February in Newfoundland is the longest month of the year.
Another blizzard is threatening to tear a strip off downtown St. John’s, while inside The Hazel restaurant a storm system of sex, betrayal, addiction, and hurt is breaking overhead. Iris, a young hostess from around the bay, is forced to pull a double despite resolving to avoid the charming chef and his wealthy restaurateur wife. Just tables over, Damian, a hungover and self-loathing server, is trying to navigate a potential punch-up with a pair of lit customers who remain oblivious to the rising temperature in the dining room. Meanwhile Olive, a young woman far from her northern home, watches it all unfurl from the fast and frozen street. Through rolling blackouts, we glimpse the truth behind the shroud of scathing lies and unrelenting abuse, and discover that resilience proves most enduring in the dead of this winter’s tale.
By turns biting, funny, poetic, and heartbreaking, Megan Gail Coles’ debut novel rips into the inner lives of a wicked cast of characters, building towards a climax that will shred perceptions and force a reckoning. This is blistering Newfoundland Gothic for the twenty-first century, a wholly original, bracing, and timely portrait of a place in the throes of enormous change, where two women confront the traumas of their past in an attempt to overcome the present and to pick up a future.
MEGAN GAIL COLES is a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland and the National Theatre School of Canada, and she has recently completed a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia. She has written and produced numerous plays. Her first fiction collection, Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome, won the BMO Winterset Award, the ReLit Award, and the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, and it earned her the one-time Writers’ Trust 5x5 prize. Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, her debut novel, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Originally from Savage Cove on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, Megan currently resides in Montreal, where she is a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia University.
PRAISE FOR MEG COLES AND SMALL GAME HUNTING AT THE LOCAL COWARD GUN CLUB
Longlist, Scotiabank Giller Prize
“What recommends this novel most is the way its author stays with her characters’ hurt, how she holds it without reverence but understands how those wounds can motivate like nothing else . . . Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is a dark, taut, funny novel that feels for its characters’ pain while remaining caustic toward the enablers and the kinds of violence that polite society allows.” — Globe and Mail
“Coles is a writer’s writer . . . The action is compacted into one day, but carries and conveys incredible personal backstory and narrative texture. Cole’s writing is agile, precise, muscular, vernacular. She invests in voice and perspective and the payoff inscribes the page. It’s poetry of a frank, rough kind: some of it is hard to read. ‘This might hurt a little,’ is Coles’ opening note. And it does. This is a dense, dark, propulsive work.” — St. John’s Telegram
“The lure of Coles’s often glorious use of language and the importance of reading books that do exactly what Small Game Hunting does — force the reader to face truths that have been hidden and swept away for far too long, to be made uncomfortable and prompted to think rather than be simply entertained — are reason enough to give this up-and-coming author’s new work serious consideration.” — Quill & Quire
“Coles’s background as a playwright reveals itself in the way she skillfully engages a diverse cast.” — The Overcast
“A profound read, offering up perfectly crafted sentences in the thoughts of the motley cast of characters.” — Canadian Living
“Small Game Hunting is a singular, beautiful, burning story — not only a piercing page-turner but a sharp and essential portrait of an island and its people in our times that will draw you in and then pull you under. It is an ocean of a book. Not to be missed.” — Elisabeth de Mariaffi, author of Hysteria
“No mistake, Megan Gail Coles is a driven, consequential writer who plays for keeps. Her seemingly off-the-cuff voice is controlled and quite intricate, and commands revisiting. Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club is as important a novel as any that’s hit Canadian literature in years.” — Joel Thomas Hynes, author of We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night
“Each character is rendered with such stunning details and unflinching insights that you can’t leave this novel’s pages without being changed. To read Megan Gail Coles’s masterful debut is to become obsessed with it.” — Alicia Elliott, author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
PRAISE FOR MEG COLES AND EATING HABITS OF THE CHRONICALLY LONESOME:
“A potent fiction debut . . . These stories are blunt and direct.” — Quill & Quire
“Characters are the crux of this breed of lively, unrestrained short fiction, and the cast in this book are endearing, gut-busting, and memorably real.” — The Overcast
“Pitch perfect. Appropriately restrained and conversational. Coles is not your average newbie. She’s a serious talent who deserves to be mentioned alongside other young Newfoundland writers like Joel Thomas Hynes and Sara Tilley.” — Atlantic Books Today
“The stories are often very short, even only four pages, but in each she compresses situation (relationship fracture and reknit), character (distilled to their absolute wants), and setting (St. John’s, Montreal, or Korea) like a literary Oreo cookie. It’s all about the crux, the crisis, propelled from the first sentence . . . crisp, lyric prose.” — The Telegram