All the Quiet Places

Written by Brian Thomas Isaac
Review by Jon G. Bradley

“Eddie found what he was looking for: the hollow tree he’d often crawled inside when he was little.” The reader is brought full circle in Eddie’s life journey. Complicated by family dysfunction along with location and society, Eddie searches for personal meaning at a time when greater possibilities for Aboriginal people were severely limited.

A raucous childhood frames Eddie Toma’s formative adolescent and teenage years on the Okanagan Indian Reservation in the interior of British Columbia. Constantly dealing with the vicissitudes of life on a poverty-stricken Reserve, including the impact of the lack of electricity, Eddie’s reality is further complicated by an absentee father and a demanding mother, along with unexpected tragedies.

In many ways, Eddie is like the salmon swimming upriver; that is, no matter the determination he employs to right both family and situational wrongs, he seems to make little progress. He is not protected from life’s unpleasantness and, even at a young age, experiences death, want, and family separations. He is constantly torn between his own needs and wants and those of the two conflicting societies in which he is immersed. A burning question for Eddie concerns his own cultural history and how he might interact with a wider community that appears at times to be most antagonistic.

First-time novelist Isaac has penned a powerfully emotional novel that captures the realities of life on a Reserve at mid-20th-century. The weight of personal growth weighs heavily as Eddie confronts forces far beyond his control: at what point does he cease seeking change and simply acquiesce? Realistically, the denouement offers possibilities but no clear resolution—such is life!