A stunning first novel full of empathy, marked by an astounding maturity of insight. Cumberland is both a place and a state of mind; it is a small-town story of longing and loss in the manner of David Adams Richards. It is an exploration of loneliness and the fear of loneliness in lives limited by circumstance.
Cumberland is an industrial town located halfway between Ottawa and Montreal on the shore of the St. Lawrence River. It’s facing the close of its factories and mills in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ernest, a mill worker whose job is lost when the mill closes, is fifty-two; his employment prospects are poor. His life to this point hasn’t equipped him to face any more loss. Longing for companionship, he meets Bea, a waitress at Malouf’s, the local pub. Bea lives in an apartment with Amanda, who left home at seventeen because she couldn¹t live with her mother and stepfather. Yearning for a better life, Amanda develops a crush on Nick, Ernest’s drinking buddy, who represents many aspects of a better life — he has a Range Rover, owns a house — he is emotionally unavailable to Amanda, being a recently widowed single father.
The lives of Ernest, Bea, Amanda, Nick, and his son Aaron come together, fall apart, and come together again in this memorable and emotionally satisfying novel.
About the author
Michael V. Smith is a Vancouver writer, comedian, filmmaker, zinester, performance artist and occasional clown. Recently, Smith won Vancouver’s Community Hero of the Year Award and the inaugural Dayne Ogilvie Award for Emerging Gay Writers. He’s also won a Western Magazine Award for Fiction, scooped both short film categories at Toronto’s Inside Out festival, and was nominated for the Journey Prize. Smith is the author of the novel Cumberland, and a collection of poems titled What You Can’t Have.
David Ellingsen is a vancouver photographer who’s landscapes have been seen in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Canada and the US, as well as on film and television productions such as The L Word and 4400. Alongside his fine art work, David is running a successful commercial photography business with clients such as The New York Times Magazine and CBC Radio Canada.
“The multi-gifted Smith … tells the story plainly, and it’s extremely effective. His characters’ stories of love and loss have so much emotional impact that they don’t need embellishment. Sometimes a book creeps up on you. That’s what happens with Cumberland, a novel that starts out as just another day in the bar for middle aged millworker Ernest but soon enters more explosive areas.”
“There are remarkable insights in this novel. Smith has a touch with dialogue that makes his characters come alive. Just as he probes and gets under their skins, their stories get under ours and leave us wishing we could see how it all turns out.”
“It’s easy to see what impressed the readers at Cormorant. Smith … has a keen command of small-town life … He skillfully captures the close emotional ties between those who live in the industrial town, facing the closure of its mills and factories in the wake of NAFTA, and he demonstrates a keen awareness of the rhythms of economic downturn and alcoholism.”