Julia Hoop, a twenty-five-year-old counselling psych student, is working on her thesis, exploring an idea which makes her graduate supervisor squirm. She is conducting interview after interview with a group of women she affectionately calls the Molestas - women whose experience of childhood sexual abuse did not cause physical trauma. Julia is the expert, she claims, because she has the experience; her own father, Dirtbag, a furniture designer and failed poet, disappeared when she was eight leaving behind nothing but his Dylan Thomas book, and a legacy of addiction and violence. But the more Julia learns, the less certain she is of what she believes. When both her boyfriend and her graduate advisor break up with her on the same day, Julia leaves her city of Vancouver on a bicycle for a cross-Canada trip in search of her father, or so she tells people. Julia will visit the three cities from which he’s contacted her over the years: Banff, Alberta; Redvers, Saskatchewan; and Kingston, Ontario. Her unexpected travel partner is Smirks, a handsome athlete who also has a complicated history, and with whom Julia is falling in love. Their travel days are marked by peaks of ecstatic physical exertion, and their nights by frustrated drinking and drugs. After an unsettling incident in rural Saskatchewan involving a trio of aggressive children, Julia wakes up in the morning to discover Smirks has disappeared. Everything, once again, falls apart. Sometimes shocking in its candour, yet charmed with enigmatic characters, PEDAL is an exploration of the potholes and pitfalls of identity. It is a close look at how we are shaped by accidents of timing: trauma and sex, brain chemistry and the landscape of our country. PEDAL challenges beliefs we hold dear about the nature of pedophilia, the essence of innocence and the idea that the past is something one runs from.
Rooney's novel hits with a weight and importance not achieved by many debuts. Its protagonist, Julia, is working on her master's thesis in psychology, studying a group she names "molestas" women who have experienced "non-physically painful molestation." Julia herself was molested at a young age by the father she refers to only as Dirtbag. She plans to cycle from Vancouver, B.C., to Kingston, Ontario, charting Dirtbag's last known addresses, to see if she can better understand his character and perhaps learn something more about herself. Julia is accompanied by Smirks, her best friend's new roommate, whom she discovers harbors dark secrets of his own. This is not an easy read. Julia is brash and sometimes violent, and the subject matter is consistently unnerving. But readers who push through will find an intelligent, incredibly well reasoned book that manages to uncover humanity in the internal struggle potentially faced by some pedophiles. The novel does stumble in a few spots some of its narrative coincidences strain plausibility, and the budding romantic relationship between Julia and Smirks is told but not shown but these minor shortcomings do not diminish what is an otherwise gripping, disquieting novel.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Shocking yet surreal in its relatablilty. Inspiring in its candour. Frightening although hilarious. Rife with humanity, tension, and suspense. Addictively readable. Populated by complex, loveable characters - vivid archetypes from this or a past life. Haunting. Dredged up latent or forgotten joy and pain from my own past. Reminded me of friends, lost love, my sister, my mother. I cried. A fantastic effort.