Pitouie by Derek Winkler

PitouiePitouie by Derek Winkler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book on a whim at a Broken Pencil event and found myself quickly caught up in the story. The plot alternates between the present on the titular island where large industrial corporations bid to use a lake in a dormant volcano as a toxic waste dump and a second which takes place 35 years earlier at a radar base and Inuit village in northern Canada where a mining scam is being perpetrated. Having worked in both the environmental and mining exploration fields, I kept watch for technical errors or unrealistic portrayals of the industry. I couldn’t really find any (I wonder if Winkler might write for the Northern Miner), I thought the book was researched well enough to be convincing and didn’t bog down the plot with boring details. I read a couple of reviews that said the Island story was the more interesting plot line but I disagree. I found the set up of the mining scam to be very interesting and I felt pangs of anxiety when Lars couldn’t get his snow mobile started (I’ve been there, it’s absolutely horrifying to know you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s -40 and too far to walk back to camp and that you will die if your snowmobile doesn’t start up). All the way along I was wondering how the two stories connected and without giving anything away, it was done very cleverly.

Although the book is fun (and funny), it gave me much to ponder as I read through it. Some of it was absurd, such as what would happen to the industrial waste if the volcano became active again, would it disassociate under the heat or vapourize, etc., etc., and some was more hefty when thinking on the actions of the characters and the various layers of corruption. I found the book hard to put down for the last 50 pages or so and all in all, I thought Pitouie was a very pleasant surprise.

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