path through. Megan Gail Coles is unflinching, completely merciless, and sentiment free in her writing. I found the start disjointed and unfamiliar but it came sharply into focus like a roadside accident you can't look away from. You're compelled yet can't help but feel horrifyingly voyeuristic and implicated by your gaze. I can't wait to see what she's got in store next.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Enid Wray

    The publisher blurb refers to this, among other things, as biting, and funny. Biting, yes. Funny, no, not in the least. There is terrible trauma - brutality - here, and my heart bleeds for the lives of Olive and Iris… Olive in particular. But the narration keeps the reader at such a distance that I am never drawn into the story. Indeed it is only after an horrific event - nearing page 300 - that I really connect with any of the characters and begin to really connect with the story... and the nove The publisher blurb refers to this, among other things, as biting, and funny. Biting, yes. Funny, no, not in the least. There is terrible trauma - brutality - here, and my heart bleeds for the lives of Olive and Iris… Olive in particular. But the narration keeps the reader at such a distance that I am never drawn into the story. Indeed it is only after an horrific event - nearing page 300 - that I really connect with any of the characters and begin to really connect with the story... and the novel, finally, finds itself. Until this point, as much as I empathise with the characters and feel for their pain, I never really feel or care about them as individuals. There are far too many characters to ever get invested in… and far too much detail to wade through. While the issues with the narration would have remained the same, this book would have done better with at least 100 pages edited out of it. The subject matter Coles mines here is important, so critically important, and I laud her for turning her pen to it. But I don’t see a wide range of readers sticking with this. It was a chore to read this... and it shouldn’t have been.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    This is not infatuation. This is small game hunting at the local coward gun club. And what is worse, as every stroke of recognition is finally delivered hard against Iris's hurt timepiece, is that all was lost the moment she opened the door and let him step across the threshold. He wanted her less from there. As a sort of trigger warning, author Megan Gail Coles prefaces Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club with a page stating in full: This might hurt a little. Be brave. (And this a This is not infatuation. This is small game hunting at the local coward gun club. And what is worse, as every stroke of recognition is finally delivered hard against Iris's hurt timepiece, is that all was lost the moment she opened the door and let him step across the threshold. He wanted her less from there. As a sort of trigger warning, author Megan Gail Coles prefaces Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club with a page stating in full: This might hurt a little. Be brave. (And this after a dedication page which says, “I wrote this for myself. And the beautiful vicious island that makes and unmakes us.”) At the Giller Prize ceremony (for which this title had been shortlisted), Coles called this book “an act of resistance”, and taken all together, it's fair warning that Coles has a lot of opinions to share and she doesn't care who she offends with them. The story itself paints a bleak picture of life in modern day Newfoundland – not only the weather on a blustery, sleety Valentine's Day, but the current social conditions in this have-again/have-not-again province – and with off-putting details (so much vomit, phlegm, and semen) and persistent power struggles (sexism, classism, racism), there is, indeed, something challenging on nearly every page. People are poor and struggling, fragile hearts are broken, the undeserving (read: men; read: white men) get away with their wickedness. Add to this the literary devices used – omniscient narration jumping from character to character without warning or context, no quotation marks for dialogue, confusing chunks that require a reread for understanding – and Coles is demanding a lot from her audience. Despite experiencing as more dense than truly necessary, I did find this read to be ultimately rewarding; Coles can definitely write and the world she reveals here is one that those from away ought to see. Despite its large cast of characters, this is essentially the story of two young women from a rural outpost in Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, now trying to survive in St. John's. Olive – half-Native and raised mostly in bad foster care situations – is spending the snowy day away from her apartment in order to avoid her landlord and his demands for overdue rent: Olive: whose gentlemen callers are never gentle or men but dregs of former humans driving red pickups full of smoke. Their pumping cherries recalling every murder program ever aired to warn, no, educate, no, remind, no, inform single women of the danger lurking just outside their double-locked doors, checked and rechecked and checked again for certainty. And Iris: a painter who went to art school in Toronto but who now hostesses at the chic restaurant “The Hazel” in St. John's, and who is sleeping with its handsome, but married, chef: Iris was meant to want nothing, demand less, not more. Her father's absence laying well the groundwork for the first one and then the next one and then John. He had told her in an honest afterglow that they were not even half a thing. Not even half a thing, ringing on repeat in her head. One foot in front of the other through the slush on the downgrade toward The Hazel. Not even half of something. She has learned to abuse herself in a misguided attempt to thwart expectation. You don't deserve any better. But very deep inside her body a tiny voice whispers into soft cupped hands... ...but you do. Olive is hanging around The Hazel to keep warm out of the weather, and although Iris only showed up to pick up her paycheque, she is convinced to work a double shift in the dining room as a storm threatens outside and staff call in to say they can't get through the snow. Her fragile heart well and truly broken by John the chef, Iris is finally willing to consider her best friend Jo's estimate of him: Jo would say he is a predator. The worst kind of man. A faux-minist. A liar. He made Iris believe in a falsehood. Fooled her. Groomed her. Identified the want in her and pretend-extended this back, though slightly out of reach of Iris's grasping hands. He kept her reaching and now she has been stretched beyond herself. No longer knowing her own mind. To add to Iris's near-resolve to finally end this “not even half a thing” with John, his wife, George – the money behind the restaurant and the wallet John refuses to leave – decides to help out in the dining room, and as the storm builds outside and a variety of customers make their way through the restaurant, it becomes clear that the plot is working towards an explosive climax. Most every character gets a complex backstory, and while this makes for some nice moments and proves that Coles really knows these people she has created, it also made the book feel longer than necessary. (I loved the vignette with little Iris in a sled with her cousins and her Nan – her Pop pulling the sled through the snow with a Skidoo while their ersatz sled-dogs run joyfully alongside – and I was glad it was in here, but did it really belong in here?) I see that Cole's last release was a book of short stories and that makes so much sense: these short but complex backstories seem more suited to the short story form, and maybe that's why this novel has the feel of a nonlinear mashup. These meanderings into non-main characters' histories also allow Coles to get more broadly political. The mayor of St. John's (snarkily referred to as “Major” David) has lunch in The Hazel, and not only does he overtly present as the worst example of privileged, old white male (gets away with abusing the wait staff, mentally explains why he refuses to tip), but cut jumps to other scenes with him justify our dislike of him: You know, Joanna, that I did not invent the Keurig, right? Though I wish I had. And off she went pontificating about the coffin-maker not committing the crime. Major David chewed down slowly while peering over her shoulder for an exit. Had there not been a number of junior staffers in the kitchenette that day, he would have just walked away from her. Just stop listening was a tactic he regularly employed. He left conversations with his wife and daughters all the time. It was a vagina-proof strategy. There's a waiter, Damian, whose extraneous scenes do shine a light on an important through story, but the narrative of how he ruined his relationship with his partner was less integral, and the story of how Damien's mother became involved in gambling and embezzlement from work was even less related to the main story – but it did allow Coles to make this strange commentary on newspaper paywalls: The people in charge, having allowed most, many, okay, more than before, the privilege of literacy, had now deemed having an educated citizenship a right hassle so were marking it up in a hurry, man. If motivation could overcome the hesitation and apathy long enough to scale that wall, people still would know that Dot was scared and full of remorse. For the most part, the men in this story are pretty awful (except for Damien [probably because he's gay] and Omi [probably because he's an immigrant]), and while there is some understanding shown towards men who are under the constant pressure of having their livelihoods taken away as industry after industry collapses in Newfoundland, there's plenty of blame apportioned to the women who love to make excuses for their men; women who are quick to besmirch the reputation of any woman who cries rape (“Is it possible to rape a slut? Is it possible to rape a whore? Do you remember what little Jimmy looked like in his First Communion photo?”) and women who are quick to socially freeze out any abandoned mother who would dare to demand child support from their cash-strapped son or brother; on the rock, blood ties run much deeper than any notion of universal sisterhood. To comment on the political, sometimes Coles gets snarky (but does the tone serve the message?): Rape is a powerful word well-despised by rapists the world over, because they rightfully don't like being called out for what they are or what they do as it will for sure impact their ability to continue doing so. Not full on prevent them from continuing to rape, but it is a kind of inconvenience in life moving forward. At the Gillers, Coles pointed to Olive and Iris as the heart of her book, and I'd agree that it is their challenging stories that give this narrative poignancy. I see other reviewers commenting on this book's cover (it really is gorgeous) and wanted to end on the quote that inspired it: Olive offers, I saw a pink caribou once. And Iris nods and says, I want to be like that. After. I want to be a whole new animal. Maybe not perfectly assembled, but there is much to love in the parts of this book

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darryl Suite

    FINAL REVIEW: The epigraph said "This might hurt a little. Be brave." No, this hurt A LOT. If you’re looking for the most “Me Too” book you’ll ever come across; that dissects toxic masculinity in true takedown type fashion, HERE YOU GO: How does one categorize Small Game Hunting? Is it a tragedy? A cautionary tale? Who cares? It’s cutthroat. Most of these characters would be content with just an ounce of natural human connection, instead they have to settle with a heavy dose of self-destruction a FINAL REVIEW: The epigraph said "This might hurt a little. Be brave." No, this hurt A LOT. If you’re looking for the most “Me Too” book you’ll ever come across; that dissects toxic masculinity in true takedown type fashion, HERE YOU GO: How does one categorize Small Game Hunting? Is it a tragedy? A cautionary tale? Who cares? It’s cutthroat. Most of these characters would be content with just an ounce of natural human connection, instead they have to settle with a heavy dose of self-destruction and self-medicating. This is a dark character study on the impact toxic masculinity has on all of their lives. Several of the characters have ugly hearts, but Coles manages to make them all incredibly human (and it’s an uncomfortable accomplishment). Coles gets you to gain perspective, make you understand just how someone could manifest into the horrifying person they’ve become. This is not just a victim vs. predator type novel. It shows us that witnesses to bad behavior are also part of the problem, those of us who remain silent and do nothing to help, are perhaps even worse than the guilty parties. I wish I could’ve seen my own facial expression while reading this unnerving piece of fiction. There are two scenes that truly messed me up. One made my skin crawl; I wanted to speed through it, but it was impossible to do so because Coles won’t let you. It was stomach-churning and I was left feeling helpless. The other involves a character using the word “mine” several times. I won't tell you the context of the scene, but it is disturbing and anger-inducing. It's the most psychologically haunting scene / image I've read in any book this year. *shudder* ------ With this book, expect themes on toxic masculinity, infidelity, substance abuse, neglect, sexual assault, sexual harrassment, rape culture, obsession, dependency, posessiveness, homophobia, and identity. VICIOUS. ANGRY. INTENSE. RELENTLESS. BRUTAL. AND VERY, VERY, VERY DARK. Oof. https://www.instagram.com/p/B_ktL_qA-...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Orla Hegarty

    I am tossing this at 100 pages. Lots of shallowly developed characters. Alienating (all over the place?) writing style. Not my cup of tea.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Bateman

    I enjoy many books, but only a few register at a deep enough level to change me as a human. This is one of those. It is a wonder of a book, full of magic. I adore the fluidity of Megan Gail Coles' style, how she moves from external to internal, personal to collective, dialogue to action with no need for signposts. All that nonsense about show don't tell and other rules writers tell themselves... is all of it a mistake? I wonder. This book feels like life itself feels and she had me from the firs I enjoy many books, but only a few register at a deep enough level to change me as a human. This is one of those. It is a wonder of a book, full of magic. I adore the fluidity of Megan Gail Coles' style, how she moves from external to internal, personal to collective, dialogue to action with no need for signposts. All that nonsense about show don't tell and other rules writers tell themselves... is all of it a mistake? I wonder. This book feels like life itself feels and she had me from the first page. Megan Gail Coles has assembled a host of voices and given each the fullness of story, all the while taking us through a larger arc that speaks to a cultural truth we must all acknowledge in one way or another. Such bravery and truth. My heart well and truly broke… but then found resilience enough to keep beating. If you read nothing else this year, read this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Well this was a ride. Coles is INTENSE and intelligent and pointed. She's angry at times, and you can taste it in her writing. The first 150 pages were tough-going. If it weren't for making the Canada Reads 2020 shortlist, I definitely would have given up on this book. But there's this scene mid-way that no one I know can look away from. A horrific scene but described so astutely, so intelligently, that I kept on reading just to eat up the words. At that point in the book I was convinced that th Well this was a ride. Coles is INTENSE and intelligent and pointed. She's angry at times, and you can taste it in her writing. The first 150 pages were tough-going. If it weren't for making the Canada Reads 2020 shortlist, I definitely would have given up on this book. But there's this scene mid-way that no one I know can look away from. A horrific scene but described so astutely, so intelligently, that I kept on reading just to eat up the words. At that point in the book I was convinced that the writing was worth it, and I was rewarded by the end. If you're thinking of giving up on this book, I cast a strong vote for persevering. Just continue on. It's not easy, no. But do keep going. I'll read Coles' next book for sure, and I wouldn't have said that in the first half of the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    This dark and propulsive book is prefaced with these portentous words: "This may hurt a little. Be brave." So forewarned, I dove in. And yes, this debut novel requires bravery. It is, after all, about damaged characters (and aren't we all a little damaged?) who hide their hurt or in some cases, wear it on their sleeve. It is about women who allow the men in their lives to fill them with emotional toxins until they figuratively writhe on the floor as collateral damage. It is about bad people who p This dark and propulsive book is prefaced with these portentous words: "This may hurt a little. Be brave." So forewarned, I dove in. And yes, this debut novel requires bravery. It is, after all, about damaged characters (and aren't we all a little damaged?) who hide their hurt or in some cases, wear it on their sleeve. It is about women who allow the men in their lives to fill them with emotional toxins until they figuratively writhe on the floor as collateral damage. It is about bad people who prey on these women and good people who turn the other way or rationalize what they know deep down and won't admit. In short, it's about the challenging world we live in-a world of possibilities that is also laced with misogyny and racism and unfaithfulness and class distinctions and addiction and grotesque rape and what it feels like to finally break through the so-called moral silence. The book takes place in a restaurant called The Hazel in Newfoundland during a Valentine's Day snowstorm. We meet Olive first, who is a quixotic spectator-of-sorts who loiters outside the dining area. Her role is not fleshed out and it will be a while to truly meet her again, but she is the moral compass of the story. There is John, the celebrated and good-looking chef who is bankrolled by his wife Georgia. Iris, the mixed race hostess who has had the misfortune to fall in love with him. Damien, a gay man who is self-destructive and morally challenged. And Calv, who is an enabler for his friend Roger, who is just a bad guy. These characters overlap as the storm swirls outside-and inside, in their own lives. Certainly this is not a book for those who love Pollyanna characters and linear plots. Megan Gail Coles is a playwright and it shows - in the dialogue, in the sui generis voice, and in her careful use of settings and ambiance. There is gloriously-crafted language here, punctuated by deep insights into the human psyche. For those of us who don't want to be spoon-fed our plots or characters-and I am one of them-take a deep breath and dive in. And, if you need one more reason, consider that the book is a Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalist. My big thanks to House of Anansi, who accepted my request to be an advance reader in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    An absolutely brilliant and powerful read. I often had to stop mid-page so I could fully appreciate the depth of the author's understanding, compassion and empathy for her characters. A distinct writing style that takes some time to get used to but is so distinct and authentic, funny at times and turns the world around on its head. I can't wait to read it again. It is so satisfying to discover a new and talented Canadian writer with a unique voice. An absolutely brilliant and powerful read. I often had to stop mid-page so I could fully appreciate the depth of the author's understanding, compassion and empathy for her characters. A distinct writing style that takes some time to get used to but is so distinct and authentic, funny at times and turns the world around on its head. I can't wait to read it again. It is so satisfying to discover a new and talented Canadian writer with a unique voice.

  10. 5 out of 5

    ❤️

    If you know me on Goodreads at all, I've kept it no secret how much I absolutely hate when authors don't use quotation marks in their dialogue. It can throw off the entire flow of a book for me, I don't understand what the appeal is (for an writer or a reader), and I just am not a fan. So, when I say now that Small Game Hunting, it turns out, is the only book wherein the author chose not use quotations and I didn't even mind it all... that should be a pretty good indicator of how much I adored t If you know me on Goodreads at all, I've kept it no secret how much I absolutely hate when authors don't use quotation marks in their dialogue. It can throw off the entire flow of a book for me, I don't understand what the appeal is (for an writer or a reader), and I just am not a fan. So, when I say now that Small Game Hunting, it turns out, is the only book wherein the author chose not use quotations and I didn't even mind it all... that should be a pretty good indicator of how much I adored this book. It is a demanding book in some ways. You cannot go into it with the intention of only just breezing or skimming through a few pages without any real commitment. You have to allow it your full attention. Once you're in, you can't look away. For me, it was an experience - which can be a pretty cliche thing to say, but I know for me, I don't say it often when it comes to books. There was something different about it, and yes, it's a little rocky at first, but after about 25 pages or so, I was fully caught up to its beat and I was all in. This book hurt me. It even says it might at the beginning - "This might hurt a little - be brave". It is a close-knit slice of life that is incredibly character driven. Just kind of skimming over some of the reviews and seeing some other readers of the book assess it as being shallow in the character department really shocks me, because I didn't read it like that at all. In fact, I'd say that the characters within Small Game Hunting are some of the most fully realized characters I've ever read. I recognized traits in them, I genuinely hated others (it's hard to hate someone, even a character, if they're too flat to really know), I had so much compassion for others. But getting back to the book hurting. It might hurt a little, as Megan Gail Coles cautions. For me, it hurt a lot. Not in a way that it was brutal for the sake of being brutal, or in the way that it made me want to resist reading further, but in the way that through Megan's writing, I came to feel very, very deeply about everything within the story she had written. Especially for her two main characters of Iris and Olive. The book deals with themes of power imbalances, race, sex, poverty, and rape culture. When people talk about books being 'hard-hitting', this is the type of book they mean. If you pick up this book, you'll notice it comes with another warning - that it contains scenes of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. And I'd definitely encourage you to earnestly consider that before getting into this book. If those things can be triggering to you, please be kind to yourself and make sure that you are in the right headspace to take the book on. I'd also highly encourage others not to recommend the book without giving mention of that warning. For me personally, I definitely felt that when certain scenes (one in particular, actually) took place, it provoked some upsetting memories, and the absolutely incredible examination of rape culture that Megan Gail Coles gives directly afterward, while courageous and bold, was also something that caused me some upset (just because of how true it is and my own experiences with what she wrote about). But what I love about Megan so much, and what really secured my admiration for her as a person, was hearing her speak about the book on CBC's Next Chapter. She speaks so eloquently about her characters and her book, but what she had to say about putting the content warning I speak of at the beginning of the book really stood out to me and I want to mention it here. In the podcast she says: "I have no intention to do any further harm. My intention as a writer, as an artist, as a member of my community, as an activist, is to help us face something that we need to face in order to improve the quality of all of our lives. So I would never intentionally trick people into engaging with material that I knew would potentially be damaging for them. I want them to know what they're getting into before they get into the book, because I would not want to in any way inflict further pain on them. The people that are going to find the book the most painful are likely the people who have encountered some of the most damaging behaviours that are explored in the novel. And that's mostly who I'm writing for, not against". As for Canada Reads, I think it is perfect for this year's theme of 'a book to bring Canada into focus'. The theme, like many of previous years, is, on the surface, quite vague. But Small Game Hunting, at least for me, works well for multiple different interpretations of the theme. For starters, it is just such an unapologetically Canadian book, and the fact that it is set in Newfoundland, a province that rarely is ever in the forefront in mainstream Canadian media, makes it an excellent choice to bring Canada into focus. It also deals with issues that are prevalent in every single province and territory in this country but which many Canadians prefer to ignore lest it tarnish our 'nicey nice' reputation. This book does not allow you brush off these issues or feign ignorance. The issues aren't all specifically Canadian issues, but it highlights the impacts of these issues through a Canadian, distinctly East coast, lens, and by 'bringing it into focus' is to say let us not forget that as a country we aren't exempt. And then there is the way in which Small Game Hunting is a fantastic book to highlight the talent we have within CanLit that is so much more than the likes of -dare I say her name- Margaret Atwood. There have been so many issues within CanLit (we're talking its sexual harassment and diversity problems; we're talking Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, Steven Galloway, George Elliott Clarke, etc etc etc), and here is a great opportunity to shift the focus (not the criticism, just the focus) on those whose fresh talents are bringing something positive, something essential, something new, to Canadian literature - in this case, that'd be Megan Gail Coles and this most powerful, brilliant, heartbreaking and captivating novel of hers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, by Megan Gail Coles, is a finalist in Canada Reads 2020. The warning at the beginning of the book holds true 'This might hurt a little. Be Brave'. This novel takes place over one day, Valentines Day, in urban Newfoundland during a brutal blizzard. It tells the story of numerous characters at a local restaurant - The Hazel. Daunting at the beginning trying to follow along, but once I got them straight the story started to flow, darkly very darkly. Se Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, by Megan Gail Coles, is a finalist in Canada Reads 2020. The warning at the beginning of the book holds true 'This might hurt a little. Be Brave'. This novel takes place over one day, Valentines Day, in urban Newfoundland during a brutal blizzard. It tells the story of numerous characters at a local restaurant - The Hazel. Daunting at the beginning trying to follow along, but once I got them straight the story started to flow, darkly very darkly. Sex, betrayal, addiction and hurt surround this tale until the end. Hard to get through, for a number of reasons, but worth it in the end.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Penny (Literary Hoarders)

    I'm shelving into my DNF folder. I don't have the time or patience to continue. The list of books to read is far and wide and long. I strongly feel the Giller will/should go to Crummey. I'm shelving into my DNF folder. I don't have the time or patience to continue. The list of books to read is far and wide and long. I strongly feel the Giller will/should go to Crummey.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    In Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, it’s February and it's snowing heavily. You’re trapped inside The Hazel - a small restaurant in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  Everyone from the owner to the serving staff are keeping secrets from one another and over time, have become tangled up in each other’s lives.  As the day progresses, the temperature will rise and tensions will boil over. I’m sorry, but this book was way too long. The length is my biggest complaint and the main reason I had t In Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, it’s February and it's snowing heavily. You’re trapped inside The Hazel - a small restaurant in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  Everyone from the owner to the serving staff are keeping secrets from one another and over time, have become tangled up in each other’s lives.  As the day progresses, the temperature will rise and tensions will boil over. I’m sorry, but this book was way too long. The length is my biggest complaint and the main reason I had the most trouble with it.  There are a lot of characters here, or at least it felt like a lot.  Megan Gail Coles dug deep into each character and offered up tremendous depth and backstory, but I had a hard time connecting with any of them after a while.  The only two characters that struck a chord with me were Olive and Iris and even then, their lives were so desperately bleak and painful that after spending so much time with them, I became numb to their respective situations. There were also two extremely difficult scenes in this book (and this is coming from someone who had read a book about 9/11 in the past month) that I struggled with.  It’s hard to talk about one specifically without giving away a rather big moment in the story, but I could have done without it.  As far as the other one goes, people sensitive to animal death should be forewarned. The book isn’t terrible by any means, so I don’t want to give that impression.  In fact, Coles’ raw, unflinching writing style is one of the best I’ve read in quite some time.  For one character in particular, she alters her narration to fit the voice of a heavily accented Newfoundlander and being from the east coast myself, I could hear the voice so clearly in my head.  One thing I will say - and I’ve said it before in the past - I hate it when authors decide to go without quotation marks.  I don’t understand why you would do it and I have no idea stylistically what you’re trying to achieve.  There is a dialogue-heavy scene near the book’s conclusion where three people are arguing and I got so lost.  Very frustrating. By the time I reached the three hundred page mark, I was completely worn out.  However, when I got to the ending, Coles knocked my socks off.  Despite that gut punch of a finale, I don’t believe the journey was worth the destination.  There is a great book in here though, just maybe if it was 100 pages shorter. For those interested in the two moments I was eluding to above: (view spoiler)[ There is a scene where a cat is killed by a group of teens via torture (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ There is a graphic gang rape scene involving one of the central characters (hide spoiler)]

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    It took me a while to finish this and to be frank there are moments the plotting lagged. But in the end I did find the writing and story quite riveting. Coles has a long career ahead of her and looking forward to more great books from her in the future.

  15. 4 out of 5

    ❀ Susan G

    Wow! What a book! I am glad that I persevered and will be pondering this story and the eclectic group of characters for a while. I had to read the first 35 pages 3 times and did struggle through the dense prose but it was worth the challenging read. After hearing Megan Gail Coles speak at the Canada Reads kick off, I could hear her voice as I read the story. Her writing is amazing, readers can picture the characters who are all connected in unfortunate ways. After reading a number of books with a Wow! What a book! I am glad that I persevered and will be pondering this story and the eclectic group of characters for a while. I had to read the first 35 pages 3 times and did struggle through the dense prose but it was worth the challenging read. After hearing Megan Gail Coles speak at the Canada Reads kick off, I could hear her voice as I read the story. Her writing is amazing, readers can picture the characters who are all connected in unfortunate ways. After reading a number of books with a Newfoundland setting, I am in dire need of a happier book set in this province!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anne Logan

    Long title, long book. Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles may scare off people for a few different reasons, one of them being the warning issued at the beginning: “This might hurt a little. Be brave. But those who are brave will be rewarded. I won’t say I was one of the brave ones, I HAD to read this book because I’m defending it for the Giller Light Party next Monday, but I’m glad I did anyway because it was a worthwhile read. Not an altogether pleasant read, but Long title, long book. Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles may scare off people for a few different reasons, one of them being the warning issued at the beginning: “This might hurt a little. Be brave. But those who are brave will be rewarded. I won’t say I was one of the brave ones, I HAD to read this book because I’m defending it for the Giller Light Party next Monday, but I’m glad I did anyway because it was a worthwhile read. Not an altogether pleasant read, but a memorable one. It’s a book I’d recommend to others, just so they can see how other Canadians live. For someone who lives in Calgary, this book introduced me to a whole other side of Canada I’ve never experienced, but of course, I’m now dying to visit myself (in summer). The story takes place on Valentine’s Day in St. John’s Newfoundland. (Note for my non-Canadian readers: I’m a Canadian born and raised, but I’ve never been to Newfoundland, many Canadians haven’t. It’s a large island on our east coast and can be quite expensive to get to, although boasts some of our most beautiful landscapes. It’s also considered one of Canada’s more ‘rugged’ urban areas.) Coles is aware that her book may be an introduction for many to this area, yet doesn’t sugarcoat how brutal it can be in the winter. Biting cold and unceasing winds along the coastline is just the beginning as to why this area may seem uninhabitable in the winter months. We’re introduced to quite a few characters who we jump back and forth between. One man is cheating on his wife with an employee, another man is trying desperately to be the good person his mother raised him to be, and one woman is struggling with the painful imprint of a childhood in foster care, steering her into the arms of all the wrong people. Drugs and alcoholism rear their ugly heads throughout most of this narrative, making already intolerable situations even worse. Like the title suggests, the weak are preyed upon by those who should know better, empathy an emotion that is pushed out of the way by more pressing matters. Women suffer the most in this book, but machismo rather than men are the target of Coles’s scorn. And most bad deeds germinate out of earlier abusive treatment or resentments; many seem to be struggling with significant burdens: emotional or otherwise. But it’s too easy to draw character lines as us vs. them. One of the ‘villains’ of the book, George, is actually the woman being cheated on, and she seems to lack almost any empathy at all. But instead of pointing out the differences between her and Iris (the mistress) we realize both women (and to some extent the men) are being shaped by outside forces; some have a safety net while others don’t. George is incredibly rich, so she has a safety net, although she’s prey to society’s expectations all the same: “Her father remarked that she was much too stern. Be like that if you want, my girl, but you will be alone. So she softened. Made herself sweet. Wore pastels and said please (p. 121)” Bloody good that did her! But again, I think that’s Coles’s point, these are expectations that are placed upon us for no good reason, with no guarantee of happiness at the end. The only problem I had with this book is the number of characters; as I started reading there were far too many for me to keep track of and their stories started to blend together. Once I settled in, I was able to follow the perspective changes clearly, but I find this initial confusion frustrating and avoidable as a reader. That’s a small quibble for an otherwise thought-provoking read, and for those who worry it may be TOO dark for them, there are moments of humour to lighten up most scenes. I recommend listening to interviews with Coles so her voice is well-imprinted in your mind before you begin. I held her voice (with its Newfoundland accent) in my head as I read, and it added a colour to the writing that made the words even more vivid and provocative. I To read the rest of my reviews please visit my blog: https://ivereadthis.com/ Or follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/ivereadthisblog

  17. 5 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    It was a stark and stormy day. The story takes place in St John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, over the course of a day, during a cold February blizzard. Much of the central action takes place in a trendy bar and restaurant, The Hazel. A diverse staff of bay residents reside there, some from the impoverished classes, and the owner a wealthy woman, George, married to the serial womanizing chef, John (a former financially struggling cook). A few inhabitants that aren’t employed there It was a stark and stormy day. The story takes place in St John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, over the course of a day, during a cold February blizzard. Much of the central action takes place in a trendy bar and restaurant, The Hazel. A diverse staff of bay residents reside there, some from the impoverished classes, and the owner a wealthy woman, George, married to the serial womanizing chef, John (a former financially struggling cook). A few inhabitants that aren’t employed there visit or spend time on the periphery. Coles is also a playwright, and her theater background is evident in her use of dialogue—lots of it, and the manner in which the cast seems to sharply emerge from the shadows or disappear into the dark. There’s a linear plot nestled inside the characters’ non-linear background stories. The suspense builds steadily through the snow squall, enclosing us fully till the show-stopping end. It’s a character-driven tale of icy adventure in a turbulent and emotional landscape. Iris, a young woman of mixed racial heritage, and eternally insecure about her value, is in the crisis throes of her two-year affair with John. He dithers between his selfish needs: die to have her or kill her to get away. The push-pull on Iris’s heart is reaching a climax, and the reader is pulled taut in latent and active events. “This is small game hunting at the local coward gun club...And what is worse, as every stroke of recognition is finally fully delivered hard against Iris’s hurt timepiece, is that all was lost the moment she opened the door and let him step across the threshold. He wanted her less from there.” It’s a lust and obsession story with teeth, not a trivial love triangle. Moreover, there are various other characters grappling with profound personal issues: addiction, loneliness, violence, homophobia, depression. It’s droll, intense, and ripe with inevitable confrontations. The most enigmatic character is Olive, a rural native who now lives in St. John’s. She doesn’t work at the Hazel, but periodically visits Iris or hangs at the edges of the place. Her presence early on is the most mysterious of all, but I felt the pulse of it immediately, and knew somewhere in my heart that she would break it. Her story, I sensed, may be pivotal to the action. Then there are the diners during this blizzard, including a table of cruel, elitist prigs, and a twin brother and sister who eat here weekly. The circle widens to include friends, family, and frenemies that connect to the Hazel in close or distant ways. A crew of criminals add a stain of menace that permeates the pages; the peril is palpable but at first indefinable. Later, vivid and blistering events crushed me to my core. Megan Gail Coles wrote in her epigraph to the novel: “This might hurt a little. Be brave.” Stoke your courage, readers. It’s thoroughly worth it! Thank you to House of Anansi for sending me a copy for review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    K.R. Wilson

    Megan Gail Coles’s Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is literally stunning: at one point I just sat there stunned for a bit, letting what I’d read settle. Its one-day main narrative is far from the whole story, as Coles takes us deeply into the lives and minds of her characters, exposing the wrenching traumas, pointless regrets, self-serving rationalizations and inextinguishable flickers of hope that have brought them all together. It’s a novel of place, of perceptions, of insightf Megan Gail Coles’s Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is literally stunning: at one point I just sat there stunned for a bit, letting what I’d read settle. Its one-day main narrative is far from the whole story, as Coles takes us deeply into the lives and minds of her characters, exposing the wrenching traumas, pointless regrets, self-serving rationalizations and inextinguishable flickers of hope that have brought them all together. It’s a novel of place, of perceptions, of insightful observation, and of brilliantly crafted phrases.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    My final read of the worst year of my life – likely yours, too – and it opens with a fitting note: “This might hurt. Be brave.” Full disclosure: I was filled to the brim with hurt the day I started Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, Megan Gail Coles’ bold and brilliant debut. The bravery I’d been exerting had reached max capacity; I was running on fumes and needed a fill-up. Ironic epigraph notwithstanding, would Megan Gale Coles’ debut offer the replenishment I needed? Would it som My final read of the worst year of my life – likely yours, too – and it opens with a fitting note: “This might hurt. Be brave.” Full disclosure: I was filled to the brim with hurt the day I started Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, Megan Gail Coles’ bold and brilliant debut. The bravery I’d been exerting had reached max capacity; I was running on fumes and needed a fill-up. Ironic epigraph notwithstanding, would Megan Gale Coles’ debut offer the replenishment I needed? Would it somehow restore my bravery all the while asking for it? Or would it indeed add to my hurt? Well, it certainly didn’t make me feel much better, especially about being a male (I will get to why exactly). But it did provoke me to conjure those aforementioned fumes of bravery, which came in quite handy because, as promised, it was needed. That being said, Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club was so visceral I became both emotionally and physically affected by it: the former an obvious impact, Coles’ ensemble of miscreants offering heartbreak and misanthropy as if on a silver platter; the latter akin to the end of a prize fight, leaving me bruised and battered – Spinks post-Tyson, if you will (though I’d rather not). In fact, I haven’t been so wholly affected by a work in ages, whereupon putting Coles’ novel down would result in an exhaustion I could only compare to that of a breakup, or a death. Sure, there have been many others that have elicited an amalgamation of sentiments, but few have also left my stomach so churned, my jaw so clenched, my mind so completely and utterly fucked. And, well, blown. For Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is, in a word, mind-blowing. Whether or not you’re willing to let your mind be blown is an entirely different story, however. After all, it’s not the most accessible of novels, what with its multi-perspective, time-leaping, character-driven narrative exploring themes of abuse, gender, toxic masculinity, dependency and mania (amongst others). But it is one of the more rewarding works you’ll experience, should you choose to summon your innermost bravery and dive into all of the hurt it has to offer. It’s Valentine’s Day in Newfoundland, and a blizzard has just struck the small town that acts as the setting of Coles’ novel. Same can be said for inside The Hazel, the fine-dining establishment that brings the writer’s unforgettable cast together in a haze of a lotta sex, a lotta drugs and a whole helluva lot of pain. We first meet Olive, a young girl far from her native home, all but forced to seek shelter in the form of the restaurant’s entranceway, as well as the faux generosity of its chef, John, who takes to feeding her. But John isn’t one for charity unless it benefits him, and the fact that Olive is tight with the restaurant’s hostess, Iris (who also happens to be John’s mistress), plays a part. Speaking of which, Iris is puppy-dog-fascinated with John, so much so she even walks his wife George’s prized canines whenever she’s away at conferences, as she is on the February morning in which Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club begins. That is, until George unexpectedly walks through the door of the restaurant (which she owns, by the way, a gift from her daddy, Big George) well before schedule, and much to the surprise of her philandering husband. Such entrance sets the stage for this three-act passion play, all but promising hell to follow (and to be paid). Coles shifts the perspective from that of Olive to Iris to John to George, as well as other patrons within the establishment who are also mixed up in the web of deceit the writer weaves. For instance, the hard-partying bartender, Damien, who’s experiencing the hangover of all hangovers, all the while stink-eying a pair of obnoxious coked-up barflies (Roger and Calv) drinking the afternoon away. It’s a subplot that, save for the location, feels out of place at first; that is until it’s become apparent that each voice Coles brings to the forefront plays an integral role in her grand scheme. It’s how the writer is able to so deftly navigate her way through multiple plotlines and themes and viewpoints while never veering off-course. With precision and grace and guts and maybe even a little bit of black magic, Coles presents each of her characters’ stories, whether present day or past, as if on display like surgical patients, their outsides opened up to reveal their insides for all to see, to study, to scalpel and to suture. And what’s inside is U-G-L-Y. And not one of these people ain’t got no alibi ‘cause, as the childish idiom goes, they’re ugly. Men are presented as powerful, demonstrative monsters who prey upon the weak, which in the case of Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is its women. Olive is painted as a sad puppet, used and abused and hardly able to stick up for herself. Same can be said for Iris, clouded by obsession and alcohol, her affair with John dominating her thoughts, leading her actions, driving her closer and closer to madness. Even big boss lady George – cleverly given what appears to be a man’s name yet is only a play on her own father’s – is seen as vulnerable, her blind loyalty to John as submissive to his dominance as that of Iris’s or Olive’s. You feel for these women. And yet you also want to shake some sense into them, imploring them to kick these men to the curb (or in the balls). However, the setting Coles creates makes that seem impossible; here is a place where men are king, where “boys will be boys,” where women are seen as disposable, if not dishonest. Coles writes: “As if the world were not already working under the pretense that all words uttered by vulnerable women were lies anyway.” A sad truth, and one that needs reckoning. It comes in the form of Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club’s propulsive third act, wherein each section is presented as a set piece on the precipice of explosion. As the blizzard outside accumulates, so too do the emotions inside The Hazel as secrets are revealed, accusations cast, discoveries made, fisticuffs raised, substances ingested, lives changed. It’s a dizzying display of action and emotion that both pulsates your heart and rips it out of your chest, only to nibble on it for good measure. “Make it stop!” you may wanna scream, all the while begging for Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club to never end. Which says a whole lot for a novel that asks for just as much of its readers from the get-go. The warning of hurt was certainly appreciated (and warranted), but the request for bravery was quite the ask, especially in this day and age in which bravery is as scarce as toilet paper was last spring. But should you have the ability to summon even just a smidgen to use throughout Megan Gail Coles’ audacious masterpiece it will be worth the exertion, and the exhaustion that comes with it. For to truly experience Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club in all of its gore and glory takes not just bravery, but a willingness to look at what hurts us directly in the eye and spit in it. I can just hear Megan Gail Coles hocking a loogie as we speak.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Madeline Nixon

    This book is hard to read and not because of the note at the beginning that says the content is difficult to grapple with. And sure, it is, but it would have been so much more effective with less one dimensional characters floating around, less flowery sentences, and probably 100 less pages. The book was slow and confusing at times and the writing kept you at a distance. I could never fully connect or really care about anyone. I wanted to love this but I’m just really disappointed.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    "Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club", by Megan Gail Coles, has already become a finalist for several Canadian book awards. Just a few pages in I understood why it is receiving such accolades; it’s quite unusual and it takes a bit of attention from the reader to get into the flow of the narrative, though this challenge is well worth it. With narratives that ask the reader to adjust a bit, I recommend setting aside time to read in “chunks”, which is what I did with this unique novel. "Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club", by Megan Gail Coles, has already become a finalist for several Canadian book awards. Just a few pages in I understood why it is receiving such accolades; it’s quite unusual and it takes a bit of attention from the reader to get into the flow of the narrative, though this challenge is well worth it. With narratives that ask the reader to adjust a bit, I recommend setting aside time to read in “chunks”, which is what I did with this unique novel. It’s brilliant, dark, tense, and the omniscient narrator is quite often hilarious. Set in St. John’s, Newfoundland, at a restaurant called The Hazel, the story takes place in one day. There are a LOT of characters and each has a unique “voice”, and we are dropped into a seemingly random Tuesday morning of each character’s life without backstory. Accept the challenge to put the pieces together; Coles knows what she’s doing here; things become clearer, relationships are revealed. Coles could have written this another way, but her narrative choices are why this novel has gotten the well-deserved critical acclaim and the award recognition that it has in Canada. Most of the main characters work at The Hazel and the novel opens as they begin to arrive for work. The novel is partitioned into the restaurant’s day: “Prep”, “Lunch”, and “Dinner”. Let me make it a little bit easier for you, here are the main characters introduced in “Pre”: John is the chef George (Georgina) is John’s wife Iris is the hostess Ben is the bartender Olive is a country girl, orphan, addict, that John let’s sleep in the doorway Damian is a server Omi is the dishwasher/janitor/heavy lifter Calv has tried to help Olive in the past Don’t be misled by the title; it’s a metaphor, The Hazel being compared to a gun club for hunters of small game. This is a novel about man’s inhumanity to women, and like animal hunters, some of them are predators who entice their prey before slaughtering them. By way of both a warning and review: there is an excruciating and long scene of sexual assault where we are privy to what EVERYONE involved is thinking, and it is written so so well, that I found I had physically gripped the book so hard that my hands hurt, while nodding in recognition of the utter “truth” of the whole horrible description Coles crafted so skillfully. “Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club” will ask the reader to venture out of their comfort zone, in both the reading experience, and in bearing witness to the incredible amount of pain that these characters both carry and cause. It is difficult to read at times, but I found it to be profoundly moving and thought-provoking and a novel I will not soon forget. Humbly adding to Coles’ list of prizes - this novel will go on my personal 2020 Top Ten List, as well. (A wonderful novella about a restaurant that I highly recommend is “Last Night at the Lobster” by Stewart O’Nan.)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Magdelanye

    This is small game hunting at the local cowards club, p156 romanticism is for the emotionally crippled, sexually confused, and teenagers. p26 It's Valentines day and in Newfoundland the energy of the snowstorm is swirling around the Hazel restaurant, which is trying its best to provide service, despite the meltdown amongst the staff and management. Bad behaviours don't just miraculously disappear. They are but rearranged. p345 On days when there is no change in illumination, people accidentally hur This is small game hunting at the local cowards club, p156 romanticism is for the emotionally crippled, sexually confused, and teenagers. p26 It's Valentines day and in Newfoundland the energy of the snowstorm is swirling around the Hazel restaurant, which is trying its best to provide service, despite the meltdown amongst the staff and management. Bad behaviours don't just miraculously disappear. They are but rearranged. p345 On days when there is no change in illumination, people accidentally hurt themselves. p72 Life is not a fucking pop song. p336 This is not an easy book. It is difficult to enter and to figure out the many characters and then, just when the reader begins to relax and get a grip on this steamy little universe, MGC, with brutal clarity, goes for the jugular . Skilful writing and deep insight have given us a masterpiece of social critique. Everyone knows what's wrong in their heart...it's their brains that don't know stuff anymore. p258 I did not especially want to read this and passed on it when I first saw it on the library new arrivals shelf. Something about the title offputting to my pacifist soul; something about that deer on the cover, looking as if is staring down a gun. It was a surprise to me that people were raving about it, and that by the time I succumbed to the hype and become interested (something I now capable of occasionally) I became #28 on the library wait list. For a change,when I did get to it, I discovered that it surpasses the hype. The characters are not that endearing, the secrets all things you didn't want to know. But the power of this book is shattering. A century of impoverishment and industry collapse, pillaging and recrimination has taught them not to hope for much, but a bit of fun when the cards are down. p203 Recently I have heard MGC interviewed and in this context she reveals herself as brilliant and funny. I hope that it does not take as long for her to write her next book and that she receives the support necessary to quit her day job. I am confident that it will be as carefully written and that I will be around to properly receive it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Penney

    This is such a hard book for me to rate. I knew from the opening chapter that the author has a God-given gift with the written word. Her writing in this book is brutal, devastating, sharp, acerbic and gut-wrenchingly honest. Therein lies the problem for me with the rating. As previously mentioned I knew I was reading a superbly crafted book written my a masterful storyteller. But the story itself? It was brutal, searing and a pitch perfect deconstruction of the misogyny that runs rampant though This is such a hard book for me to rate. I knew from the opening chapter that the author has a God-given gift with the written word. Her writing in this book is brutal, devastating, sharp, acerbic and gut-wrenchingly honest. Therein lies the problem for me with the rating. As previously mentioned I knew I was reading a superbly crafted book written my a masterful storyteller. But the story itself? It was brutal, searing and a pitch perfect deconstruction of the misogyny that runs rampant though her male characters, and attempts to shred her female characters in its wake. It made me uncomfortable. It left me breathless. It was an emotionally exhausting book. I had to put it down several times and wrestle with myself to pick it back up again. The characters are leading tragic, dysfunctional, damaging and depressing lives. That is the entirety of the cyclical nature of their existence and it wrung me out. It was not an enjoyable book for me. When I reached the last page I whispered a grateful prayer that the Newfoundland she accurately portrays in her book - because there is undeniable truth in her writing - was not and will never be a part of my Newfoundland.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The author writes at the beginning “This might hurt a little. Be brave.” I was, and I finished, but this book really did me in. Some good writing but not much plot. Detailed, really detailed, character examinations of sad, damaged people and one horrible man.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

    This book was hard to read. I had to make sure I felt mentally prepared every time I picked it up. It was a really heavy, brutal read. The novel revolves around two seriously downtrodden women, but the story also weaves in the stories of dozens of characters (I don't actually know if it's dozens, but it feels like it), and they all get a chance to speak. I feel like Coles was aiming to show that no action exists in a vacuum, that every action is connected to something far greater than it. This ha This book was hard to read. I had to make sure I felt mentally prepared every time I picked it up. It was a really heavy, brutal read. The novel revolves around two seriously downtrodden women, but the story also weaves in the stories of dozens of characters (I don't actually know if it's dozens, but it feels like it), and they all get a chance to speak. I feel like Coles was aiming to show that no action exists in a vacuum, that every action is connected to something far greater than it. This has a really powerful effect for the main characters, making the tangled webs of generational trauma so apparent that it could be its own character. And a book with this subject matter, with these characters, becomes much more revealing and far-reaching when the reader can see characters through their chain of context. But I think at some point you have to trust that the reader can fill in the blanks on their own. Having chapter after chapter from the point of view of a supporting character, and then that character's mom, and then their ex-boyfriend, is too much context. It almost cheapened the effect. It's a good literary device, one of my favourites normally, but when Coles doesn't use it to some purpose, it veers close to gimmicky. I was almost expecting a chapter from the mayor's wife's childhood pet goldfish. I feel that the novel could have been a lot stronger with a lot less wading (and waiting) around. When there's so much unnecessary stuff, even the most central characters suffer. I felt for Olive and Iris deeply and their stories are important, but the fact that their stories are important is where they end. They lacked depth as individuals. The story became so padded that even their most powerful moments felt weakened. They feel like mere structural support for a novel that expands too fast and too wide.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Wow. This is the kind of book that makes me want re-look at all my other 5 star reads and see if they really measure up. Coles doesn't just put these characters on the page for us to consume - she flays them for us down to their innermost parts and in turn flays us as the reader. At first you think the people you're meeting are just unlikable - and a lot of them are - but they're also incredibly human and they carry the seeds of all of us inside them. You can tell they're all on a trajectory to Wow. This is the kind of book that makes me want re-look at all my other 5 star reads and see if they really measure up. Coles doesn't just put these characters on the page for us to consume - she flays them for us down to their innermost parts and in turn flays us as the reader. At first you think the people you're meeting are just unlikable - and a lot of them are - but they're also incredibly human and they carry the seeds of all of us inside them. You can tell they're all on a trajectory to disaster and you want to avert it. Even when characters are describing events that have already happened to them you want to stop it from happening. Never have I related more to Joey Tribbiani and his need to keep The Shining in the freezer. There was more than one occasion where I wanted to stop and put the book in the freezer.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    The cast of characters in this book fall into three camps: tragically traumatized women, self serving and cruel men, and righteous and pontificating hipsters. Can't decide whether the characters are realistic or stereotypical, but regardless, I didn't enjoy reading 400 tedious pages of their internal dialogues as they treat one another terribly. The characters only see the worst in themselves and each other, resulting in zero moments of joy and redemption in this read. The writing is often beaut The cast of characters in this book fall into three camps: tragically traumatized women, self serving and cruel men, and righteous and pontificating hipsters. Can't decide whether the characters are realistic or stereotypical, but regardless, I didn't enjoy reading 400 tedious pages of their internal dialogues as they treat one another terribly. The characters only see the worst in themselves and each other, resulting in zero moments of joy and redemption in this read. The writing is often beautiful though sometimes the metaphors felt forced.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Janean

    I’m not sure yet if 4 stars(likely 3.5) is my actual rating. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings to work over first.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    SMALL GAME HUNTING AT THE LOCAL COWARD GUN CLUB by Megan Gail Coles ScotiaBank Giller Prize Finalist 2019 Short listed for Canada Reads 2020 The author, Megan Gail Coles wrote this quote at the beginning of the book, "This might hurt a little. Be brave." It certainly hurt. I heard that once you get past page 100 or 150, this book gets good. Others have said that it is better if you read the book twice. I read this book because it was on the shortlist for Canada Reads. I do not appreciate reading or SMALL GAME HUNTING AT THE LOCAL COWARD GUN CLUB by Megan Gail Coles ScotiaBank Giller Prize Finalist 2019 Short listed for Canada Reads 2020 The author, Megan Gail Coles wrote this quote at the beginning of the book, "This might hurt a little. Be brave." It certainly hurt. I heard that once you get past page 100 or 150, this book gets good. Others have said that it is better if you read the book twice. I read this book because it was on the shortlist for Canada Reads. I do not appreciate reading or listening to profanity, so I deducted 1 star for the swearing and vulgar language. Initially the many characters in this story caused confusion, but around page 150 or so, things "fell into place" and became clearer. Perhaps it took that long for me to become familiar with the author's style of writing. Megan Cole has covered a lot of topics in this book - poverty, rape, unemployment, job security, racial discrimination, infidelity, misogyny, government corruption, immigration, drug addiction and alcoholism. "And he knows his mother's love has the strength of ten thousand wood stoves stoked and blazing against every shitty remark ever aimed at him for having an accent or a crooked nose or being shy. Calv had felt less cold around her broiling affection and wanted to always stand on that sunny side of the street where she thought he was the best one. Her favourite boy. The captain of her cherry heart. Flushed and full. Calv was always just waiting for her to turn toward him so he could tell her all the things he couldn't tell other people about his feelings. He had been envious of the time she spent turned toward his sister. He did not understand then. But he understands now and feels this first painful surge of grief."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This book is a 2020 Canada Reads finalist for the one book all of Canada should read, the one book to bring focus to Canada. Although the format of this book is quite a bit different from my usual, once I got into the rhythm of it I enjoyed it quite a bit. There are no quotation marks and no discernible chapter breaks, normally two of my pet peeves. I was very confused in the beginning because there seemed to be so many characters but I soon had everybody sorted in my head. I actually had to rea This book is a 2020 Canada Reads finalist for the one book all of Canada should read, the one book to bring focus to Canada. Although the format of this book is quite a bit different from my usual, once I got into the rhythm of it I enjoyed it quite a bit. There are no quotation marks and no discernible chapter breaks, normally two of my pet peeves. I was very confused in the beginning because there seemed to be so many characters but I soon had everybody sorted in my head. I actually had to read the first 35 or so pages twice before I could grasp who was who and what was going on. I didn't find any of the characters especially likeable, except maybe Olive, but they were certainly interesting. The book was quite intense but also very engrossing. If you let your attention wander you'll find yourself re-reading sections. There were many mentions of Mary Brown's Chicken in the book which has left me with a craving for fried chicken or a Big Mary sandwich! Although there's no actual "hunting" involved, there is an anecdotal reference to animal cruelty and lots of sex and language if those things are triggers for you. I had hoped for a different ending but it is what it is. As you can tell from the reviews this book won't be for everyone but I liked it well enough that I would recommend it to a friend. Did I mention how much I love the cover?!

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