Review: Saltwater Cowboys by Dayle Furlong

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*I received this book from Dundurn Press on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Saltwater Cowboys

Author: Dayle Furlong

Publisher: Dundurn Press

Publication Date: March 2015

ISBN: 9781459721975

Saltwater Cowboys

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the conservative 1980s, the collapse of the mining industry in Newfoundland caused devastating upheaval for thousands of Maritimers, who lost their independence, community, and homes as joblessness forced them to uproot and start anew. Jack and Angela McCarthy, after years of prosperity in the mining town where their families had lived for generations, find themselves among the “Saltwater Cowboys” — Newfoundland transplants to gold mines of Alberta.
Arriving in the town of Foxville, the McCarthys find themselves resented, bullied, and taken advantage of, along with their fellow Newfoundlanders. But when Jack’s best friend, Peter, is swindled out of his savings and resorts to stealing from the mine, he sets a heist in motion that throws both families into chaos.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while. What drew me to it initially was a lovely cover. In print, it’s a striking colour and an image that speaks quite well to the story within. As the daughter of a Newfie who left the East in search of work and a new life on the mainland, this story connected with me in a new way, a way that spoke to my heritage and my Canada. Furlong writes a story that is quintessentially Canadian, capturing the heart and soul of our country, our love for our home, and the vast differences in life across such a great territory. The story begins in Newfoundland, in a time when industry was failing and the only hope for many was to seek out employment in the West, far away from the home they’d grown up in. In their new home, Jack McCarthy–out of desperation–gets mixed up in things that perhaps he should have stayed far away from, leaving his family to struggle first with financial difficulties and later with moral ones.

Furlong’s descriptions are beautiful. She paints a vivid picture of Canada in the 80s and so it’s easy to step right into her story. Furlong is a world builder. She constructs this place so thoroughly that it’s as if you’ve stepped right through the pages and into the story. I had no problem imagining the towns and the places they travelled through.

My greatest criticism comes with this stories pacing and unfortunately, it was so inconsistent that it made this a very frustrating book for me to read and in the end, slightly ruined the overall effect that Furlong’s story had. Now when I say pacing, there are some scenes that are so thorough and long and descriptively marvellous, such as descriptions of places and situations. However, often Furlong will introduce a new scene, only to cut it short two sentences later. I felt as though I was robbed of conversations and character development that is integral to the story. There were pieces of the book that just felt as though they’d gone missing. It left me feeling quite empty and unfulfilled with many various parts of the story. It also left me feeling as though I couldn’t quite understand the characters and their motivations. The lack of description surrounding certain conversations resulted in characters who did things for seemingly no reason, but had huge impact on other characters and even the story itself.

Although Dayle’s descriptive writing is eloquent and beautiful, due to the inconsistency in the pacing, I’ve given it 3 out of 5 stars. If you’re not a fan of in depth description, you will not like this book. Dayle does paint a beautiful picture of Canada, and accurately portrays the difficulty faced by many Canadians in times of financial hardship. She writes a very accurate world. But the characters themselves do not really develop and as a reader, I was often left desiring more. It made for a frustrating struggle of a read. Definitely not the best thing that I’ve read, but it’s not bad.

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