SOUNDING THE BLOOD by Amanda Hale (Raincoast), 325 pages, $21.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
Credit Harry Potter. Raincoast Books's unbelievably prescient decision to pick up Canadian distribution rights for the UK powerhouse early on has brought in enough dough to throw at new authors. And Amanda Hale is definitely worth the investment. With Sounding The Blood, the Hornby Island-based poet and teacher crafts a fascinating snapshot of life at a Queen Charlotte Islands whaling station in the year 1915. In a series of short episodes, Hale assumes the voices of a Chinese labourer, Japanese flensers and an entire family of Newfoundlanders who have been driven across the country by coincidence and tragedy. The characters are full of longing -- to belong, to feel connected, to be sexual -- and illusions, but there is hope here, too. There is also potent language -- you smell the blubber, the sweat, the fear and the disappointment. Go out of your way to read this book.