Haunting and atmospheric, this debut novel portrays the heartbreak, hardship and moments of surprising grace in the life of a man struggling to realize his destiny.
A young man of astonishing promise when he emigrated from Ghana in 1955, Samuel Tyne was determined to accomplish great things. Fifteen long years later, he’s an insignificant government employee who hates his job when he unexpectedly inherits his uncle’s crumbling mansion in Aster, Alberta. Despite his wife’s resistance and the sullen complaints of his thirteen-year-old twin daughters, Samuel quits his job and moves his family to the town. For here, he believes, is that fabled second chance, and he is determined not to fail again.
At first, Aster seems perfect — to Samuel, the formerly all-black town represents the return to a communal, idyllic way of life. But he soon discovers the town’s problems: a history of in-fighting, a strict town council and a series of mysterious fires that put all the townsfolk on edge. When his daughters cease speaking and refuse to explain their increasingly strange behaviour, Samuel turns more and more to the refuge of his electronics shop.
As his ambitions intensify, the life he has struggled so hard to improve begins to disintegrate around him, and a dark current of menace in the town is turned upon the Tyne family.
Racial discord and family strife shadow this dense, moody tale of a black family and its troubles settling into a new town in Alberta, Canada. In 1968, soft-spoken West African born Samuel Tyne inherits his reclusive Uncle Jacob's mansion in the town of Aster, formerly settled by black families out of Oklahoma. Stifled in his Calgary civil service job and hoping for a second chance at happiness, Samuel hastily relocates Maud, his crass, chilly wife, and their sneering, eccentric, "stone-like" twin daughters, Chloe and Yvette. Introverted Ama, the twins' asthmatic school friend, joins them for the summer, but soon grows terrified of everyone. As his home life becomes increasingly troubling, Samuel tinkers away in his new electronics repair shop, devising a computer prototype. Meanwhile, embittered Maud finds herself powerless against the increasingly menacing (and indistinguishable) twins, whose torturous treatment of Ama becomes the springboard for more hideous violence. Neighbors like Ray and Eudora Frank, a blunt, imposing couple-about-town, and rumored warlock Saul Porter, are friendly at first, but reveal their true colors after a fiery conclusion pits neighbor against neighbor, and vicious storefront vandalism returns Samuel to his "graveyard of an empty life." Edugyan's elegiac, shimmering prose makes up for the lack of sunny skies in this impressively conceived and well-executed debut.