SPG Review of Clearwater

Reviewed by: Alison Slowski

The novel Clearwater tells the difficult coming-of-age story of a young woman and her friends who go with her on a journey of self-discovery, and ultimately of hope for the preservation of memory. Claire is a fifteen-year-old when she first moves to a small airport town up in northern Manitoba with her mother and her older siblings Daniel and Leah in the early 1980’s. Here she meets Jeff, a solitary figure who lives next door with his parents.

As Claire and Jeff’s friendship develops and they spend a great deal of time together, Claire doesn’t notice how unhappy her sister is with the move, though her brother does. As two violent acts happen, bringing events to a head in the small Northern town, life begins to spin out of control for Claire, Jeff, Daniel, Leah, and Leah’s boyfriend Shane. The group of young people begin to question their grip on reality, their place in the world, and their place among each other as friends and family.

McCullough’s delicate dialogue puts the reader right into the action, showing the tenuous, tense conversations with one suffering from depression. Her reflections through Claire and Jeff’s eyes on life in a Northern town in the 80’s, shows the unstable relationships between First Nations- and non-First Nations people. Her rendering of familial relationships fits with the reinvention of the family dynamic in the 80’s. The descriptions of the scenery of the town, the lake nearby, the Northern wilderness itself are all written with a passion for its eternal beauty.

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