It’s 1:08 a.m. when Carrie’s car breaks down on the highway somewhere north of Lake Superior. It’s dark, the road is quiet, her cell phone is down, and she is alone. She took off from Toronto that morning, running from grief over the death of her boyfriend, and unable to cope with the truth about the events that led to it. The relief Carrie feels as a truck pulls up soon turns to fear after its driver offers her a lift. Frank, her would-be rescuer, is a line painter, putting lines on the road “to stop people from being killed.” But after Carrie gets in the truck, she starts to realize that this will be the road trip of her life—a trip of terror, transformation and forgiveness.
Claire Cameron has created a unique portrait of Carrie, a young woman whose actions are driven by grief and shame, her personality a beguiling combination of naïveté and streetsmarts. Frank is equally sharply drawn, his flashes of humour and tenderness disguising the wreckage within. Written in spare, unvarnished prose that brims with menace against the forbidding backdrop of a northern landscape, The Line Painter takes us on a riveting trip down a twisted road of memory and redemption.
“Smoke?”I looked over. He held up two cigarettes. I had quit. It was all part of my campaign of the past few years to try and grow up. Quit smoking, drink less, no drugs, move in with boyfriend and play house, get a real job and wear a suit. I stopped short of wearing nude-coloured hosiery, but only just. It was my own sort of a personal temperance plan. If I could just suppress all my bad urges then . . . um . . . I’d forgotten what, actually.But Frank wasn’t just asking me to smoke. This was quite a different thing. Frank was trying to forge a link. He was calling a truce. He was trying to bond. He was offering me a peace pipe of sorts, though packaged with a few more chemicals and a filter.I took a smoke and accepted Frank’s outstretched lighter. I inhaled deeply. I never have any trouble starting smoking again and I certainly didn’t this time. . . . I sat down on the shoulder a safe distance away from him.—from The Line Painter