OKIB member Brian Thomas Isaac’s first novel, All the Quiet Places, has long been entered into the Canada Reads competition.
The book tells the story of Eddie Tom growing up on the Salmon River on the way to the Falklands in a place that will be familiar to all members.
The story begins in 1956, the summer before Eddie enters public education in the Falklands. The story follows him through his teenage years as he experiences bullying at his predominantly white school, explores his feelings for his white neighbors’ daughter, and endures the return of his absentee father and the turmoil it causes in their home life.
While Eddie is a fictional character, it is clear that Brian drew on his past to create Eddie. It is a coming-of-age novel about the lingering effects of colonialism. Brian’s precise writing subtly immerses the reader in Eddie’s world and lulls him into a false sense of security.
The book clearly demonstrates the immediate and long-term effects of colonialism. Brian began writing the novel in 2003 and worked on it until its release in October 2021.
Every word moves the story forward. Every sentence presents the reader with vivid images that are so real, so familiar, that many people will think Brian is writing about their lives. But of course it’s not about any little boy, it’s about a little syilx boy.
“I sit down and write six hours a day, Monday through Friday,” he said. “I used to work seven days a week, but that was too much, so now I write five days a week.”
Ernest Hemingway wrote four hours a day, so you have an idea of the commitment. Roald Dahl wrote about five hours a day. For Brian, writing is his passion, so his work consumes him.
“We had a cuckoo clock on the wall that struck every hour and there were times when it seemed to strike every minute. That’s how the work absorbed me.”
In Brian’s case, there is a clear and direct correlation between the hours worked and the quality of the final product because the novel is a masterpiece of writing.
The dialogue is real – Brian writes the way people talk. The same was said of Ernest Hemingway, but I never found that to be true.
Every word in Brian’s book has to be there. There is flow, poetry in the paragraphs. Brian’s descriptions are so real you can taste the burger, hear the birds and feel what Eddie is feeling. The book is sure to resonate with syilx people. Brian says this “flow” comes from writing poetry. Poems force you to be economical with your words and make sure that every word counts. The same goes for All the Quiet Places.
“Growing up, we didn’t have all the distractions, we didn’t have computers and iPads. We listened to the radio for two hours a night because that was all the dry battery could give us. We are reading. My uncles read. Pocket western novels were everywhere. Zane Gray could write paragraphs about a shadow or a rock.
“Sometimes I will suffer for hours over one word.” I pick up a book and start reading as a way to start writing.”
His wife, Marlene, was his trusted editor and sounding board from day one, and he was assisted by professional editors in later drafts. Brian advises any syilx who wants to become a writer to read all the best literary books and publish shorter pieces such as essays, poems or short stories before writing a novel.
“I spent a quarter of my time trying to get published. It really helps to have a literary background, otherwise publishers are more likely to reject you. I was lucky to have a publisher who gave me a chance. I will stay with them.”
“No one asks me why I sit down to write,” Brian continued. “There are all kinds of people like me out there, and when I write, it connects me to them.”
Fortunately, a sequel is on the way. All the Quiet Places is available from booksellers, in print and electronic form, online and in stores.
– Thanks to Zeahaa Rehman’s book review at Quill & Quire for providing some information for this article.
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