Summary: When Owen and Andrew are evacuated from their North Dakota group home during the Red River Flood of 1997, they take the opportunity to skip town and start their lives over on their own terms in Canada. With charm, smarts, and the skills of teenage con-artists, Owen and Andrew make their way across Manitoba by tugging on heartstrings with Owen’s missing legs and taking advantage of people. Humourous situations ensue, but underneath everything Owen and Andrew end up contributing their help to a province in need as the flood continues.
Number of Pages: 206
Age Range: 13-15
Review: Sandbag Shuffle by Kevin Marc Fournier is a tall tale following the road trip of Owen and Andrew as they make a life in Canada after they escape their group home in North Dakota.
I love the aspect of reading about Canadians dealing with nature. Since the flood in 1997, there have been two more Red River floods, and reading Fournier’s book gave me a picture of people working together to protect farms, homes, towns and cities. It’s a story full of wonderful character studies in the face of crisis.
But my favourite part was Fournier’s humour in his narration of the story. Owen and Andrew are fun characters to read about because they are mischievous and know how to work people but aren’t evil at heart. The witty observations surrounding reactions to Owen and his wheelchair were hilarious, and I have included some in the Memorable Quotes section. Their genuine friendship and adventures kept me reading, and I loved the backdrop of Manitoba.
Mostly though I just found Fournier’s book to be an entertaining and authentically Canadian read. I’d never read a Fournier book before today, but I will definitely be looking for them in the future.
“A woman with a pensive expression, expensive brown raincoat, and very careful hair was listening to a man in mud-covered overalls and a baseball cap who was carrying bages of groceries to his truck and roundly, enthusiastically abusing the ‘small-balled bureaucrats’ in Winnipeg who thought they could tell him what to do. ‘We lived through the ’79 and never left the farm; my father lived on that same farm through the ’50 flood and he never left; and if they want me to leave, they’ll have to drag my goddamn corpse out the door.'” – Reaction to being told to evacuate for the flood from Sandbag Shuffle by Kevin Marc Fournier, page 62
“‘Did you know they got free health care in Canada?’
‘Yeah, everyone knows that.’
‘You gotta see a doctor, go to the hospital, get an operation, anything, doesn’t cost you a dime. Completely free – doesn’t matter who you are, what your problem is, what they gotta do – one hundred percent completely. So can you tell me why the hell people are so damn careful up here? What are they worried about?'” – Conversation between Owen and Andrew from Sandbag Shuffle by Kevin Marc Fournier, pages 68-69
“Meanwhile, back at the playground, Owen was talking to those kids. ‘That’s a pretty nice bike,’ he said. He was sitting at the top of the play structure, dangling his stumps over the edge. The kids were looking up at him doubtfully. They had obviously been well trained not to talk to strangers, especially grungy-looking teenagers, but they had probably also been taught to be polite to handicapped people. So it was a bit of a dilemma.” – Owen from Sandbag Shuffle by Kevin Marc Fournier, page 139
“The room was quite small, but they weren’t complaining. It was the most luxurious setup they’d been able to enjoy for almost a week. There was one bed, and an air mattress on the floor beside it. They arm-wrestled. Andrew complained that Owen had an unfair advantage because he got to sit in the chair, while Andrew had to stand beside the desk and bend over. And besides, Owen got all that arm exercise wheeling himself around. Owen said, ‘Yes, yes, I admit it. I cheated. I actually cut off my own legs years ago, just so that I would be able to beat you at arm wrestling today and get the bed for one night. At last my evil plan has come to fruition – mwa ha ha . . .’ and Andrew said, ‘Oh, shut the hell up.'” – Conversation between Owen and Andrew from Sandbag Shuffle by Kevin Marc Fournier, page 154
“And there, in the middle of the room, was the most fancy-ass-looking wheelchair either of them had ever seen, a motorized wheelchair with fat, black wheels like a four-by-four, a shiny black seat and armrests sitting on a slick, hot-red undercarriage with orange flames painted on. It was the kind of wheelchair a handicapped pimp might like to ride around the street and herd his girls.” – from Sandbag Shuffle by Kevin Marc Fournier, page 162
Sandbag Shuffle by Kevin Marc Fournier is published by Thistledown Press, (2007).