________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 33 . . . . April 27, 2018


Watching Traffic.

Jane Ozkowski.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2016.
190 pp., hardcover, html & mobi, $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-843-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-845-7 (html), ISBN 978-1-55498-846-4 (mobi).

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Sarah Wethered.

*** /4



In my room, I take the box of teeth out of my bag, but I don't open it. Every year at Christmas and on my birthday my dad's side of the family in Alberta sends me candles or purple scarves or body lotion with sparkles in it, and I always end up giving everything away, usually to Melissa's cousin Darlene who likes that kind of thing.

It's just that my grandma in Cavanaugh always seems so excited when she gives me something. I've still got the set of cutlery she told me the queen of England used to use.

According to my grandma, the queen was an old friend of my grandfather's family. Her Majesty used to fly over for brunch sometimes, and they had a set of forks and knives especially for her. My grandfather inherited the cutlery, and my grandma passed it along to me.

Of course, there's no way any of that could be true. My grandfather's father was a failed minister in a town so small it doesn't even exist anymore, and I think his father was a farmer, but at least the story is good.

Watching Traffic takes place in the small town of Cavanaugh the summer that Emily has graduated from high school. Emily has no idea what to do with her life, but she knows she wants to stop being known as "Suicide Girl", a name she was given because she was found at the age of three in a hotel room with her mother who had committed suicide. Emily's friend Lincoln is preparing to go travelling around Australia, and her best friend Melissa is packing up to move to Halifax to go to university. Emily is grappling with either staying at her job making sandwiches for Pamela's Country Kitchen or going to college in Toronto. Emily's world is about to change drastically, and she must decide what she wants to do. Emily is trying to break away from her past and move forward with her life. She begins to meet new people, namely Tyler, who help her begin thinking about what to do with her life now that high school is over.

      Readers of Watching Traffic are taken to a time in a young adult's life when they must decide what they want to do with their life. Emily begins to think about moving away from the town where everyone knows about her mother's suicide. Emily also seems to become closer both to her father and her grandmother who helped raise her after her mother's suicide. Readers will get swept up in this short novel about that magical summer where the possibilities in life are endless.

      I recommend Watching Traffic to readers who enjoy quiet, contemplative fiction. The novel has strong, well-developed female characters, including a lesbian character, with whom female readers may identify. Fans of Miriam Toews may also enjoy this novel as Jane Ozkowski's style is reminiscent of Toews' work.


Sarah Wethered has been a teacher-librarian at New Westminster Secondary School for 18 years, and she currently lives in New Westminster, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, contact cm@umanitoba.ca.

© CM Association

Hosted by:
University of Manitoba ISSN 1201-9364

This Creative Commons license allows you to download the review and share it with others as long as you credit the CM Association. You cannot change the review in any way or use it commercially.

Commercial use is available through a contract with the CM Association. This Creative Commons license allows publishers whose works are being reviewed to download and share said CM reviews provided you credit the CM Association.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - April 27, 2018.

CM Home | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive