The Wheel Keeper
Thomas, Wayne, British Journal of Canadian Studies
Robert Pepper-Smith, The Wheel Keeper (Edmonton: NeWest Press, 2003), 118pp. Paper. $14.95 CDN, $9.95 US. ISBN 1-8963-0049-9.
There is much to admire in Robert Pepper-Smith's debut novel. Rendered in a poetic prose, it offers a sensitive and elegiac depiction of the personal and public upheavals faced by a mid-twentieth-century Italian-Canadian family. In short, the book has heart.
Indeed, it is clear from the start that Pepper-Smith has a deep affection for his characters and their attempts to come to terms with the stuff of their lives; the force of his accounts derives in part from a keen understanding of the history and traditions central to the family's story, and also from a wider appreciation of human values and emotions.
Set in a fictional village in south-eastern British Columbia, the book traces two key events: the grandmother's forced emigration from her native Italy as an unwed mother seeking to avoid surrendering her child to the church; and the building of an hydroelectric dam that threatens to flood the bc village. …