________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007


Soames on the Range.

Nancy Belgue.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2007.
203 pp., pbk., $14.99.           
ISBN 978-00-0-200768-9. 

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Brianne Grant.

**½ /4


It was a family meeting with a real twist. My mother sat on the edge of her seat, legs crossed, flipping her foot up and down. My sisters, India and Paris, 10-year-old twins, slouched in a love seat by the window, like bookends with bad posture. My father stood at the centre of the room, hands on hips, looking uncharacteristically bleary eyed and unshaven. Have I mentioned we never have family meetings at my house? We are not, I should add, the most normal family you’ve ever met. Family meetings are just way too Disney for us. Usually we communicate by shouting. My name, for the record, is San Francisco Soames. Named after the city. Paris is named after a city too. India got an entire country. These are the places my parents travelled to when they were young and in love. Which they aren’t anymore. Which brings me back to the family meeting. 

A family meeting drastically alters Cisco’s life, and he must learn to cope with the changes in his family in Soames on the Range, by Nancy Belgue. Cisco’s father, Rocky, explains that he is gay and will be moving in with his boyfriend, Ralph. This fact stirs up trouble at school and in the small community of Lovell for Cisco, and he is sent to live with ‘Uncle Party’ in Nelson, BC. Through sarcastic and self-deprecating humour, Cisco struggles to cope with the changes this presents in his life. Although it is a changing family paradigm that sparks the novel to life, it is truly a coming-of-age story that explores adolescent sexuality and identity. Having a gay father in small town America does not bode well for Cisco. He is attacked by school bullies and even by a parent. As the attacks from the bullies spill into the small confines of the town, a terrible incident happens in which Cisco is accused of putting an old man into a coma. Because of these compounding incidents, Cisco is sent to live in Nelson for the remainder of the school year. Plentiful dialogue and the sarcastic first person perspective of Cisco keep the pace moving quickly, and give stability to the rapidly changing storyline.

     Belgue’s story is entertaining, and yet many of the characters are static and stereotyped. Rocky is a gay guidance councillor. Karen, Cisco’s friend, is a butchy lesbian. Delta, Cisco’s mother, is a burnt out hippie. India and Paris are mischievous twins. Uncle Party or Vincent is a draft dodging hippie living in a cabin in Nelson. Lara, Cisco’s love interest, is a rebellious teenager angry at her divorced parents. These characters create fodder for the humour of Cisco’s predicament and his sarcastic remarks but undergo few changes throughout the novel. Cisco, himself, does not change much as a character and remains highly egocentric throughout the novel, and this was an element of Soames with which I  grappled although I enjoyed most of the humour that came from the particular cast of characters that Belgue has created.

     Soames on the Range is a book that I enjoyed, and yet it is one from which I expected much more. I had hoped that this story about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, would break free from stereotypes at least in some small way. Soames on the Range lacked a fresh outlook; however, the humour of Cisco and his predicament is entertaining at a basic level.   


Brianne Grant is a student in the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia, and she is also the Executive Councillor-West for IBBY Canada.         

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