All the Quiet Places

By Brian Thomas Isaac

All the Quiet Places
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Finalist for the 2022 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
Longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Winner of the 2022 Indigenous Voices Awards' Published Prose in English Prize
Shortlisted for the 2022 Amazon Canada First Novel Award
Longlisted for CBC Canada Reads ... Read more


Overview

Finalist for the 2022 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
Longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Winner of the 2022 Indigenous Voices Awards' Published Prose in English Prize
Shortlisted for the 2022 Amazon Canada First Novel Award
Longlisted for CBC Canada Reads 2022
An Indigo Top 100 Book of 2021
An Indigo Top 10 Best Canadian Fiction Book of 2021

****

"What a welcome debut. Young Eddie Toma's passage through the truly ugly parts of this world is met, like an antidote, or perhaps a compensation, by his remarkable awareness of its beauty. This is a writer who understands youth, and how to tell a story. " —Gil Adamson, winner of the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Ridgerunner

Brian Isaac's powerful debut novel All the Quiet Places is the coming-of-age story of Eddie Toma, an Indigenous (Syilx) boy, told through the young narrator's wide-eyed observations of the world around him.

It's 1956, and six-year-old Eddie Toma lives with his mother, Grace, and his little brother, Lewis, near the Salmon River on the far edge of the Okanagan Indian Reserve in the British Columbia Southern Interior. Grace, her friend Isabel, Isabel's husband Ray, and his nephew Gregory cross the border to work as summer farm labourers in Washington state. There Eddie is free to spend long days with Gregory exploring the farm: climbing a hill to watch the sunset and listening to the wind in the grass. The boys learn from Ray's funny and dark stories. But when tragedy strikes, Eddie returns home grief-stricken, confused, and lonely.

Eddie's life is governed by the decisions of the adults around him. Grace is determined to have him learn the ways of the white world by sending him to school in the small community of Falkland. On Eddie"s first day of school, as he crosses the reserve boundary at the Salmon River bridge, he leaves behind his world. Grace challenges the Indian Agent and writes futile letters to Ottawa to protest the sparse resources in their community. His father returns to the family after years away only to bring chaos and instability. Isabel and Ray join them in an overcrowded house. Only in his grandmother's company does he find solace and true companionship.

In his teens, Eddie's future seems more secure—he finds a job, and his long-time crush on his white neighbour Eva is finally reciprocated. But every time things look up, circumstances beyond his control crash down around him. The cumulative effects of guilt, grief, and despair threaten everything Eddie has ever known or loved.

All the Quiet Places is the story of what can happen when every adult in a person's life has been affected by colonialism; it tells of the acute separation from culture that can occur even at home in a loved familiar landscape. Its narrative power relies on the unguarded, unsentimental witness provided by Eddie.

Brian Thomas Isaac

Brian Thomas Isaac was born in 1950 on the Okanagan Indian Reserve, situated in south central British Columbia. As a teenager he had a short career riding bulls in local rodeos until common sense steered him away, then went on to work in the Northern Alberta oil fields and retired as a bricklayer. Writing is something he has done all of his life. A lover of sports, Brian has coached minor hockey and played slow-pitch, and when he’s not spending time with his three grandchildren you can find him on the golf course. His bestselling debut, All the Quiet Places, is longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize, won an Indigenous Voices Award, was a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, longlisted for CBC Canada Reads, and named an Indigo Best Book of the Year. He lives with his wife in the Salmon River Valley near Falkland, BC.

Excerpt

1964

Just as the logging truck rounded the bend, Eddie and Lewis took off running. They made it all the way across and up the bank to the fence before the truck even made it onto the bridge. The driver gave a blast of his air horn and the support timbers creaked when he crossed the bridge. The logs sticking out the back of the load wobbled like spaghetti.

They lingered to watch the cars go by. Eddie always found it hard to find anything fun to do after school. Plenty of jobs waited for him but nothing to hurry home for. He laughed when Lewis made faces at a staring woman. A Volkswagen bus filled with laughing girls and boys looked like they were having fun as they went speeding by.

The brothers stepped through a stretched square of page-wire and walked down the trail. When they topped the hill above Grandma’s, Eddie was the first one to spot the car parked at the door. Lewis ran on ahead but stopped at the door to wait. Eddie tried to remember if he’d ever seen the car before. It looked like the one he had seen in a Yakima street when his mother had punched the driver. Years ago—but the car still looked new with its shining paint and gleaming chrome.

They walked in to see a man sitting at the kitchen table. He had long sideburns and greased hair that drooped down over his forehead in an Elvis-style waterfall Eddie had seen in a magazine. The man stood and jammed his hands into his pockets. His white shirt with upturned collar was unbuttoned down below his chest and tucked into blue jeans, and each of his brown shoes had a coin tucked into a strip of leather across the instep.

Grace came out of her bedroom. “It’s about time, you guys. I told you before to get right back here as soon as you get off that bus. ”

She rubbed the back of her left hand with her fingers and nodded to the man beside her. “Anyway, this is your dad. This is Jimmy. ”Eddie wasn’t sure he heard correctly.

“What?”

“I said, this is your dad. ”

—from All the Quiet Places

Reviews

Finalist for the 2022 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
Longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Winner of the 2022 Indigenous Voices Awards' Published Prose in English Prize
Shortlisted for the 2022 Amazon Canada First Novel Award
Longlisted for CBC Canada Reads 2022
An Indigo Top 100 Book of 2021
An Indigo Top 10 Best Canadian Fiction Book of 2021

****

"All the Quiet Places is a haunting coming-of-age story. The power of Isaac’s vision of young Eddie Toma growing up on an Okanagan reserve in the 1950s is the novel’s unflinching gaze, meticulous detailing and fierce attachment to family, land and love. Every line is so carefully curated and the dialogue was sharp. " —Indigenous Voices Awards

"I feel that Brian Thomas Isaac has earned every single word, every single sentence, every single line. There's so much hilarity in here. There's so much wisdom, there's so much wit . . . It's really a story of triumph. My goodness, what a journey this book takes you on . . . I think the best literature haunts you. Years later, I'm going to be thinking about this book. " —Richard Van Camp, CBC's Unreserved

“A debut like no other . . . beautifully written . . . [Isaac has] a tremendous attention to detail. ” —Carol Off, CBC’s As it Happens

"Equal parts enchanting and agonizing, All the Quiet Places is an exceptional debut that not only transports the reader but also transforms them. " —Quill & Quire

All the Quiet Places, meanwhile, is primarily a tale about people. The forces that shape their lives are evoked with the same clarity as the snowberry bushes and beaver dams, the Christmas concerts and smoky pool halls. The result is a heartfelt and absorbing work of art. " —Literary Review of Canada

"What a welcome debut. Young Eddie Toma's passage through the truly ugly parts of this world is met, like an antidote, or perhaps a compensation, by his remarkable awareness of its beauty. This is a writer who understands youth, and how to tell a story. " —Gil Adamson is the winner of the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Ridgerunner

"All the Quiet Places is a deftly crafted, evocative story about the trials of growing up Indigenous. Brian Thomas Isaac's characters are complex, relatable, and overall, beautifully human. " —Waubgeshig Rice is the bestselling author of Moon of the Crusted Snow

"All the Quiet Places is the kind of novel that works its way into your soul. Essentially, it's a tale of childhood, all the wonders and tragedies, that befall a young boy on an Okanagan Reserve in the middle of the last century. Familiar, yet unique, Eddie's story will captivate the reader. The best compliment I could bestow on this book is. . . I wish it was one or two chapters longer. I wanted more. " —Drew Hayden Taylor is from the Curve Lake First Nation and is the author of many books including Chasing Painted Horses

"On par with the brilliance of James Welch's Winter in The Blood and Ruby Slipperjack's Little Voice, Brian Thomas Isaac has given us a startling read that'll live wire your soul and haunt you for a good long while. Pure brilliance. Wow. " —Richard Van Camp is the author of The Lesser Blessed and Moccasin Square Gardens

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