The Canterbury Trail

The Canterbury Trail

eBook - 2011
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It's the last ski weekend of the season and a mishmash of snow-enthusiasts is on its way to a remote backwoods cabin. In an odd pilgrimage through the mountains, the townsfolk of Coalton--from the ski bum to the urbanite--embark on a bizarre adventure that walks the line between comedy and tragedy. As the rednecks mount their sleds and the hippies snowshoe through the cedar forest, we see rivals converge for the weekend. While readers follow the characters on their voyage up and over the mountain, stereotypes of ski-town culture fall away. Loco, the ski bum, is about to start his first real job; Alison, the urbanite, is forced to learn how to wield an avalanche shovel; and Michael, the real estate developer, is high on mushroom tea.

In a blend of mordant humour and heartbreak, Angie Abdou chronicles a day in the life of these industrious few as they attempt to conquer the mountain. In an avalanche of action, Angie Abdou explores the way in which people treat their fellow citizens and the landscape they love.

Publisher: Victoria, B.C. : Brindle & Glass, 2011.
ISBN: 9781897142653
Characteristics: 1 online resource.


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BPLNextBestAdults Feb 23, 2012

The Canterbury Trail is a present day tale of a weekend trek to a remote cabin in the Canadian Rockies. With the end of the ski season upon them, three separate groups from the small mining town of Coalton, B.C. head out for one final weekend of skiing in the backcountry. When the redneck snowmobilers, stoned ski bums, hippies, lesbians, urbanite, and the local real estate developer with his pregnant wife all converge on the same cabin, dysfunctional relationships are plentiful, and each is examined from various perspectives. As can be expected from the stereotypes presented in this story, drug use, drinking, profanity and sexual innuendo are extensive. Despite having 14 characters to follow, and a number of underlying themes to consider, the events that take place over the course of the weekend are somewhat predictable. The abrupt ending, however, was unexpected. This is the second novel written by Angie Abdou, a Canadian author. Her first novel, The Bone Cage, is a Canada Reads 2011 Nominee. For readers who like Miriam Toews and Elizabeth Hay.

ksoles Aug 02, 2011

As neither a Chaucer fan nor a ski enthusiast, I probably shouldn't have harboured such high expectations for "The Canterbury Trail." I guess a spin-off on one of the most famous works of English literature, set in my Mom's home town of Fernie, BC, seemed too interesting to pass up.

Angie Abdou unites a motley crew of pilgrims seeking their last back country adventure of the season: the hippie, the redneck, the urbanite, the millworker, the developer and too many stoners to count. All tolled, the book features 14 characters and 4 dogs who end up at the same tiny, remote cabin carrying excessive physical and emotional baggage. Thus, the plot revolves around dysfunctional group dynamics, complicated by a surfeit of drugs, alcohol and gross discourtesy.

Abdou certainly has a talent for architecture; the focus of the story jumps from one character to another, first methodically chapter by chapter, then more frantically as the characters head toward a collision of sensibilities. The writing remains lucid, however, and each personality's actions follow his/her thoughts and observations with remarkable credulity.

But despite its sharp prose, the book ultimately fails to overcome its burden of cliches. From the lesbian "Earth Mother" who totes peppermint tea to the beer-guzzling ski bum sporting malodourous gear while cursing every other word, Abdou's pilgrims really become overdone caricatures. Consequently, the book looses credibility as a work of fiction and reads more like fantasy or a piece of absurd theatre. Its predictable ending only adds to such ludicrousy though it provides the most merciful outcome conceivable.

Aug 01, 2011

"The Canterbury Trail" had no lead characters and a story that stuttered.

Perhaps it is a bad sign to have a list of the dramatis personæ as this novel does. The reader may have some difficulty remembering names.

The novel quickly loses momentum. The first third of the novel repeats itself. All the characters are introduced in three or four groups, with equal weight. No particular character or characters are ever singled out as being especially worthy. Such a democratic approach, for me, meant I didn't have any character whom I was invested.

On top of that, the narrator told the back story of each character. This, too, is boring. I want to discover my characters through the story.

Scenes were endlessly repeated in flash backs and flash forwards that encompassed only a few minutes in time and a few meters in distance to allow a re-telling from another point of view. As nothing was happening, I grew annoyed rather than drawn into the story.

Few events of any consequence happened. Until the first avalanche, I found the story to be adrift. The second avalanche moved like molasses, as once again, the narrator visited each character in turn.

Not surprisingly, I found the ending to be annoying. What was the point of the nihilism?


Mar 15, 2011

Writer Susan Swan recently mused on Twitter, "Thinking about the need to show the dark side of fictional characters and how I always want to protect them and show their best side. Wrong." (1) Did Angie Abdou muse similarly as she lived for some time (the novel first took form as her PhD thesis) with the colourful cast of characters populating her latest novel, The Canterbury Trail? It would seem so, and it would seem she made the right choices in terms of protecting or not protecting them, and showing both their sunny and dark aspects.

Abdou's greatest gifts as a writer are sheer storytelling prowess, assembling persons, places and things in potent and compelling combinations. She melds that appreciable skill with a fearlessness about presenting her characters with all their warts, making them patently unlikable in some cases, and still managing to endear them to the reader by the end of their adventures. She does this in surprising ways in both recent Canada Reads contender The Bone Cage and The Canterbury Trail.

The range of disparate characters in The Canterbury Trail - stoner ski and snowboarding bums, working class snowmobilers, lesbian hippies with spiritual pretensions, an overly striving real estate developer and his pregnant wife, an urbanite freelance lifestyles reporter, all thrown together in a mountain ski cabin under increasingly treacherous social and meteorological conditions - seems stretched and thinned out to predictable caricatures at the outset. The pleasant surprise is that most of that ambitious cast gain some depth or unique traits before a key character hovering in the background throughout - Mother Nature - takes charge in the end. That's testament, by the way, to the virtues of sticking with a book to the very end. The Canterbury Trail's payoff in that regard is immense.

What we learn from bringing a cross-section of society into pressure cooker close quarters was also the premise, at least in part, of the classic work from which The Canterbury Trail takes everything from its title, to character names, physical traits and profiles. Abdou commented recently on how Geoffrey Chaucer's Middle English stories The Canterbury Tales, written at the end of the 14th century, so informed her novel:

“That’s the contemporary pilgrimage where I am: that trek through the backcountry,” says Abdou. “And, in a way, Chaucer used the pilgrimage to bring together people who would normally never spend time together in medieval society – the fighters, and the Priors, the workers – and so then he had a little segment from everyone in society where he was able to satirize them. So that’s the part that’s Chaucer: I get the rednecks and the hippies and the young ski bums and the developer guy. They’re all together, and they wouldn’t normally interact.”(2)

While Chaucer's work clearly laid a strong foundation for the writer, it's less of a prerequisite for the reader's enjoyment and edification. Sure, it might give you a chuckle if you know that Alison, the rather lascivious freelance journalist, is gap-toothed. You don't need a grounding in Chaucer, though, to appreciate the cultural clashes, connections and revelations between the skiing "pilgrims" of The Canterbury Trail, or to relish the authentic suspense Abdou builds through a gradual but genuine investment in the wellbeing of the various characters.

1. @swanscribe, February 23, 2011

2. Pilgrim’s Progress: Angie Abdou talks about The Canterbury Trail
by Mark Medley
National Post, The Afterword


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Jul 16, 2012

Coarse Language: Very strong language used frequently throughout the novel.

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