The Western Alienation Merit Badge
DescriptionSet in Calgary in 1982, in the wake of the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada's 1980 National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge tells the story of the Murray family who are struggling with grief and the very real possibility of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother Frances Murray is called back to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and sister, Bernadette, make the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long lost friend, becomes their house guest tensions are ignited and Jimmy, Bernadette and Frances find themselves increasingly estranged from one another. For the Murrays, history has a way of repeating itself and as each of them wrestles with their own secrets they find themselves unable to forget and unwilling to forgive one another. Part family drama, part queer coming-of-age story, The Western Alienation Merit Badge explores the dynamics of a small family falling apart.
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About the Author
"At first blush, this is a quirky, queer coming-of-age novel. In her stripped-down, everyday prose, Cullen details the small hurts and moments of silence that break Frankie's heart when she refuses to hide her sexuality from her conservative family.... The Western Alienation Merit Badge is a moving portrait of fathers and daughters, sisters, friendship and the mistakes we all make along the way." - Dene Moore, Toronto Star
"The Western Alienation Merit Badge was a pleasure to read, and in terms of craft is remarkable for two particular features. The first is for its points of view, which move between characters providing vastly different perspectives on the same situation, and while the few times this happened mid-chapter it was a bit jarring, the result of this approach is a complex and multi-layered narrative that is really effective in particular because of how Cullen avoids cliches and sentimentality in creating her characters and their dynamic." - Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This