The Town That Drowned

     Living with a weird little brother in a small town can be tough enough. Having a spectacular fall through the ice at a skating party and nearly drowning are grounds for embarrassment. But having a vision and narrating it to the assembled crowd solidifies your status as an outcast.

     What Ruby Carson saw during that fateful day was her entire town — buildings and people — floating underwater. Then an orange-tipped surveyor stake turns up in a farmer's field. Another is found in the cemetery. A man with surveying equipment is spotted eating lunch near Pokiok Falls. The residents of Haventon soon discover that a massive dam is being constructed and that most of their homes will be swallowed by the rising water. Suspicions mount, tempers flare, and secrets are revealed. As the town prepares for its own demise, 14-year-old Ruby Carson sees it all from a front-row seat.
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  Set in the 1960s, The Town That Drowned evokes the awkwardness of childhood, the thrill of first love, and the importance of having a place to call home. Deftly written in a deceptively unassuming style, Nason's keen insights into human nature and the depth of human attachment to place make this novel ripple in an amber tension of light and shadow.
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The Town That Drowned was published by Goose Lane Editions (Canada) in 2011 and Allen and Unwin (Australia and New Zealand) in 2013.  It is a book written for adults, but it has also found a wide young adult audience.
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Awards
 
Winner 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize (Canada and Europe)
Winner 2012 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
Winner 2013 Frye Academy Award
Longlisted 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Shortlisted 2012 Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award
Finalist 2013 Ontario Library Association Red Maple Award
Shortlisted 2014 University of Canberra Book of the Year
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Reviews
 
The Town That Drowned is a moving and often funny novel. ... By the novel's end you almost feel like you're a resident of Haventon yourself, and that you're witnessing your own town's drowning; that alone is a testament to Nason's significant talent."  Chelsea Herman, Arts Hub, Australia
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"Friends turn against friends, family ties are tested and long-hidden secrets are revealed in this beautifully written debut novel by Riel Nason.  Set in the 1960s, The Town That Drowned is a touching story about adolescence and the importance of having a place to call home.  Told entirely from Ruby's perspective, it is a wonderful exploration of human behaviour -- both good and bad -- and Nason's gift for descriptive story-telling brings the town of Haventon and its residents to life for the reader." Trista Coulter InDaily, Adelaide, Australia
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"Nason draws and affectionate portrait of a family and a community." Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
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"Nason writes with a keen logic and with the kind of wisdom that comes from an astute understanding of what it is to be human.  It is a gift, and Nason brings this gift to the book's protagonist fourteen-year-old Ruby Carson." The Malahat Review. 
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"If her debut novel, The Town That Drowned, is any indication, Riel Nason is a writer to watch.  This tender tale about a New Brunswick village threatened by the provincial government's plan to build a dam has a ton of soul."  Susan G. Cole, NOW Magazine, Toronto
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"The strength of The Town That Drowned is Ruby’s voice: charming, wry, and believable. ... Nason’s writing shines in the ominous scenes, where a creeping feeling of dread is juxtaposed with the sweetness of Ruby’s coming of age. 
The details and imagery – from Ruby’s mother’s paintings to the stale bread that litters one particular stretch of road every day – are fully alive, and a large, potentially unwieldy cast of characters is well-managed. Nason has a particular gift for introducing supporting characters with memorable anecdotes, each of which reads like a sparkling little gem of a short story ... The prose style is smooth and clean, and avoids calling attention to itself, allowing Ruby’s voice, vibrating with contradictory desires, to deliver shot-to-the-heart moments of real humour and pathos."  Grace O'Connell, Quill & Quire
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"The Town That Drowned will pull you into its compassionate heart and imbue you with the portrait of a place not easily forgotten."  Donna Morrissey, author of What They Wanted
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"By turns charming, humorous and terrifying, Riel Nason's unique and compelling coming-of-age story is infused with warmth and insight and -- through artfully painted details of a richly textured community -- speaks to the transcendent power of human bonds."  Carla Gunn, author of Amphibian
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"In very readable, smoothly flowing prose, Nason brings to life an actual moment from New Brunswick history. But the author, who is also a long-time newspaper columnist for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, also creates a compelling piece of fiction charting a young woman’s coming of age, and raises thoughtful questions about the meaning of home and the nature of progress." Shawn Syms, National Post.
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"Goose Lane Editions is gaining a reputation for spotting good writers early, such as Winnipeg’s own Joan Thomas and her prize-winning debut Reading by Lightning. The Town that Drowned is Riel Nason’s debut novel, though she has had short stories published in prestigious national literary journals such as The Malahat Review, Grain and the Dalhousie Review.  This is an impressive first novel."  Victor Enns, The Winnipeg Review. 
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"... The Town That Drowned reminds us that New Brunswick is a place worth writing about." Thomas Hodd, Telegraph-Journal
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"Set against the real-life 1960s backdrop of the building of New Brunswick’s Mactaquac Dam, Riel Nason’s debut novel establishes her as a writer with a bright future.
Ruby Carson is the story’s narrator, and it’s through her young eyes that we experience how the people of Haventon, N.B., are forced to cope with the news that the provincial government plans to build a dam that will flood their tiny community.
Ruby also must cope with her own personal struggles: her family situation is less than ideal, and she’s made fun of at school after she falls through the ice and has a mysterious (and, as it turns out, prophetic) vision of her town underwater. Her life’s also made more difficult by her 10-year-old brother Percy, a wonderfully drawn character who has Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism ...
Nason’s writing is warm and empathetic. She has a lovely ear for dialogue and her townspeople are well drawn. She also does a terrific job capturing the feel of a 1960s rural New Brunswick.
Along with the questions of growing up, The Town that Drowned tackles the themes of home and a sense of place and community, and the things that unite and divide us.
I very much look forward to reading Nason’s next book." Pam Sword, The Chronicle Herald
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"The Town That Drowned is not easily forgotten." Scene Magazine
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"Once in a while, a novel comes along which is really good ... Such a novel is The Town That Drowned." The Guardian (Charlottetown, PEI)
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A "very involving and enjoyable read, with nuanced characteristation... it questions progress and the nature of a place to call home."  2012 Commonweath Book Prize Judges. The Town That Drowned was awarded the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Canada and Europe Region
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"I loved it. It’s Canadian historical fiction with a tiny touch of the paranormal." Libraries and Young Adult Blog and a judge for the 2012 Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award for which The Town That Drowned was a finalist.
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"With its wise, strong and vulnerable child narrator, this novel reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird, especially with its -- at varying times -- microscopic, telescopic, and panoramic take on a rural community in the 1960s after government orders flooding of an entire town. ... Reading this book is like sitting in a tree house with the narrator right there with you, calmly relating this story as it happened two years prior.  It's intimate, fulfilling, entrancing and lovable." Gerard Collins, author of Moonlight Sketches and Finton Moon
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"There is a lot to like about Riel Nason's debut novel The Town That Drowned." Maple Tree Literary Supplement
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"The Town That Drowned has been recognized nationally and internationally as a compelling read about much more than just a town.  Riel Nason has created a community of young and old, wise and irresponsible, and honest and secretive that could be the essence of any Canadian small town.  It was a priviledge to visit this one."  Canlit for Little Canadians.
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