Originally published: 23 August 2018
Author: Claudia Dey
Published by: Borough Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page count: 288
Reading dates: 13-18 September 2018
Star Rating: 4/5
“Aerial view: two thousand square miles of forest. Population: 391. We started as a single busload searching for the end of the world.”
Heartbreaker is set in The Territory, a community cut off from the rest of the world, where the residents, descendants of a cult, believe it to be 1985. The story begins with Billie Jean Fontaine walking out her bungalow she shares with her husband, daughter Pony Darlene and her dog, taking her husband’s truck and drives off alone. Billie Jean is the only outsider to ever arrive at The Territory and she is the only one to ever leave.
The story is told in 3 voices: her daughter Pony Darlene, Billie Jean’s dog Gena and a teenage boy know as Supernatural. Each voice tells us a little more about the world they live in. Everyone has nicknames – the boys are given theirs between the ages of 14 and 19. Pony’s dad is known as The Heavy; Supernatural’s father is know as Traps. Others are know as Fur Thumb, Wishbone, Sexeteria, Hot Dollar. The place they live is desolate and cold for much of the year – if a person is unfortunate to die during the cold season, their corpse is kept in the Death Man’s shed until the thaw.
With themes of motherhood and secrets, each narrator jumps around timelines, sometimes backwards and forwards which makes the reader feel dizzy! There are so many threads to this story that are satisfactorily pulled together by the end of the book with the voices of the 3 narrators.
The descriptions of The Territory are evocative and the references to 80’s TV and music are great! Some people may find the writing style just too strange but I loved it. Part thriller, part love story, part coming of age novel, it’s not an easy read as you do have to concentrate but once I got used to the authors style, I adored it and I will remember it for a long time. A truly original novel.
Listed as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018 by Entertainment Weekly, The Millions, Publishers Weekly, Buzzfeed, Staff Pick at The Paris Review I really hope this one gets discovered and becomes a favourite.
Thank you to Borough Press for sending me a copy, because I enjoyed The Water Cure so much and for the best bookish package I have ever received!
About the author:
Dey’s first novel, STUNT, was a finalist for the Amazon First Novel Award, and a Globe & Mail and Quill & Quire Book of the Year. Her plays have been produced internationally and nominated for the Governor General’s and Trillium Book Awards.
Dey’s writing and interviews have appeared in many publications including The Believer, Lit Hub and The Paris Review, where Dey’s essay, Mothers As Makers of Death, went viral. Dey has also worked as a horror film actress and cook in lumber camps across northern Canada, and is co-designer of Horses Atelier. She lives in Toronto.