Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Literary

Drowning in Darkness

by (author) Peter Oliva

Cormorant Books
Initial publish date
Mar 2003
Literary, Magical Realism, Small Town & Rural
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2003
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.


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.

About the author

Peter Oliva‘s great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all coalminers in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass. Oliva has worked in Italy, Taiwan, and Japan, teaching English and writing freelance articles for a variety of newspapers. His short stories have appeared in The Calgary Herald, Sunday Magazine, Vox, Alberta Rebound, and the Anthology of Alberta Writing. He lives in Calgary.

Peter Oliva's profile page


  • Commended, <i>Edmonton Journal</i> Books of the Year
  • Commended, <i>Globe and Mail</i> Best Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews

“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.”

Edmonton Journal

“Beautifully written and conceived. a literary nocturne: dreamy, lush, and pensive.”

Quill and Quire

“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.”

The Globe and Mail

Other titles by Peter Oliva