Kaspar Pine begins his day with a simple task: replace a pet canary. By day’s end, as Kaspar is being loaded into an ambulance, he delivers one hell of a “theme essay,” covering such subjects as his ability to source and catalogue the cigarette butts he harvests; information on maintaining the social order of chickens, along with general and historic farming details that run from Saskatchewan to Ontario; insinuating himself between other kids and people who wish to do them harm; fire marshalling; and his inability to maintain an essayist’s cool detachment in the face of unrequited first love. The Union of Smokers details the heartfelt and heroic last day in the life of a reluctant, irreverent, and oddly wise hero.
There is no better way to lure a reader into a story than by killing off a literal canary, the extractive industry’s preferred harbinger to human health, at the very beginning...One of the most challenging things about deploying this sort of twangy and precocious Holden-Caulfield-type voice is making sure Kasper isn’t struck by moments of poetic pubescence, whether facing the state of mankind or, worse, gazing into a woman’s eyes. But Kasper’s naiveté steers the course, and like all children’s journeys, brings unexpected moments with it.—Maisonneuve
Son of a knacker! An entirely new kind of story told by a gutter-mouthed, chain-smoking twelve year old, who announces in the opening paragraph that he’s going to die today. As irreverent and playful as it is tragic and heartbreaking, this wonderfully original debut novel reminds readers to hold onto their humour when life goes squirrelly. Prepare for Paddy Scott’s unlikely hero to take up full-time residence in your heart.—Angie Abdou
Channeling such haunting literary works as Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Paddy Scott’s debut novel The Union of Smokers uncannily enfolds readers in the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of small-town Ontario life in the 1960s. With plenty of off-the-cuff banter and more than a little wit and whimsy, this tragi-comic tale of a day in the life of a teenaged boy and the people he meets along the way is a sign of great things to come from Paddy Scott.—Ruth Zuchter
Philosophical, deeply human and intricately flawed, twelve-year-old Kaspar is the kind of complex, insightful main character whose journey will stay with you for years to come. Paddy Scott’s fiction debut is as sharp, detailed and prescient as it is heartbreaking and universal. Bringing together themes of environmental, economic, sexual, emotional, and labour exploitation through one small-town boy’s world view, Scott unravels what it can mean to be important, to be human, and to know love. Beautifully told, Kaspar’s story reminds us freedom and goodness can be found in the most unexpected ways.—Anita Dolman