Book Review: The Gift Child by Elaine McCluskey

Category: arts 71

Elaine McCluskey’s third novel, The Gift Child, reminds us we’re all a little broken, but it’s possible to find peace within life’s chaos. 

Cathy Carter 

Nova Scotia author, Elaine McCluskey’s new novel The Gift Child is an enjoyable summer read brimming with memorable characters, tangents by the dozen, and layer upon layer of colourfully descriptive passages that draw the reader in and sweep them away for the ride. 

While on the surface the plot focuses on a missing person, the unraveling of family secrets, and grappling with personal demons. Nova Scotia – and especially Dartmouth – have strong “main character energy” from the very first pages.  

From neighbourhood dynamics, to paddling competitions, to Dartmouth separatists, those familiar with the area will smile as they see its personality shine through. And when the plot ventures further afield to Barrington Passage and Shag Harbour the author’s clear understanding of what makes these communities tick adds depth and empathy to the tale. 

I have to admit, when I first began reading this novel the sheer number of asides, tangents, and seemingly random details was slightly overwhelming. But once I surrendered and allowed my mind to go with the flow, I saw the beauty in the author’s approach. It’s a bit like listening to a good story teller at a party: you may have no idea where they are going when they begin, but when they reach the end you’re glad you stuck around. After all, we all know that life isn’t linear – it’s full of regrettable decisions, side characters, and various versions of the truth – just like this novel. 

McCluskey’s book reminds us that we are all a little bit broken, and no matter how much we may wish it was so, life can’t be summarized in a few tidy sentences. And while it may not always work out the way we want it to, it’s possible to find peace within the chaos. 

The Gift Child was released March 19, 2024 (Goose Lane). Order your copy HERE or visit your local bookshop. 

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