*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Broken Places
Author: Frances Peck
Publisher: NeWest Press
Publication Date: April 2022
Vancouver. A day like any other. Kyle, a successful cosmetic surgeon, is punishing himself with a sprint up a mountain. Charlotte, wife of a tech tycoon, is combing the farm belt for local cheese and a sense of purpose. Back in the city their families go about their business: landscaping, negotiating deals, skipping school. It’s a day like any other—until suddenly it’s not.
When the earthquake hits, the city erupts in chaos and fear. Kyle’s and Charlotte’s families, along with two passersby, are thrown together in an oceanfront mansion. The conflicts that beset these wildly different people expose the fault lines beneath their relationships, as they question everything in an effort to survive and reunite with their loved ones stranded outside the city.
Wow! What a thrill of a read from debut author Frances’s Peck (can you believe this is a debut novel?!). Set in Vancouver and told from various perspectives, The Broken Places chronicles an earthquake that destroys the city in unimaginable ways. Fault lines are exposed, both geographically and relationally amongst the characters as this time of stress throes the world, and everything these characters know, into chaos. At the heart of it all is the voice of an artist, clearly a witness to the destruction, but a common thread that underlies all of the fear, the death, the destruction, and the rebirth.
As soon as I picked up this book, I was hooked. I’m absolutely in awe to read such a magnetic and bursting debut novel. Peck’s writing style is absolutely gripping and electrifying. Her characters are each so strikingly unique and starkly defined in their personalities, they seem to leap right off the page. They are deeply flawed, seemingly beyond repair, yet somehow they can be redeemed in that they are human and imperfect and prone to making the worst decisions possible, particularly in the heat of crisis. There is no perfection here, only absolute truth and visceral honesty.
In the midst of disaster, Peck seeks to expose humanity for it’s beauty and flaws, its highs and lows. Each character is forced to confront their past, present, and unknown future, untangling their truths and acknowledging their mistakes to seek to uncover the way forward. The earthquake is the catalyst for each of them to face self-reflection. There is no hiding amidst the fear of the unknown. They face death and uncertainty head on, and only then can they begin to move forward.
An excellent and compelling read, I would highly recommend this new voice in the Canadian literature landscape.