Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands

In Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands, Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant) draws on her experiences working in the oil fields of Alberta, Canada to create an impassioned, astonishing memoir.

In 2005, Beaton was 21, a university graduate with an arts degree. Beloved, beautiful Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is home but lacks employment opportunities. Beaton, to pay off "debilitating student debt," follows the work west into harsh, isolating territory. She moves from site to site--each seemingly more remote. Plenty of her coworkers share geographical origins (East Coast) and economic goals ("the good money, the better life"). Her revelations about people, relationships and her own self prove both wrenching and reassuring.

In immersive black, white, gray and blue-tinted panels, Beaton bears powerful witness to desperate adversity and redeeming goodness with sharp candor and unexpected humor. Her panels are strikingly emotive: furrowed eyebrows demanding attention, an undecorated artificial Christmas tree on its side, clenched fingers during a difficult conversation. Beaton regularly inserts zoomed-out landscapes underscoring the devastating cost of such lucrative opportunities beyond the human toll. A mesmerizing story that readers will want to devour in a single sitting. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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