________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 25. . . .March 4, 2016


Size of a Fist. (New Leaf Series).

Tara Gereaux.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 2015.
62 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-77187-059-7.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Charlotte Duggan.

*** /4



A nearly empty bottle of rye, smeared glasses and an overflowing ashtray litter the coffee table. Her mom’s oversized T-shirt, used as pyjamas, is draped over the arm of the couch. Julia must’ve slept there, must’ve been waiting up. It’s a relief her mom’s at work now.

“Where the hell’ve you been?” Craig storms down the hall from her bedroom.

Addy’s shocked to see him. “Nowhere.”

“Hardly. Your mom said you didn’t come home last night. And I covered your ass, said you were crashed at my place from partying so hard. Told her I was here to start packing up.”



“I just wandered around. Couldn’t sleep.”

Craig looks like he doesn’t believe her. “Let’s go then.”

But Addy doesn’t move.

“What’s wrong now?”


Tara Gereaux’s Size of a Fist is one of Thistledown Press’ “New Leaf Series” which publishes first books by new writers. Like all the titles in this series Size of a Fist is short, under 65 pages. But Gereaux manages to pack quite a lot into this tense, gritty mature-teen story.

     Addy and her boyfriend Craig, have finally saved enough money to leave their miserable small town and move to the city where, Addy says hopefully to Craig, “Everything’s going to be different.” This proves to be prophetic and ironic.

     The night before they are to leave, the young couple unwisely attend a final party. In a reckless and drunken state, Addy causes a car accident that injures a 14-year-old boy named Jonas. Addy is distraught about what she has done and confused about what she should do. Craig advocates leaving town and all their problems behind, but Addy feels she cannot leave until she knows Jonas is okay.

     Something about this accident has stirred uncertainty in Addy. She uses her concern about Jonas to postpone leaving, but readers see that it provides a convenient opportunity for her to reconsider her future with Craig. But staying is also a problem as Addy’s mother makes clear when she learns of the delay in their plans: “I finally start to get my life back – my life – and you go out to some stupid little party and fuck it up.”

     Meanwhile Addy is drawn to Jonas. After Jonas is released from hospital, Addy discovers that he is being abused by his alcoholic father. She feels compelled to help and tells Craig that they must take Jonas with them to the city. The plot moves swiftly towards a somewhat bizarre climax including an evening of drinking, group sex, a violent confrontation between Addy and Craig, and a tragic accidental death.

     In a very short space, Gereaux has managed to create a complex and nuanced character in Addy. Readers see her cope with an erratic home life, use sex to manipulate and soothe her boyfriend, and her engage with and try to help the troubled Jonas. Gereaux provides less information to help readers understand the immature and reactive Craig, who, like so many others in this novel, struggles with anger.

     However Gereaux excels at creating character through dialogue. The scene below for example, provides a lot of insight into the dynamics of Addy and Craig’s relationship:

… “I’m not going.”

Addy slides across the front seat and unbuttons his jeans. Unzips them.

He huffs but doesn’t stop her.

“Let’s go there,” she says.


“Please?” Her hand slips into his underwear.


She leans over between his legs.

He moans.

She lifts her head. “Come with me?”

“Addy…” his voice wavers.

She starts to shift away from him.

“Okay, okay, I’ll go.”

     It is hard to know what the takeaway is for the target audience. Some readers may gain insight into the complexity of child abuse or the consequences and difficulties of single-parenting. But there is simply not enough time to provide the context and depth these issues require. Certainly the gritty realism and dramatic plot will be highly appealing. But the lack of positive characters and relationships and the hopelessness of the conclusion make this a very depressing read.


Charlotte Duggan is a teacher librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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