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The Garneau Block

de Todd Babiak

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755291,223 (3.26)17
A local phenomenon goes national! This sparkling novel has the warmth and wide appeal of Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe and the wit of Will Ferguson. What Alexander McCall Smith did with 44 Scotland Street, Todd Babiak does with The Garneau Block. This addictive and charming, laugh-out-loud funny novel enchanted readers when it was serialized in the Edmonton Journal in the fall of 2005 -- and now, The Garneau Block makes its national debut. The Garneau Block follows the knowable citizens of the adored and hated city of Edmonton, capturing what we connect to in local stories and what is universal about modern life. Here, in what can only be described as a storytelling tour-de-force, we meet the warm, endearing, and delightfully flawed residents of a fictional cul-de-sac in the city's Garneau neighbourhood just after the scandalous death of a neighbour and the sudden news that their land is about to be repossessed by the university. When mysterious signs begin to appear duct-taped to trees saying only LET'S FIX IT, the block -- including a sacked university professor, a once-ambitious, knocked-up haiku expert living in her parents' basement, an aging actor whose dreams are slipping away, and a quiet but polite stranger -- is galvanized to band together in a wild attempt to save their homes. And when regular people put their dreams in motion, anything can happen -- namely, political machinations, personal revelations, a public uproar, and unforeseen love. From a young author whose name will soon be on everyone's lips come the most lovable Canadian characters since Dave and Morley, and a page-turning-good story. Readers nationwide won't be able to get enough of The Garneau Block. For the next while, David talked about the merits of joining the PC party. Why fight it, really? No political organization is perfect, of course, but by giving your support to the Liberals or the New Democrats, what are you doing? Further dooming the City of Edmonton. Further empowering Calgary and the rural caucus. "Nonsense, David," said Abby. "That's the sort of talk that leads to tyranny, and we've had plenty enough of it in this province." "Tyranny she says! Tyranny!" David took a few steps in Tammy's direction, so they formed a political triangle. "No wonder the left is so flabby." -From The Garneau Block… (més)
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Es mostren totes 5
The small group of people who live on the Garneau Block are still reeling from the recent drama that happened on their street when mysterious posters declaring LET'S FIX IT appear on trees all around the street. While everyone from the underemployed and newly pregnant Madison who still lives in her parents' basement to Jonas, the aging gay local theatre actor, to philosophy professor, Raymond, attempt to figure out what the posters could possibly mean, another blow no one expects comes from out of the blue. The University of Alberta is reclaiming the land their houses are on and the Garneau Block is about to disappear.

Babiak's novel about a small group of people who share only the commonality of living on the same street is a delightful read from start to finish. With a cast of slightly more than half a dozen main characters, everyone is fleshed out and feels like real people who could legitimately exist. Some I loved and some I abhorred but never did any of them feel like caricatures or unbelievable. What I relished most about this novel, however, was how Edmonton permeates almost every page of this book. I often found myself wondering how someone who has never lived in the city would find the reading experience, as I relished every reference to landmarks and places that are so familiar to me. A funny and charming read that I recommend to anyone who enjoys a little bit of community melodrama. ( )
  MickyFine | Feb 17, 2015 |
I loved the concept of this book but somewhere in the last one-third I started losing interest in it. I found out that Babiak wrote this as a serial for the Edmonton Journal newspaper. I suspect that somewhere about the time I was having difficulty with reading it that Babiak was having difficulty writing but with a deadline loomin he had to pump something out. Maybe I'm wrong but something changed for me. Initially I thought I would be giving this book a rave review. Instead it's a good but not great review.

The Garneau Block is a small street in Edmonton near the university campus. One of the houses is vacant as a result of a man being shot dead by the police when he threatened his wife and child with a gun. One morning the residents find signs saying "Let's Fix It:" with a date and time for a meeting in a downtown office building. They are somewhat interested in the idea but each one also has their own problems to deal with. There's the English lit graduate who works in a travel agency and lives in her parents' basement who is now pregnant after a one-night stand with someone from Quebec whose name she is not sure of. There's the philosophy professor who is married to a lovely woman but who lusts after prostitutes and his massage therapist and his female grad students. There's the aging gay actor who is a minor celebrity in Edmonton but barely makes enough to scrape by and who has no permanent love interest. The parents of the English lit graduate are political opposites with the father being a PC riding chair and the mother taking part in protests for ecological groups and attending women's rights meetings. Finally there's the mysterious Indian man who lives alone and is always seen dressed in a suit and tie. Turns out he is the one who put up the notices as he knows that the university is looking to expropriate the whole block. He is very rich and he spends his time funding artistic endeavours. Can his money and the others' ideas save the block? There is not a lot of time and everyone has a slightly different idea of how to attack this. The professor is really hot to include buffalo somehow. Maybe it's just quirky enough to work.

If you have ever spent any time in Edmonton you will appreciate the setting and the tiny details that appear on every page. ( )
  gypsysmom | May 16, 2013 |
"The Garneau Block" was orignally created as a running series of installments that appeared in the "Edmonton Journal" newspaper. The plots deals with an assortment of middle-class Edmontonians as they fight to save their neighborhood from redevelopment as part of the local university's expansion project. They also go through a variety of personal experiences, in ways that clearly demonstrate their essential goodness and "Canadian-ness."

I don't know if this whole "serialization in the local newspaper" idea is such a great idea. It seems to lend itself to shallow characterization and a smug local boosterism. Prior to "Garneau", I've read several of the comparable Alexander McCall Smith "Edinburgh" novels, and generally liked them better, if only because Edinburgh is a more interesting city than Edmonton. ( )
  yooperprof | Oct 9, 2011 |
The residents of an Edmonton cul-de-sac join together in an effort to save their neighbourhood. I loved all of the characters, even the ones I didn't like, and I really enjoyed this book. Full review: http://www.canadianauthors.net/b/babiak_todd/garneau_block_the.php ( )
  ripleyy | Dec 1, 2009 |
it's a total literary soap opera. (which makes sense, as the bound version of a serial novel) I loved it for its familiarity - being from Edmonton and all - and for the style and wit with which it is written.
  fallentree | Jul 25, 2007 |
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A local phenomenon goes national! This sparkling novel has the warmth and wide appeal of Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe and the wit of Will Ferguson. What Alexander McCall Smith did with 44 Scotland Street, Todd Babiak does with The Garneau Block. This addictive and charming, laugh-out-loud funny novel enchanted readers when it was serialized in the Edmonton Journal in the fall of 2005 -- and now, The Garneau Block makes its national debut. The Garneau Block follows the knowable citizens of the adored and hated city of Edmonton, capturing what we connect to in local stories and what is universal about modern life. Here, in what can only be described as a storytelling tour-de-force, we meet the warm, endearing, and delightfully flawed residents of a fictional cul-de-sac in the city's Garneau neighbourhood just after the scandalous death of a neighbour and the sudden news that their land is about to be repossessed by the university. When mysterious signs begin to appear duct-taped to trees saying only LET'S FIX IT, the block -- including a sacked university professor, a once-ambitious, knocked-up haiku expert living in her parents' basement, an aging actor whose dreams are slipping away, and a quiet but polite stranger -- is galvanized to band together in a wild attempt to save their homes. And when regular people put their dreams in motion, anything can happen -- namely, political machinations, personal revelations, a public uproar, and unforeseen love. From a young author whose name will soon be on everyone's lips come the most lovable Canadian characters since Dave and Morley, and a page-turning-good story. Readers nationwide won't be able to get enough of The Garneau Block. For the next while, David talked about the merits of joining the PC party. Why fight it, really? No political organization is perfect, of course, but by giving your support to the Liberals or the New Democrats, what are you doing? Further dooming the City of Edmonton. Further empowering Calgary and the rural caucus. "Nonsense, David," said Abby. "That's the sort of talk that leads to tyranny, and we've had plenty enough of it in this province." "Tyranny she says! Tyranny!" David took a few steps in Tammy's direction, so they formed a political triangle. "No wonder the left is so flabby." -From The Garneau Block

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