The Town That Drowned by Riel Nason: Review

After Melwyk from The Indextrious Reader reviewed The Town That Drowned, I grabbed it as soon as I saw it at the library. It has to be one of my favorite books from 2011.

Ruby lives in a small town in New Brunswick near the Saint John River with her parents and her little brother Percy. She's not looking forward to starting the new school year. Her cousin and best friend moved over the summer. In fact, she was her only friend and the one person saving her from relentless bullying. Ruby is known as the girl with the weird brother and after an incident where she fell through ice last winter, she has a reputation for strangeness herself now too.

You would think crashing into freezing water would gain sympathy, not scorn, but something else happened when Ruby fell through the ice. She had a vision of her town underwater while people she knew floated by. She called out to those people when she was half unconscious. Now she gets picked on because of it.

It seems that some of Ruby's vision is coming true when government surveyors come to town. A new dam will raise the river around the town and engulf much of it. This news rocks the townspeople. What will happen to them all? Where will they go?

Although Ruby's story is fictional, it's based on real events. In the 1960's, people's homes were moved for a dam to be built in New Brunswick. The Town That Drowned realistically portrays a town dealing with this upheaval and the emotions they bring out. The townspeople are afraid, angry, defiant, suspicious, and even resigned. Ruby's father works in an unrelated department of the government and when a couple of trouble makers start gossiping, Ruby's family become pariahs. 

It's not all doom and gloom though. They still have their loyal friends, like neighbours Miss Stairs and Mr Cole. Over the two years that the dam is being built, changes come into Ruby's life. Her family make their own preparations and worry over Percy's reaction. His eccentricities include an aversion to change. With everyone moving, an antiques dealer and his son Troy come to make a few deals. Troy steals Ruby's heart. 

The Town That Drowned is Riel Nason's debut novel and she did a fantastic job finding a voice for Ruby. I loved this clever teen. I'm reluctant to let her and her family go. Ruby's dad reminds me a bit of Atticus Finch. He's a good man. The Town That Drowned is a quiet little novel, a coming of age story. There are triumphs and tragedies. I had such an emotional reaction to the events that happen to the characters. They were so real to me. And the ending is so hopeful and uplifting. 

Highly recommended. Thanks Mel for bringing it to my attention.

PS- I love the cover. The image comes from this Flickr set. It's so appropriate. 


  1. I enjoyed your review. This was our last book club read and we were fortunate enough to have Riel join us. (She is friends with one of the members.) I too liked the story...and I loved Percy. Every time he opened his mouth he made me laugh.
    The Ludic reader

  2. Wow, I love it when an author writes a story around a little known event like that. This book sounds fabulous, but the cover is a little creepy.

  3. Wow, that sounds amazing. I have never heard of this author, but I am going to check this out! Happy New Year!

  4. I've not heard of this one at all and it sounds quite intriguing. I'll put it on TBR list so I don't forget!

    Have a wonderful and safe New Year, and I look forward to another blogging year in 2012 :)

  5. What a great review! So glad to know I was able to share a title that you enjoyed :)

    You've highlighted so many of the things I loved about this book, as well. And I agree, the cover was inspired -- so suitable.


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