The Town that Forgot How to Breathe

Kenneth J. Harvey

Published by Raincoast Book, 2003
ISBN 10: 1551925923 / ISBN 13: 9781551925929
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Synopsis: Like Annie Proulx and Wayne Johnston, Kenneth J. Harvey has set a gripping, universal tale in an isolated outport village. That outport is Bareneed, Newfoundland, home to a vivid cast of characters who, one by one, come down with a mysterious breathing disorder. As the illness progresses, its victims fall into silence and are gripped by dark thoughts and urges. The people who can still fish find that their nets are full of bizarre creatures - the incarnations of legendary beasts that existed in the village's tales for generations. In writing that is pared-down, contemporary, realistic, and full of humour and humanity, Harvey unleashes a gripping, unstoppable story about what it really means to live in the modern world.

Review: With no more cod to fish, Bareneed, the setting of Kenneth J. Harvey's powerfully eerie The Town That Forgot How to Breathe, has become another Newfoundland outport village on the wane. As one character laments, "Bareneed, once a lively and warm place, now stank of drabness and heartbreak." It's not much of a magnet for tourists, but it has attracted two visitors for the summer: a fisheries officer and his young daughter. Deeply pained by the recent break-up of his marriage, Joseph fails to notice the more curious aspects of the town. It takes him a while to hear about the townsfolk who've been dropping dead for no apparent reason. He's also slow to realize that his daughter Robin's new playmate is the ghost of a drowned girl. When he and Robin find an "exceptionally ugly" sculpin at the end of their fishing line, Joseph again tries to stay calm. But then he takes a closer look at his catch. "Feeling his fingers turn warm while he tried to disengage the hook," Harvey writes, "Joseph whisked them away. Flesh-coloured fluid seeped from the sculpin's wide mouth. A solid object began edging out as he wiped his fingers on his pants--a flesh-coloured sculpted orb, topped with something that resembled hair, matted in mucousy clumps." The porcelain doll's head that emerges from the fish is one in a series of unsettling sights in Harvey's book. As more and more objects are expelled from the sea, Bareneed's most painful secrets come to the surface.

By setting his story in this desolate Atlantic locale, Harvey seeks to do more than add regional flavour to a Stephen King-style tale of an ordinary community plagued by inexplicable events. Instead, the terrors that Harvey describes are rooted in very real psychological and societal traumas. What makes The Town That Forgot How to Breathe so cunning is the way Harvey uses the horror genre as the basis for a provocative defence of Newfoundland's imperiled cultural traditions. Even though his ornate prose style can sometimes get waterlogged in the scenes between the shocks, Harvey has created a book that is as compelling as it is unique. --Jason Anderson

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Title: The Town that Forgot How to Breathe
Publisher: Raincoast Book
Publication Date: 2003
Book Condition: Very Good
Edition: First Edition.

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Book Description Raincoast Books, 2003. Soft Cover. Book Condition: Fine. No Jacket. 1st Edition. First Canadian (and true first) Edition (first printing). A novel by the author of BRUD and BACKSTRAP HAWCO, the story of a Newfoundland town which contracts a mysterious breathing disorder. Fine in pictorial wraps (with "French-flaps") as issued. Signed by Harvey on the title page. Signed by Author. Bookseller Inventory # 72548

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Book Description Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Raincoast Book Dist Ltd, 2003. Soft cover. Book Condition: Near Fine. 1st Edition. F/na. Light edge wear and light rubbing. First Canadian Edition. First Printing. Pictorial French Flaps. Bookseller Inventory # 011868

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