For the first time in Rossland Reads history, a book was eliminated through a tie breaker.
The second debate of this year’s Rossland Reads ended with a tie between All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, as defended by Veronique Darwin, and Sweetland by Michael Crummey, as defended by Nicole Tigchelaar. After the audience was sent back to the ballot box, All My Puny Sorrows was declared the victor and Sweetland was the second book eliminated this Rossland Reads.
Whereas the first debate focused on broader aspects of the book, such as theme, linear or non-linear narrative, conflict and plot, the second debate focused more on individual scenes and how they contributed to the strength or weakness of the book. For the opening remarks, moderator Jennifer Ellis just asked debaters to talk about the greatest strengths of their books and the greatest weaknesses of the other books.
The hardest blows to fall against All My Puny Sorrows and Sweetland came from Kathleen Hill, whose book Nod by Adrian Barnes was eliminated in the first debate. With her own book out of the running, Hill chose to champion Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, defended by Nicola Kuhn, and pointed to a big weakness she found in the other two novels. “I have to say that in the middle of All My Puny Sorrows and in the middle of Sweetland, both of those books, I got a little lost,” said Hill. “There’s a point where … I sort of briefly stopped caring about the main characters, and it sounds harsh, but I got tired of the story.”
In a discussion about the relationship between the opening and closing scenes of the books, Tigchelaar drew a comparison between Sweetland and Indian Horse: “Something Nicola said about the ghosts at the end of his ancestors felt very similar to my ending as well, because Moses sees the ghosts of all the people. They don’t acknowledge him, but they’re clearly Queenie and Jesse and all his ancestors, and that’s what makes him comfortable about moving in the direction that he does.”
At other times in the debate it was also pointed out that both the protagonists of Indian Horse and Sweetland have a strong relationship to place or the land they inhabit, but despite these strong similarities, Indian Horse has advanced to the final debate as a strong favourite to win, while Sweetland is out of the race and Tigchelaar will have to choose a new favourite.
To find out who will win the 2016 Rossland Reads, Indian Horse or All My Puny Sorrows, attend the final debate on Thursday, Nov. 3, 7 p.m. at the Rossland Public Library, or listen to the podcast at rossland.bc.libraries.coop.