Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, a young horse thief and his unlikely accomplice are pursued through the forbidding landscape of the BC interior. There they encounter villains, drifters and fiercely insular circus folk in a profound tale of friendship, forgiveness and finding home.
'Tooke lightens the tone of this heavy plot in several engaging ways. For one, the banter between Samuel and Charleyboy, and among the men they encounter in the hobo jungle, for example, is rich with orality, particularly through tall tales in the tradition of Bowering, Robert Kroetsch, and others. He also takes full advantage of the carnivalesque elements of the circus to intersperse magic realism into the story.
'Perhaps what engaged me most, as a long time student of literature of the BC Interior, is the landscape that Tooke re-creates. The desert aridity is more than a backdrop for the poverty and injustice the characters experience. The BC Interior comes alive with sockeye so plentiful "you can walk across their backs in the shallows" (p. 33); hoodoos and petroglyphs; and "the heady scent of wet sagebrush" (p. 19). The Ballad of Samuel Hewitt, Tooke's debut novel, is a rich addition to British Columbian literature that is place-based.'