Emily via the Greyhound Bus

SPG Reviews, january 2015

Saskatoon publisher Thistledown Press has long been a friend to first-time poets and prose writers via its New Leaf Edition Series, giving many writers (including yours truly) the generous break that launches a writing career.

Thistledown’s eleventh release of New Leaf titles puts writer Allison Kydd in the spotlight, and if you have a road trip or flight forthcoming, Kydd’s Emily via the Greyhound Bus could be your ideal companion. The 64-page story takes readers on a winter bus trip from Toronto to Saskatchewan and delves inside the private thoughts of its title character, a woman who-like many-“always rushed in before she knew where she was going.”

On page one we learn that Emily, a First Nations’ woman, has left her longterm relationship and is now at an emotional crossroads. What should she do with her life? How might she begin again? Would a return to her reserve be a wise idea? Her crisis is heightened by the fact that her nausea on the bus may signal more than travel sickness: could she be pregnant again?

Emily has much to contemplate. Her first two children have grown up with other families, and her personal history has been coloured by abuse, poverty, and bad choices, like leaving the convent school at seventeen “just to keep up with her reputation.” The confused protagonist considers her experiences with men-including college-boy Marty, who “was fascinated by some idea of going Native;” a first-cousin who raped her when she was thirteen; and her present partner, Jeremy.

As the bus travels west she also has hours to think about the service industry work she’s done-cocktail waitress, short-order cook, desk clerk at a small hotel, and a gas jockey-and her relationships with family members. At one point she considers her mother’s appearance to be that of “a dumpy Fortrel pigeon,” and she muses that the sisters at the convent were not cruel, “rather, they seemed afraid to touch.”

The story presents a kind of retrospective as the bus rolls through the night-“only the dim glow of a few reading lights held back the dark,”-and we discover that stereotypes continue to affect Emily, even as she sits in her seat minding her own business. This grim reality is believably portrayed, as both a fellow passenger and a bus driver believe they can easily possess her.

In Moosomin the driver stops for a “ten-minute smoke break.” Emily, still feeling nauseous, steps off and is inadvertently left behind. “Alone, broke, and empty, she wished she were dead.” It is a triumph how Kydd moves Emily forward from this low point to a place of redemption at the end of the story.

This insightful book would easily fit into your travel bag and shorten the journey. — Shelley A. Leedahl

Saskatoon StarPhoenix, December 29, 2012

Emily is a First Nations woman on the run from a man she's been living with in Toronto. As she travels down the highway, Emily reflects on her life, its lots of bad and occasional good, and how she got to this point.
She's probably morning sick, she's had two children and lost them to the courts because of her employment and housing record, and she's not quite sure if she's going home — a place in Saskatchewan — or leaving it. She's good at deflecting wolves and losers, but she has to be careful not to deflect what may be kindness.
We've all seen women alone on buses, heads down, curled into themselves, and wondered who and what they are. Kydd's stories give a face, a voice and a whole series of stories, albeit fairly predictable, to this woman who's not nearly as down as she thinks she is. — Bill Robertson


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