Ruby Jones is a furious girl. With a penchant for bad boys and bad behaviour, the protagonist of Kate Story’s novel, Blasted, can be downright despicable at times, but somehow you like her anyway. Pushing her friends, family and neighbours to the limit, Ruby spends most of this novel torturing them and herself as she unravels pieces of her past. Set between Newfoundland and Toronto, the novel shifts between present and past, mincing the magical world of ancient Newfoundland folklore into the real world. The death of Ruby’s grandmother brings her back to Newfoundland, and she finds herself haunted by a past she thought she had left behind. Through hidden photographs, her grandfather’s superstitious behaviour and her aunt’s cryptic comments, Ruby ultimately discovers she’s had no idea what her past actually held. As revelations about her family are exposed, Ruby’s friends watch her become a whirlwind of doom.
Whether she’s throwing temper tantrums that turn into rages, drinking herself numb, experiencing paranoia about animals, seeing bizarre people all over town, taking advantage of friends or getting into drunken motorcycle accidents, one wonders if she’s at all mentally sound–and how she’s going to survive. The mythical world of Newfoundland follows Ruby to Toronto and increasingly she finds herself experiencing surreal moments of horror only to find that she’s been absent from reality for hours at a time. As she tries to understand her family’s quirks (like why her father would disappear for extended periods of time with nothing but the clothes on his back and why her grandparents would avoid Halloween at all costs), as well as the tragic deaths of both her parents, Ruby’s worried friends send her back to Newfoundland. Story ties the past and present neatly together with Ruby’s return to Newfoundland, helping her recognize that in order to escape her tortured past, she needed to rejoin the present. By understanding the local folklore, her family’s history and her place within it, Ruby can finally lay her fury to rest. (Sara Ritchie)
by Kate Story 330 pgs, $21.95, Killick Press, PO Box 8660, Stn. A St. John’s, NL, A1B 3T7