Beatrice by Monica Kidd
Reviewed by Paul Macdougall*
The grain elevator next to the railroad track is the Western Canadian equivalent of the Atlantic coast fishing boats tied up at the wharf. As long as the boats are there, stability exists in the region. Even if the boats don't move, the fact they're still in the water is a hopeful sign. But if the boats are sold or the grain elevator comes down then the future is definitely changing, whether the community wants it to or not. Such is the case in the tiny town of Beatrice, where the simple act of opening a diner is a major community event.
Monica Kidd was born in Alberta and now works in Newfoundland. The inhabitants of her first novel are fighting a losing battle to save their farms, their community, their entire way of life. The defunct grain elevator is to be taken down by Farmcorp, the conglomerate that now owns it. In the few months Kidd lets us visit with Beatrice's inhabitants we see the lost and dejected, the headstrong and resilient, and the pragmatic and realistic. The story centers on the desire of some to move Beatrice into a kind of altered future, while others want to keep it if not in the past, at least grounded in it.
There's no happy end to this story, the inevitable happens, but there's no sadness either. This book is about real people living in changing times. How each and every one reacts is what's important. Beatrice doesn't tell us how to survive change, just that you can.
Paul MacDougall teaches at the University College of Cape Breton