In a 1950s mining town in Nova Scotia, a boy and his family live in a house overlooking the water. As cheerful days of sunny shoreline ambling are vividly chronicled, Smith intermittently yanks the reader down into the blackness of the coal miner's subterranean realm, where the boy's father pushes his way forward through a claustrophobic tunnel.
Echoing a longstanding mining tradition, it seems likely that the boy will eventually follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather: "One day, it will be my turn," he says matter-of-factly. Coal is frequently in the headlines these days, and this book puts a human face on the centuries-old practice of coal mining. More abstractly, Town Is by the Sea is a powerful and profound work of art that tweaks our perspective and transcends its subject. --Karin Snelson, freelance writer and editor