All the Quiet Places is the story of Eddie Toma, a very likeable but conflicted young man. He, his mother Grace and his younger brother Lewis live on the edge of a reservation in the Okanagan Valley in the late 50s/early 60s. His grandmother and Uncle Alphonse live close by. Grace has chosen to place themselves as far as possible from the centre of reservation life because she doesn’t want her children to be exposed to all the problems that come with it. By living on the edge of the reservation, they have no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. Their house is a drafty shack, with an old wood stove for heat.
Grace also wants Eddie, who is approaching Grade One age, to go to a town school, and not a reservation school, like her brother Alphonse, an experience that left him emotionally scarred. She wants him ready for the ‘real world’ now, not when he is older.
The title and the cover art depict a large hollowed-out tree stump where Eddie likes to go to be alone. It is a quiet, secret place that no one else knows about. It is large enough, that as a young boy he can lie on his back inside and look up at the sky framed by the stump’s opening.
Eddie’s life is anything but quiet and idyll. There are chores to be done for his mother and grandmother. In addition, he is tasked with taking care of Lewis, who is constantly tagging along, much to Eddie’s annoyance. School presents a challenge as there are few Indigenous children there and Eddie is looked at askance by the white children. A kindly caucasian neighbour, Eva Cluff, who is two years older than Eddie assists him in getting situated and finding his way around. A school bully, Rodney Bell, has Eddie in his sights all through school and is the books’ main antagonist.
I shy away from using describing All the Quiet Places as a coming-of-age story, mainly because I dislike the term. One can come of age at any age, can they not? Some may call them the ‘wonder years’ but in Eddie’s world, there is little wonder about it all. It’s pretty bleak, and due to Eddie’s likeability, I found myself rooting for him whenever a challenge came along. Is he going to speak up when someone denigrates “Indians”? Is he ever going to get a break?
All the Quiet Places may (or may not be) a good snapshot of life on the reservation back in the day. I assume details are taken from the author’s own experience growing up in those years. There are gaps in the story and the dramatic climax was more or less foreseen, but the story was written in such a way that it certainly held my interest. As for any commentary on Indigenous matters, it falls short, but I get the feeling that this wasn’t the author’s purpose in writing Eddie’s story. In short, a fine debut novel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Thomas Isaac was born in 1950 on the Okanagan Indian Reserve, situated in south-central British Columbia. He and his wife have one son and three grandchildren. All the Quiet Places is Brian’s first book.
- Publisher : Brindle & Glass, an imprint of Touchwood Editions. (Oct. 12 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1990071023
- ISBN-13 : 978-1990071027