Giller Shortlist: Small Game Hunting At the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles


Judging by our reviews, this book seems to have made an emotional impact. As Megan Gail Coles warned us it might, it hurt to read.  


An excerpt from Marcie’s review, which can be read in full at Buried in Print

Despite the rather long title, the core idea of this novel is succinct: “Your truth is not more fucking true than my truth.”

Megan Gail Coles situates her story around a downtown restaurant in St. John’s Newfoundland. There, a handful of characters, who are navigating the daily grind, present their truths. The structure is simultaneously expansive and focussed: so many characters and so little time.

Readers spend time with these men and women in and out of this restaurant (but mostly out). It’s perfect for illustrating the power dynamics in everyday life.

Waiters and waitresses: they’re servers, right? There’s an inherent power dynamic. And a hierarchy within the staff and management, the age-old conflict between front- and back-of-house, and the sexism rampant in the food industry: a restaurant is the perfect scene to explore inequity.

Coles doesn’t illustrate the scenes in which the servers have an opportunity to be comfortable in their role. There’s no table with a happy couple that overtips their server at the end of the night because they are so content with their own relationship that their gratitude expresses itself in an increased gratuity. There’s no table set for the back- and front-of-house staff to share a meal together before or after the dinner shift.g.

One of my favourite scenes, an uncomfortable one, depicts a waitress at table-side, a full table too. A potentially lucrative group (large, moneyed, influential). Some interior aspects of the scene are spelled out in detail. Some are left to readers to assemble. The details are useful, but the unwritten parts – they are what made me seethe. (If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, any service industry, you can imagine.)

It’s not a comfortable scene. And neither are the other aspects of these characters’ lives. The ugliest bits are on display and unkindnesses echo and repeat (there is one notable exception, but that would be spoilery). Initially, the cast overwhelms, not for their numbers but for their natures.


An excerpt from Naomi’s review, which can be read in full at Consumed by Ink

Self-destructive behaviour runs rampant in this book. Grieving for Tom, Damian has just come off one of the biggest benders of his life. He came into work reeking of alcohol and is dipping into more to get through the day.

He has the look of a person who has not been eating food recently. Ben hands him an OJ and ginger ale and everyone watches it disperse through his body like African rivers flooding the great plains after the seasonal drought. John can see the vitamins and minerals moving like emergency service providers dispatched at an accident scene.

Calv seems like a good guy who has made some terrible decisions – one in particular – and it’s wreaking havoc on his conscience. To make matters worse, he continues to go out with the repugnant Roger, and is with him now at The Hazel. He knows how his sister Amanda feels about Roger (He knows how his sister feels about a lot of things!), and desperately hopes not to run into her.

Everything was always about her, about being nice to Amanda, watching her prance around, or listening to her every jesus thought on why fast food was not food and hydro projects was evil and oil was dirty and how everything and anything Calv was ever interested in or into was wrong, wrong, wrong. Amanda made Calv feel like he was destroying the fucking planet by his own self, but he was just doing what every other jesus human was doing.

Amanda is going to give herself bad nerves worrying over shit she got no control over.

And she says that’s his fault too. That he don’t do his share of worrying over anything. None of them do, so all the women is left to worry their own worries and the worries of every man nearby who is too busy playing some fake game in a fantasy world.

And then there’s Major David, Mayor of St. John’s, who seems to collect all the misconceptions and stereotypes there ever were and use them to form ludicrous opinions.

She doesn’t like him. It’s perceptible. That, or she’s on her period. Probably both. He’s heard that the serving staff, being primarily female, get synced up. He would like to see a study on that. Major David has heard that they have periods for weeks now because of the new contraceptives. He’s convinced, convinced, that all the estrogen they piss out into the harbour is why there are more homosexuals. When he was a young man there was hardly a queer in Newfoundland, and now they’re everywhere. The fellow wiping the glassware for example. Gay. Those mannerisms. That haircut. Gay gay gay.

He don’t mind gay people now, he just wishes they didn’t all look so fit.


Interested in more? You can find the Shadow Giller reading schedule here.


We’d love to hear your thoughts on Small Game Hunting At the Local Coward Gun Club… have you read it? Do you plan to? Do you like reading books that make you uncomfortable?… Or any other bookish thing you’d like to say!



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