A Novel

eBook - 2007
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Consumption is a haunting story of a woman's life marked by struggle and heartbreak, but it is also much more. It stunningly evokes life in the far north, both past and present, and offers a scathing dissection of the effects of consumer life on both north and south. It does so in an unadorned, elegiac style, moving between times, places and people in beautiful counterpoint. But it is also a gripping detective story, and features medical reportage of the highest order.

In 1962 at the age of ten, Victoria is diagnosed with tuberculosis and must leave her home in the Arctic for a sanatorium in The Pas, Manitoba. Six years will pass before she returns to the north, years she spends learning English and Cree and becoming accustomed to life in the south. When she does move home, the sudden change in lifestyle leads sixteen-year-old Victoria to feel like a stranger in her own family. At the same time, Inuit culture is undergoing some equally bewildering changes: Cheetos are being eaten alongside walrus meat, and dog teams are slowly being replaced by snowmobiles.

Victoria eventually settles back into the community and marries John Robertson, a Hudson's Bay store manager, and they raise three children together. Although their marriage is initially close, Robertson will always be Kablunauk , a southerner, and this becomes a point of contention between them. When Robertson becomes involved in arrangements to open a diamond mine in Rankin Inlet, the family's financial condition improves, but their emotional life becomes ever more fraught: their son, Pauloosie, draws ever closer to his hunter grandfather as their daughters, Marie and Justine, develop a taste for Guns N' Roses. Several other richly imagined characters deepen Patterson's unsentimental portrait of both north and south. They include Dr. Keith Balthazar, a flailing doctor from New York whose despairing affection for Victoria leads to tragedy, and Victoria's brother, Tagak, who finds that the diamond mine allows him a success and maturity he could never attain within his traditional culture.

The novel deftly tracks the meaning of "consumption" in both north and south. Consumption is tuberculosis, an illness previously unknown among the Inuit that wrenches Victoria from her home as a child, changing her family relationships, her outlook on the world and her entire future. As such consumption is a harbinger of the diseases of affluence, such as diabetes and heart disease that come to afflict the Inuit over the four-decade span of the novel. Consumption also defines the culture of post-industrial, urban North America, captured here through Keith Balthazar's troubled relatives in New Jersey. And when the diamond mine opens in Rankin Inlet, its consumption of northern natural resources seems to symbolize Canada's relationship with the Arctic and southern encroachments on the Inuit way of life.

Consumption is a sweeping novel, of the kind one rarely encounters today: it is an essential book for Canadians to linger over, learn from, and remember.
Publisher: New York : Nan A. Talese, c2007
ISBN: 9780307375827
Branch Call Number: Online eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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Jan 31, 2015

Truly loved this book. Very in-depth characters, great and unusual plot -- outstanding setting. I learned a lot, which I like, but the writing didn't make it seem "preachy" or even "teachy"

May 22, 2012

Consumption is not what I expected, but pleasantly surprised in reading it.

Get to know Victoria and her family, as they are, living in the harsh Arctic in 1950s being self-sufficient on the land (ice) with their nomadic tendencies. With contact of the "Southerners", they learn that Victoria is ill and must go South to a sanatorium in order to recover. During her stay there, she finally recovers, but heartbreak follows her.

Years later she is sent back to her village, to parents, who thought she was dead and where home isn't home anymore. She is constant struggle between her 'old' world and her 'new' self. The old way of things vs. modern technology and devices from the "Southerners" that is influencing their community and dividing its members with affluence.

Get to know the other characters of Rankin Inlet and beyond to show similiarities in culture clash and challenges of living to where we will all be consumed in one manner or another. But, also of the opportunity of reconnecting to each other

jaelle May 07, 2012

I don't know why this book was on my reading list, perhaps because it was a Butler Book Prize award winner.
But I enjoyed it very much, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about our Northern First Nations People.
I found it sad and enlightening at the same time.

brianreynolds Feb 18, 2012

Kevin Patterson's Consumption is rich in information about the Arctic, the Inuit, the transition that contact has forced upon them especially in last half century, the medical problems facing not only people of the north but humankind over the past several centuries. For those people who read fiction for information about new places and people, this should wash. I enjoyed the book on that level as well. For anyone looking for a good novel, there is lots that a reader has to forgive beginning with multiple points of view all peering out of the same rather colourless minimalist glasses. At the start we are led to believe that the central character is an Inuit woman who, though medical circumstances, loses her culture and tries to find some reasonable accommodation in a rapidly changing north. That story gets hijacked by a equally engrossing tale of capitalism versus democracy or history or foolish pride. Which in turn becomes a story of murder and of men and women surviving against an unforgiving nature. In the end we discover the real story might be the guilt trip of a kindly, narcotic thief, doctor who is finally able to put everything into (his own) perspective. What cobbles it all together, however, is a fascinating collection of facts, argument, and theory, none of it fiction.

Oct 12, 2011

Simply the best Canadian novel I have read in 45 years of reading. Every reader I know has received this novel for birthdays the last few years. 1 complaint: there are 2 editions & the contents are juggled in The Other edition - the one with this cover is the good one. Excellent work by an unappreciated writer.

Mar 25, 2011

Lives on Salt Spring Island, was a medic in Afghanistan. Spoke on NPR 3/25 of different stages of development and the health problems that become prevalent.

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