Chelsea Rooney, 240 pages, Caitlin Press, caitlin-press.com. $21.95
Repression and raw truths lay embedded in Chelsea Rooney’s debut novel Pedal. It’s the story of Julia, a psychology student in Vancouver trying to come up with a coherent analysis of her complicated thesis. It is her belief that not all victims of pedophiles have experienced trauma if it doesn’t involve pain. Of course, this proves to be extremely difficult for her to prove and extremely hard for her to explain to those she closest to her. The more complicated her exploration, the more determined she becomes. “The belief that pedophilia is solely the result of a patriarchal society is specious,” she declares, “There are results other than victimization and oppression.” It’s statements like these that alienate her colleagues and most of the world around her.
As a way of trying to find some answers for herself and her work, she embarks on a cycling trip across Canada to see her ailing mother in Nova Scotia. Julia takes Smirks with her, a good-looking writer whom she falls for, which would be great, if only he weren’t a pedophile.
Rooney approaches the difficult themes in her book with a frankness that can be jarring. However, she tempers the problematic with beautiful views of the narrator’s physical and inner journeys: “The trees growing there were bare and withered and grey, but if you squinted, they shone like silver scar tissue against the snow. The sun and water at their feet.” Through Julia’s stubbornness and her thoughtful revelations Rooney crafts a gripping story in murky territory.
While the book doesn’t tread lightly upon its controversial nature, Rooney’s writing is nuanced and forces the reader into much neglected perspectives. Pedal is a provocative and a hard read, at times, but it’s a refreshing one nonetheless. (Jacqueline Valencia)