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Fiction Contemporary Women

Smoke River

by (author) Krista Foss

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
May 2014
Contemporary Women, Family Life, Literary
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2014
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2015
    List Price

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An extraordinarily accomplished debut, Smoke River follows two families on different sides of a crisis with deep roots in history and territory through one fateful summer. For readers of Lori Lansens, Joseph Boyden, and John Bemrose's The Island Walkers.
     After a proposed subdivision becomes the site of a Mohawk protest -- the land, which has long formed a kind of neutral border between a reserve and the neighbouring town, is contested -- tensions escalate through three sweltering summer months, exposing old wounds, as well as forging new and sometimes surprising connections.
This compelling contemporary story is told in the voices of several vivid, unforgettable characters, from the restless young Mohawk woman dreaming of adventure and fame in the wider world; to the successful businessman who has made good use of his position between two communities, and who harbours a surprisingly tender secret; to the high school hero whose inner life would shock his admirers, especially his ambitious mother; and to the unexpected lovers, who must weigh happiness against history and fierce pride.
Smoke River is wise and tender, fearless and often very funny. It heralds the arrival of a vibrant, original, and intrepid new voice in Canadian literature.

About the author


  • Nominated, Hammett Prize

Contributor Notes

KRISTA FOSS is a former journalist whose short fiction has twice been a finalist for the Journey Prize and long-listed for CBC's Canada Writes contest as well as published in several literary journals. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and lives in Hamilton, Ontario. Smoke River is her first novel. The author lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Editorial Reviews

“By allowing her vivid ensemble of characters to grab hold of the wheel, Foss [focuses] on the personal quandaries that arise from the characters’ complex, overlapping allegiances. . . . [There is] crisp dialogue and inventive use of metaphor and simile, which can range from the gently visual to the intentionally jarring. . . . Foss isn’t out to write a morality tale. Instead, she probes [her characters’] doubts and uncertainties in subtle, interesting ways.”
Globe and Mail
“A debut novel that heralds the beginning of a promising literary career, . . . a searing, lyrical story about the racial tension that lies just millimeters beneath the surface of Canadian society. . . . Foss’s strength lies in the beauty of her writing, her ability to capture the nuances of both band council and small-town politics, and her vivid characters. . . . Smoke River would be a glorious read just for Foss’s imagery, which conjures up a hot, humid Ontario summer that seems to shimmer off the page. . . . A tightly woven, eloquent exploration of uncomfortable realities in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations. Given her impressive writing skills, whatever story Foss next creates will be well worth the wait.”
Toronto Star

“The best books destroy you, overwhelm you with deep feelings – despair, anger, love, defiance . . .  In her debut novel [Foss] elicits precisely this reaction. . . .  Foss delves into complex issues, layering perspectives from two families on opposite sides of the blockade, slowly and beautifully weaving a present-tense tale with remembered events. . . . At the end of this searing novel, there is no victor. But there is a ray of hope, the possibility that our history and our present will not also be our future.”
Quill & Quire (starred review)

Smoke River packs some stunningly hard punches - here is racial tension rendered with penetrating insight, raw feeling, turbulent violence and profound compassion. Each page ripe with sensual imagery, searing with political clout. . . .  A morally complex, magnificently vivid novel full of characters who live and breathe. This is a dazzling debut.”
—Lisa Moore, author of Caught
“A stunning novel, epic in scope and tragic in vision.”
—Wayne Grady, author of Emancipation Day
“Effortlessly harnessing a powerful chorus of voices, Foss digs into explosive issues of home, blood, and belonging. Smoke River is a lush, tough debut.”
—Grace O’Connell, author of The Magnified World
“Smoke River is contemporary realism torqued by Ontario gothic, and it’s a welcome, skilled, involving cocktail.”
—Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist
“Blazes with insight and truth.”
—Claire Holden Rothman, author of The Heart Specialist

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