As mentioned previously here, I have started a new feature in which I choose a book from the “New Books” shelves at my local library, a book that I have not heard about but peaks my interest somehow. The third edition of this feature brings a book that puts me closer to finishing my Canadian Reading Challenge, as it is written by a Canadian author AND takes place in Ontario.
Grease Town takes place in 1863, in Oil Springs, Ontario, a place to which a fair amount of American slaves escaped, but were not welcomed by all. The novel is told from the POV of twelve-year-old Titus, who befriends a young African-American boy. The new friends start a business carting around non-locals that want to see what exactly happens in the oil boomtown. Meanwhile, white men looking for jobs are unhappy that escapees from America are working the same jobs for lower wages and a race riot begins.
Throughout the novel, I loved Titus’ voice and character. He is frustrated trying to be as manly and strong as his older brother, and works hard to prove himself. The resolution to this conflict takes a little long to play out, in my opinion.
I did enjoy the family aspect of Titus living with his uncle after having “escaped” from his aunt, and being allowed to stay there because of his uncle’s change in character. Aside from his uncle, the characters were a little flat. Actually, after the boys’ first few days in Oil Springs, the secondary characters get a little muddied and awkward.
The most frustrating part of the novel was the end section. What happens to Titus after he witnesses a bad situation is so out-of-the-blue, I was lost for the rest of the novel. Therefore, the ending itself didn’t work for me as it was dependent on the prior events. I apologize that I can’t explain more, but I can’t without revealing spoilers.
As I have stated before, I do enjoy historical fiction and don’t regret picking out this book, but it was unfortunately not one of my favorites.
by Ann Towell
Published by Tundra Books