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Fiction Literary

Town That Drowned

by (author) Riel Nason

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
Literary, Magical Realism, 21st Century
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 18
  • Grade: 7 to 12


Winner, Commonwealth Book Prize, Canada and Europe, Frye Academy Award, and Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
Shortlisted, CLA Young Adult Book Award, Red Maple Award, and University of Canberra Book of the Year
Longlisted, IMPAC Dublin Award

Living with a weird brother in a small town can be tough enough. Having a spectacular fall through the ice at a skating party and nearly drowning are grounds for embarrassment. But having a vision and narrating it to the assembled crowd solidifies your status as an outcast.

What Ruby Carson saw during that fateful day was her entire town — buildings and people — floating underwater. Then an orange-tipped surveyor stake turns up in a farmer's field. Another is found in the cemetery. A man with surveying equipment is spotted eating lunch near Pokiok Falls. The residents of Haverton soon discover that a massive dam is being constructed and that most of their homes will be swallowed by the rising water. Suspicions mount, tempers flare, and secrets are revealed. As the town prepares for its own demise, 14-year-old Ruby Carson sees it all from a front-row seat.

Set in the 1960s, The Town That Drowned evokes the awkwardness of childhood, the thrill of first love, and the importance of having a place to call home. Deftly written in a deceptively unassuming style, Nason's keen insights into human nature and the depth of human attachment to place make this novel ripple in an amber tension of light and shadow.

About the author

RIEL NASON is a Canadian novelist and textile artist. Her acclaimed debut novel The Town That Drowned won the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize for Canada and Europe, and the 2012 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award. It was also shortlisted for several other literary awards as well as longlisted for the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, All the Things We Leave Behind, was published in September, 2016. Riel’s original quilts have been exhibited across Canada including being shown twice at Quilt Canada (the National Juried Show). Nason grew up in Hawkshaw, NB, and now lives in Quispamsis, NB, with her husband, son, daughter and cats.

Riel Nason's profile page


  • Short-listed, University of Canberra Book of the Year
  • Winner, Frye Academy Award
  • Short-listed, Red Maple Award
  • Winner, Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
  • Short-listed, CLA Young Adult Book Award
  • Winner, Commonwealth Book Prize, Canada and Europe
  • Long-listed, IMPAC Dublin Award

Editorial Reviews

"[A] captivating debut novel ... many flashes of clever humour and felicitous, well-paced storytelling that keeps you engaged throughout."

<i>National Post</i>

"[T]his is a vivid, intimate novel that works equally well for adult and young-adult readers. ... Nason's genius in this novel is not just to tell an important historical story that needed to be told but to find exactly the right perspective from which to tell it. ... The Town That Drowned is a warm, intimate story in which every character feels as real as someone you might meet on the street."

<i>Compulsive Overreader</i>

"This is a richly detailed journey through a young woman's perspective, and the story flows like a gentle river as the reader watches a catastrophe unfold in slow motion. ... It's haunting and memorable, and simply a lovely read."

Amy's Marathon of Books

"The writing is finely polished, the locale evocative, and her dialogue rings true. In Ruby, she nails the voice of youth."

<i>Maple Tree Literary Supplement</i>

“A powerful contemporary examination of a girl who falls through the ice, has a vision of the future of her town, is rescued, and then finds that vision coming to life in an alarming way.”

<i>Midwest Book Review</i>

"Fantastic ... I had such an emotional reaction ... The ending is so hopeful and uplifting. Highly recommended."

"The Town That Drowned is not easily forgotten."

<i>Scene Magazine</i>

"If her debut novel, The Town That Drowned, is any indication, Riel Nason is a writer to watch. This tender tale about a New Brunswick village threatened by the provincial government's plan to build a dam has a ton of soul."

<i>NOW Magazine</i>

"Charming, wry, and believable ... Nason has a particular gift for introducing supporting characters with memorable anecdotes, each of which reads like a sparkling little gem of a short story ... Ruby's voice, vibrating with contradictory desires, [delivers] shot-to-the-heart moments of real humour and pathos."

<i>Quill & Quire</i>

"I loved it. It's Canadian historical fiction with a tiny touch of the paranormal."

2012 Canadian Library Association young Adult Book Award judge

"This is a lighthearted and well-written book that I would recommend to anyone."


"An impressive first novel."

<i>Winnipeg Review</i>

"Riel Nason's debut novel establishes her as a writer with a bright future ... Nason's writing is warm and empathetic. She has a lovely ear for dialogue and her townspeople are well drawn. She also does a terrific job capturing the feel of a 1960s rural New Brunswick."


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