INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE by Dawn Howat (Great Plains), 224 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
if she keeps this up, dawn howat is going to be a star. Her debut novel, International Date Line is fabulously entertaining even if its themes aren't exactly earth-shattering.Anna Woods, on the cusp of 30, leaves Toronto and heads to Hungary as soon as her Seattle-based ex, the appropriately named Jack Hammer, writes to tell her he'll meet her in Budapest. True to form - it's been in evidence for almost 10 years - he fails to show.
This sends Anna off on a sex spree with whomever she meets in whatever bar she finds herself in. When she takes up with Ian, a scrawny Brit teaching English, she starts to get attached but can't get Jack out of her head. It doesn't help that Jack, though consistently unreliable when it matters, sends her an e-mail every single day to keep her hopes up. Eventually, something happens that forces her to choose.
International Date Line is unabashedly unliterary, but who gives a shit? Howat writes like the blazes. Her prose has a rhythmic pulse, she's funny as hell, and it all works to create a ton of suspense.
The CanLit scene is full of wannabes who make a point of demonstrating the seriousness of their intent. You can feel the strategy weighing down young writers trying to emulate Atwood and Shields, to do something grand and dramatic. Howat's not interested in any of that. She doesn't want to evoke the landscape or concoct complicated metaphors. She's all about telling the story, and that's refreshing.
It's early work, for sure. Next time out Howat might want to broaden her palette, acquaint us with a few more characters who are doing more than getting drunk and getting laid.
And then - look out.
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