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|Size of a Fist|
resource links, october 2016
This novella is part of the New Leaf Editions Series, which promotes first books by emerging writers. Although the main characters are in their late teens, Gereaux’s gritty content makes this work more appropriate to an adult readership.
Addy and her boyfriend Craig have made their plans to leave their small rural community and go to the city. At eighteen, Addy is the same age her mother was when she became a single parent, and Addy does not want her life to follow her mother’s pattern: stuck in a dead-end waitress job and having an affair with the married RCMP officer. But Addy and Craig are convinced by friends to have one last party in the local cemetery, and after a few too many drinks, Addy drives into a fourteen-yearold boy who had been visiting his mother’s grave. The boy is not grievously injured, but Addy is conflicted by her feelings of guilt and her compassion for the boy, who is living with his drunk and depressed father. She and Craig visit him to try to offer some hope, and become involved in a sexual threesome. When his father finds them, she and Craig take off, but Addy is convinced that they should take the boy with them to the city. In a fight over the plan, Craig falls from a suspension bridge and dies. Addy puts the boy on the bus, with all their savings and hopes, and awaits her fate.
Although the short length will make this novella appealing for mature teens who are not avid readers, the content and language are relentlessly mature, and therefore questionable for a school library collection.
Thematic Links: Child Abuse; Single Parent Family Life; Remote Community Lifestyle
— Patricia Jermey
cm magazine, volume xxii number 25, March 4, 2016
Tara Gereaux’s Size of a Fist is one of Thistledown Press’ “New Leaf Series” which publishes first books by new writers. Like all the titles in this series Size of a Fist is short, under 65 pages. But Gereaux manages to pack quite a lot into this tense, gritty mature-teen story.
Addy and her boyfriend Craig, have finally saved enough money to leave their miserable small town and move to the city where, Addy says hopefully to Craig, “Everything’s going to be different.” This proves to be prophetic and ironic.
The night before they are to leave, the young couple unwisely attend a final party. In a reckless and drunken state, Addy causes a car accident that injures a 14-year-old boy named Jonas. Addy is distraught about what she has done and confused about what she should do. Craig advocates leaving town and all their problems behind, but Addy feels she cannot leave until she knows Jonas is okay.
Something about this accident has stirred uncertainty in Addy. She uses her concern about Jonas to postpone leaving, but readers see that it provides a convenient opportunity for her to reconsider her future with Craig. But staying is also a problem as Addy’s mother makes clear when she learns of the delay in their plans: “I finally start to get my life back – my life – and you go out to some stupid little party and fuck it up.”
Meanwhile Addy is drawn to Jonas. After Jonas is released from hospital, Addy discovers that he is being abused by his alcoholic father. She feels compelled to help and tells Craig that they must take Jonas with them to the city. The plot moves swiftly towards a somewhat bizarre climax including an evening of drinking, group sex, a violent confrontation between Addy and Craig, and a tragic accidental death.
In a very short space, Gereaux has managed to create a complex and nuanced character in Addy. Readers see her cope with an erratic home life, use sex to manipulate and soothe her boyfriend, and her engage with and try to help the troubled Jonas. Gereaux provides less information to help readers understand the immature and reactive Craig, who, like so many others in this novel, struggles with anger.
However Gereaux excels at creating character through dialogue. The scene below for example, provides a lot of insight into the dynamics of Addy and Craig’s relationship:
… “I’m not going.”
Addy slides across the front seat and unbuttons his jeans. Unzips them.
He huffs but doesn’t stop her.
“Let’s go there,” she says.
“Please?” Her hand slips into his underwear.
She leans over between his legs.
She lifts her head. “Come with me?”
“Addy…” his voice wavers.
She starts to shift away from him.
“Okay, okay, I’ll go.”
It is hard to know what the takeaway is for the target audience. Some readers may gain insight into the complexity of child abuse or the consequences and difficulties of single-parenting. But there is simply not enough time to provide the context and depth these issues require. Certainly the gritty realism and dramatic plot will be highly appealing. But the lack of positive characters and relationships and the hopelessness of the conclusion make this a very depressing read.
Charlotte Duggan is a teacher librarian in Winnipeg, MB. CM Magazine
saskatoon starphoenix / regina leader-post, november 28, 2015
Saskatoon's Thistledown Press has just released its 12th New Leaf Editions Series of first books for emerging writers (all titles $12.95). This year three of those writers are from Saskatchewan [...]
The human heart, they say, is the size of a fist, but when it's the title of a long short story — Size of a Fist — by Tara Gereaux, it leans away from anatomy, while still clinging to the image, into violence.
Gereaux, originally from the Qu'Appelle Valley and now living in Regina, has crafted a tense and jagged story about how compromised a young woman's escape from her dead-end hometown is made by troubled peers and bad choices.
Addy has been saving money to get away from her equally compromised mother and the mostly "abandoned and empty" town in which she lives. She'll leave with her boyfriend, Craig, a guy she has doubts about: "I want us to change, too," she says to him. "I want us to be different. Better," to which he can only snicker. One last party, he says, and she reluctantly agrees.
One last party is a cryptic and prophetic way of putting it. On the way home from the graveyard where they've been drinking and smoking up, they hit a kid who was out visiting his mother's grave. The responses to this accident change the course of the story and the couple's plans. Craig wants to hightail it to the city; Addy wants to make sure the boy is OK. He is and he isn't, and the complications of his home life draw the pair into something bigger than they imagined.
Gereaux doesn't bother to spend a lot of time on explanations: what the couple will do in the city, how they hit the kid, what's up with Addy and her mother. Such explanations aren't necessary. People, especially inexperienced people, often make bad choices. Gereaux shows how those choices can change a life. This is a fast-paced and tense read. I didn't stop once.
— Bill Robertson