The Western Alienation Merit Badge

“….a moving portrait of fathers and daughters, sisters, friendship and the mistakes we all make along the way.” — Toronto Star
Western Alienation Cover

This novel begins billions of years ago: “After the inland sea dried up and its beaches turned to sandstone and the plant life turned to coal and gas…” But by the end of the sentence, we’ve arrived in the 1970s Alberta, a small girl emerging from the bushes with her cap-gun loaded, a copy of The Guide Handbook tucked into her waistband. The Western Alienation Merit Badge is a pleasure to read, and in terms of craft—and also book design—is truly a stand-out. 

Set in Calgary in 1982, during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada’s National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother, Frances “Frankie” Murray returns to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and her sister, Bernadette, pay the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long-lost friend, becomes their house guest old tensions are reignited and Jimmy, Bernadette and Frances find themselves increasingly alienated from one another.

Part family drama, part queer coming-of-age story, The Western Alienation Merit Badge explores the complex dynamics of a small family falling apart.

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