Set in a coal-mining community in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass, this novel evokes elements of the fantastic which exist in the land itself, particularly in the gassy, bituminous coal-mines found in the Pass. While one might expect a mine’s roof to fall, it is in fact the floor that continually heaves up under a miner’s boots. The methane that seeps from the rock and circulates throughout a coal-mine creates this magic, able to soften coal or induce sleep and incite dreams. The mine’s gas-marbled darkness and a story about a woman from southern Italy longing to escape the Pass bring about a fantastic/mythological suggestion that washes the reader of her tale right back to its beginning.
“A marvellous story, layered like the earth. Peter Oliva has written an extraordinary first novel. Exquisitely shaped and perfectly controlled, it establishes a tiny corner of Canada – a coal-mining town in the Crowsnest Pass – as a magical world where myth, legend and momentous heartbreak hang in the air and haunt the inhabitants … Drowning in Darkness takes the reader on a startling leap of imagination.”
“Grab for your imagination. Like the methane gas that robs coal-miners of their lives, Drowning in Darkness will take your breath away … It plunges us into the coal-mining community of the Pass. It is the raw material of the Pass and its people Oliva has taken and worked, shaped and squeezed into this beautiful gem of a book.”
“Beautifully written and conceived. a literary nocturne: dreamy, lush, and pensive.”