Sep 13, 2011

Tiny Monkey - The Canterbury Trail by Angie Adbou

The Canterbury Trail
(Brindle & Glass, 2011)
by Angie Abdou

It’s the last ski weekend of the season and a mishmash of snow-enthusiasts is on its way to a remote backwoods cabin. In an odd pilgrimage through the mountains, the townsfolk of Coalton—from the ski bum to the urbanite—embark on a bizarre adventure that walks the line between comedy and tragedy. As the rednecks mount their sleds and the hippies snowshoe through the cedar forest, we see rivals converge for the weekend. While readers follow the characters on their voyage up and over the mountain, stereotypes of ski-town culture fall away. Loco, the ski bum, is about to start his first real job; Alison, the urbanite, is forced to learn how to wield an avalanche shovel; and Michael, the real estate developer, is high on mushroom tea.
In a blend of mordant humour and heartbreak, Angie Abdou chronicles a day in the life of these industrious few as they attempt to conquer the mountain. In an avalanche of action, Angie Abdou explores the way in which people treat their fellow citizens and the landscape they love.
What the Tiny Monkey thinks: 

I am sadly not familiar with Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, so I cannot comment on Angie Abdou's adherence or deviations to the original plot. What I can say is that Abdou is a first-class writer who captures the fluidity and exertions of the human body like few others. While her debut novel The Bone Cage was far more centered around a sports theme, Trail shows that Abdou really knows her stuff when it comes to the white powder and those who live to frolic in it. Abdou understands that sex, drugs, and alcohol are key components of the lifestyle, but she never lets the stereotypes become, well, stereotypical. These ski bums, mountain men, snow bunnies, and extreme snowboarders may be the equivalent of Canadian archetypes, but Adbou cannily subverts our expectations at every turn, finding unexpected pockets of humanity beneath the layers of Gore-Tex. This is not an A-to-Z type of plot; it meanders down back roads and hidden paths, and not every trek is a winner. But the whole is definitely greater than the sum, and for those with a taste for the offbeat and a fearlessness when it comes to a challenge, The Canterbury Trail offers up a plethora of pleasures.

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