The Hamilton Spectator

Newspaper novel scarily prescient


When Millicent applies to a reporter job at the daily newspaper in Whitehorse, she’s looking for direction in her post-college life, and that direction may as well be North. She’s not the first and she won’t be the last — as her new boss Franc points out, “you young kids come up here to add a notch to your belt” all the time. He predicts she’ll “last about three months before running down home.” But as daylight dwindles and the river freezes over, she finds herself stuck, and more lost than ever.

“Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit,” the first novel from PEN Canada New Voices Award winner Nadine SanderGree­n, follows shy yet driven Millicent through the painful education in life that so often follows an academic one. Millicent feels totally unqualifie­d to make the leap from writing poems to writing political coverage due to the printers at noon every day. And this might be the most important election the Yukon has seen: between the incumbent premier and the territory’s first-ever Indigenous candidate. The paper isn’t doing well, and at first, neither is Millicent. She’s like one of the baby bunnies on her campus quad, in need of holding. Her first article has to be rewritten by a senior reporter. But she’s determined to prove herself, so when the paper is short on pages one day, she sets out to profile a mysterious filmmaker who lives in a converted school bus in the Walmart parking lot. As it turns out, he’s flattered; he loves the sound of his voice.

As Millicent navigates these new landscapes — snowy, profession­al, political, and romantic — SanderGree­n shows that a quiet novel doesn’t have to be a simple one. At the start of “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit,” the prose has a lovely naiveté. The obviousnes­s of some metaphors (the wind “like a blade slicing into her lungs”) makes Millicent’s youth and inexperien­ce palpable.

Then, she is drawn into the orbit of the filmmaker, Pascal, who is much older, who says a producer wants to make a show about his life. The force of his personalit­y makes the unbelievab­le believable. He says he’s in love with her. The language becomes less obvious, less certain, and more sensitive to the real nuances of emotion.

Sander-Green’s Whitehorse is full of mines: the young Southerner­s who come North mining for new experience­s, the older artists who take love, care, inspiratio­n, sex, and energy from younger ones and give nothing back. This is the mechanism of extraction, of dispossess­ion, of settlement. There must always be more, new bodies.

The parallel is an uneasy one — too often, the northern lands and their Indigenous Peoples have been reduced to metaphor in service of Canadian narratives, which is a kind of exploitati­on in itself. Turning people into stories, land into gold, women into rabbits. But Sander-Green has not written us a fantasy or a parable. Millicent and her coworkers believe in the power of the news, but even that faith is troubled, in the novel and in real life. On April 5, the Whitehorse Star announced it is shuttering after 124 years. As Millicent’s boss says, a paper can’t, and won’t, write itself. This is a dark time for journalism. History happens, whether the printers run or not.

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 ?? ?? Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Nadine Sander-Green House of Anansi 320 pages $23.99
Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Nadine Sander-Green House of Anansi 320 pages $23.99

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