by Shelley Thompson
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Pub Date 31 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 19 Sep 2023
Nimbus Publishing, Vagrant Press
The MacInnes family is grieving. The loss of Miranda has devastated her husband, John Andrew, her eldest daughter, Tammy, and her youngest child, Dawn. Not Donnie anymore but Dawn, like sunrise, who transitioned while her mother received cancer treatment—without the rest of the family knowing. Now, when Dawn leaves Halifax for rural Nova Scotia to attend her mother’s funeral, she knows she'll be meeting her sister and father for the first time as herself.
With Dawn’s revelation, John Andrew and Tammy find themselves grieving for the son and brother they once knew, while Tammy’s fiancé, Byron, becomes an unexpected ally. Between the complicated reaction from her family, unwanted attention from local bigots, and whispers from curious neighbours, Dawn wonders if she can ever really come home.
A work of fierce allyship, of enduring love, and of gentle hope, ROAR follows a family through grief and estrangement as they become catalysts for change in their rural community. Told from multiple points of view, with confidence and tenderness, actor and screenwriter Shelley Thompson’s debut novel is profoundly authentic, drawing on her own experience as the mother of a trans child and an activist for the trans community.
Shelley Thompson is an actor, screenwriter, and activist based in Wolfville, in Mi’kma’ki (NS). She trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Canadian Film Centre, Women in the Directors’ Chair, the New York Writers' Lab, and the Whistler Producer’s Lab. As an actor she has received and been nominated for Gemini and ACTRA awards for her work in film and television, including The Trailer Park Boys and feature films Splinters, and The Child Remains, among others. Her short films have screened internationally and the most recent, Duck Duck Goose, won Best Atlantic Short at FIN Halifax, was selected by Telefilm Canada's Not Short on Talent at Clermont-Ferrand, and was a finalist in CBC's Short Film Faceoff. Her first feature film, Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor, premiered at INSIDE OUT International Film Festival in Toronto in May 2021, then at Halifax’s FIN International Film Festival in September 2021. It has since screened in Whistler, BC, Amsterdam's Roze Filmdagen, the BFI Flare Film Festival in London, UK, as well as across the US and in Germany. Among many prizes and awards, the film recently won the 2022 Nova Scotia MasterWorks Award. Thompson is working on a full slate of projects for TV and cinema under the banner of her emerging production company, Rusty Tractor Productions Inc. A committed LGBTQ+2SP ally, Thompson is proud parent to singer/songwriter T. Thomason. ROAR is her first novel.
“Wow. Wow. Wow. I want to roar, READ THIS BOOK.
I do not have enough superlatives. ROAR is simply stunning: a courageous book the world needs right now and forever. Masterfully crafted. Sentences that steal your breath. Characters so richly imagined, they follow you around and occupy your heart. Microscopic detail that lures us into every scene, breaks us open, provokes, informs, heals, transforms. Raw and tender, heartbreaking and joyful. Infused with love, compassion, and unblinking truth. Above all else, ROAR is unforgettable. A debut novel it may be, yet it introduces the voice of an enlightened, gifted storyteller.”
–Sheree Fitch, award-winning author
“Fire and ash, breath, spirit and mist, forest, river and sea, earth wafting sweet scents of peony, honeysuckle. Shelley Thompson’s Roar is a beautiful, deeply immersive story of a family’s resilience through loss and their work of healing, and rebuilding, as we follow Don’s journey to becoming Dawn and, as her name suggests, a new beginning. A story of thresholds, transformations, and the power of love, Roar is also a story about community; Thompson resists romanticizing it, doesn’t shy away from exposing its underbelly—but she also reveals its capacity for acceptance and change. We’ve always needed this story but now we need it more than ever.”
–Jeanette Lynes, author of The Apothecary’s Garden
“Fierce, tender, brave, and incendiary, Roar is a story for these fractious times that couldn’t be more true. Here, absence = presence = love, the kind that outweighs gender biases and ugly assumptions about how things “should” (or shouldn’t) be that divide a family and a community. Set against the bucolic and the brutal—all that’s good and depressingly bad about rural Nova Scotia—here’s a righteous shredding of the ignorance that underlies transphobic, and by extension all, hatred. As Thompson so compellingly shows us, keeping silent only nurtures it.”
–Carol Bruneau, author of Brighten the Corner Where You Are
“Roar is a model for finding a road back to your family. It reminds us that the process of repairing relationships sometimes asks us to take a trust fall.”
–Ronnie Ali, registered psychotherapist