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About this book
• Shortlisted for Best Trade Fiction at the 2020 Alberta Book Publishing Awards!
When an accident jeopardizing the family farm draws Amiah Williams back to Kingsley, Alberta, population 1431, she doesn’t expect her homecoming to make front-page news. But there she is in the Inquirer, the mysterious tabloid that is airing her hometown's dirty laundry. Alongside stories of high school rivalries and truck-bed love affairs, disturbing revelations about Amiah's past and present are selling papers and fuelling small-town gossip. As the stakes get higher, Amiah must either expose the twisted truth behind the Inquirer or watch her life fall apart again.
Jaclyn Dawn's debut novel provides an incisive look at the lingering consequences of past relationships and the price of both staying silent and speaking up.
BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS
- If you were pitching this novel as a bookseller or recommending it to a friend, which category in the bookstore or genre would you classify it as?
- How does Miah grow and change in this novel? Does Mike? Miah’s parents, Danika, and Alek?
- How do you think the plot would have played out if the source of the Inquirer was not discovered when and how it was?
- Which character can you best relate to? Can you best see yourself as a writer, reader, or topic of the Inquirer?
- What types of headlines would make up the tabloid of your life?
- Do you think people would think twice about what they write or read on social media if it was in print form like the Inquirer?
- Do you think a newspaper like the Inquirer would have been received differently in a larger community?
- Will you look at the tabloids and gossip magazines when you’re in the grocery store line any differently after reading this novel?
EXCERPT FROM THE INQUIRER:
My name is Amiah Jane Williams. Amiah to my friends in Vancouver, Miss Williams at work, AJ to my redneck cousins, and just plain Miah in Kingsley. That’s where I was headed at the start of this story. Hardly newsworthy, you would think.
Kingsley, Alberta, population 1431. Home of the Knights, my high school insignia and my parents’ before. The large green road sign in the ditch read Kingsley 27 km, Edmonton 176 km. I was almost home. Two years had passed since I ran away to Vancouver, yet Kingsley was somehow still home….
The farm—everyone called their farm “the farm”— wasn’t far from town. Half an hour by bicycle, five minutes by car. With Kingsley in sight, I turned off the highway onto the gravel, catching my red notebook before it slid off the passenger seat.
Dust billowed into the Jeep. “Shit.”
I cranked up my window. The town was probably buzzing with complaints about drought. Farmers liked to complain no matter how good the crop or beef prices. Not my dad, though. “Griping’s no rain dance,” he would say. Ray Williams always had a better way to spend his time with fences to mend and animals to tend. He liked to be busy. No wonder Mom was stressed. Dad was couchridden and there was no hockey on TV.
I switched off the radio as I turned into the long driveway lined with a split rail fence and Swedish aspens. All led to my childhood home, a movie-worthy red ranch house with a wraparound porch. Duke and Earl greeted me first, running and barking playfully alongside my Jeep as I crept closer to the house. Then I spotted Mom sitting on the porch steps as if waiting for me.
Mom and I were about the same height with the same build and the same oval faces that crinkled when we smiled. There was something Mom had that I didn’t, though, something that drew people to her while I remained invisible. My heartstrings tugged at the sight of her. At twenty-five years old, I needed her more than ever, though I never would have admitted it.
“Hey, stranger!” Mom said. “We weren’t expecting you until late.”
The last we had seen each other was Christmas. I hadn’t gone home for Easter break. I had used homework as an excuse, but actually spent the break with some guy named Winston. Purple skinny jeans, two eyebrow rings, barely-lasted-a-month Winston. My parents hadn’t come to visit me either. They had been busy with the tail end of calving and the start of seeding. My parents were as likely to visit Vancouver as Winston was Kingsley. I hadn’t mentioned the farm would survive a few days without them, and Mom hadn’t mentioned she suspected I didn’t want to come home.
“He finally fell asleep. The painkillers make him drowsy and a little loopy.” Mom whirled her finger around her ear. We laughed, our faces crinkling.
“Let him sleep. I’ll still be here when he wakes up.”
“Okay. We’ll have coffee. Are you hungry? I can make you something to eat.”
“I’m okay, Mom. I’m here to help you.”
"A clever novel that reveals both the anxieties and strengths woven into tight-knit communities. The Inquirer is a thoroughly enjoyable read."
"In The Inquirer, Jaclyn Dawn has crafted something so rare—a great story full of fascinating characters, sly humour, and understated intelligence—that news of its appearance might just get reported in the tabloids her novel so lovingly satirizes. Amiah Williams's journey back to her hometown of Kingsley, Alberta, is funny and winning, neither of which factors obscure the troubling realities young women too often face.”
"A bildungsroman that never drags, Dawn's debut novel is appealing both in its innovation—it intersperses newspaper articles from the Inquirer throughout—and its unexpected insights from Amiah, its well-drawn narrator." full review
"This is an excellent beginning for a new writer, with a good eye for detail and intriguing plots."
"The Inquirer is a refreshing departure from so many tired Canadian literary tropes."
"Dawn's depiction of family dynamics set against vividly accurate rhythms of rural life is the book's strongest feature. Anyone who has left their small community to strike out in search of greater horizons [...] can relate."
"Jaclyn Dawn’s debut novel is one that intrigues and delights.... Think of this one as the small-town Alberta answer to Gossip Girl." full review
"...a fast read that’s light-hearted, funny, and sweet." full review
“A fun romp in small-town Alberta, with gossip, intrigue, and family drama." full review
"... a clever satire that simultaneously skewers and celebrates village life."