When I started my 100 Books by January 1, 2011 challenge, I had few rules: no picture books, strive for an assortment of genres and styles, and unfinished manuscripts don't count. I'm not even out of the top 10 and I'm about to break one of those rules.
I'm always honoured to read the unpublished and unfinished works of my friends. I have two awesome critique partners whose work is every bit as good (perhaps better) than many established authors, my cousin is writing a killer book I'm looking forward to helping him with, and I love, love, love to read anything by Kyle and Rocky. The Journalist in me is hungry for any editing challenge presented to me, often encouraging me to take on challenges that actually weren't presented to me at all.
Such is the case with Body Trade, an unpublished, but very much complete, novel by Alberta author Margaret Macpherson.
This isn't her first book. In fact, she quite a few Canadian-published novels under her belt. And in just a few months, she'll be teaching young writers at Winter WordsWorth, a program put on by the Young Alberta Book Society where I work. That's how I met her - and before long, I'd asked to take a look at her manuscript.
Margaret told me Body Trade wasn't a kid's book. She wasn't kidding. But as the (now) cliche goes, she had me at hello.
The story begins in northern Canada, where two unlikely young women meet and decide to take a road trip. On their way to Mexico, Tanya and Rosie share Thelma and Louise style adventures, and go from the magic of Disneyland to the horrors of a Belize pig farm. There they witness violence that shocks even the wordly Tanya, and they are both cast into the underground sex trade.
It is a tale of friendship and survival.
It is also one of the most well written stories I have ever read. I've lamented about the difference between literary and commercial fiction in the past, but Margaret leaves no room for debate. Body Trade is firmly rooted in the literary category and the words are woven together with such skill, the characters leap from the page.
Though tasked with "editing" Body Trade, I could scarcely stop reading to make a mark on the page other than to compliment - over and over again - Margaret's incredible talent. The writing is tight without creative compromise. The metaphors are not cliched and yet paint images so vivid, you can't help but be swept up in her emotional roller coaster. Margaret even breaks my personal point of view rules and tells each woman's story in first person - but its clear she understands, deeply knows, each of her characters and without even the tell-tale dialogue tags, you know which character commands each scene.
The book is, of course, not without flaws, and after staring at "the end" slack jawed and desperate for more, I think I might have patched together some feedback that could be useful. But any advice I offer may only fill a few small gaps because it is evident Margaret needs no help when it comes to the written word.
Body Trade is not yet published - but it will be. And when it hits the bookstores, I will be first in line for my copy.
The Book In my Bag This Week: Lover Revealed, J.R. Ward (yes, again)