In Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, it’s February and it’s snowing heavily. You’re trapped inside The Hazel – a small restaurant in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Everyone from the owner to the serving staff are keeping secrets from one another and over time, have become tangled up in each other’s lives. As the day progresses, the temperature will rise and tensions will boil over.
I’m sorry, but this book was way too long.
The length is my biggest complaint and the main reason I had the most trouble with it. There are a lot of characters here, or at least it felt like a lot. Megan Gail Coles dug deep into each character and offered up tremendous depth and backstory, but I had a hard time connecting with any of them after a while. The only two characters that struck a chord with me were Olive and Iris and even then, their lives were so desperately bleak and painful that after spending so much time with them, I became numb to their respective situations.
There were also two extremely difficult scenes in this book (and this is coming from someone who had read a book about 9/11 in the past month) that I struggled with. It’s hard to talk about one specifically without giving away a rather big moment in the story, but I could have done without it. As far as the other one goes, people sensitive to animal death should be forewarned.
The book isn’t terrible by any means, so I don’t want to give that impression. In fact, Coles’ raw, unflinching writing style is one of the best I’ve read in quite some time. For one character in particular, she alters her narration to fit the voice of a heavily accented Newfoundlander and being from the east coast myself, I could hear the voice so clearly in my head. One thing I will say – and I’ve said it before in the past – I hate it when authors decide to go without quotation marks. I don’t understand why you would do it and I have no idea stylistically what you’re trying to achieve. There is a dialogue-heavy scene near the book’s conclusion where three people are arguing and I got so lost. Very frustrating.
By the time I reached the three hundred page mark, I was completely worn out. However, when I got to the ending, Coles knocked my socks off. Despite that gut punch of a finale, I don’t believe the journey was worth the destination. There is a great book in here though, just maybe if it was 100 pages shorter.