The Dirt Eaters by Dennis Foon

Posted by on Nov 28, 2014 in Book Reviews, British Columbia | 0 comments

The Dirt EatersSummary: When the community of Longlight is decimated and Roan is the only survivor, he is suddenly plunged into the real world. Unfortunately the real world is a chaotic, violence-ridden society ruled by the one City who uses the people’s uneducated state to take advantage of them. Except Roan is different. Not only has he been taught to read from his life in Longlight’s peaceful society, but he has the ability to cross over into his dreams and venture outside his body. He learns this gift makes him a dirt eater, and uses it to survive his time with the Brothers who want him to become a Brother too. Leaving the Brothers puts him in an awkward position. Though he has figured out from his dreams that his sister survived the destruction of Longlight too, Roan knows little about the complexities of the world around him. His journey of self-discovery leads him to make friends he can trust and take on a new mission of greater importance than seeking revenge.

Number of Pages: 312

Age Range: 13-15

Review: Left alone in a violent world after being raised in a peace-loving community, Roan must sink or swim by forcing himself to adapt to his new life. At first it involves living with the Brothers, a religious sect of sorts that follows the Prophet Saint, but when Roan realises they are trying to goad him into a lust for violence, he rejects what they have offered and takes off on his own.

Piecing together what actually happened to Longlight is difficult. While they preached non-violence, Roan finds himself with a natural talent for combat that in part is because of the dance training he received in Longlight. The dance training seems more like Tai chi though, while implies his parents and community were trying to prepare Roan for the violent world outside their bubble. There is also the lore surrounding Roan’s grandfather to contend with, and the fact that his parents may have known he would be able to travel in his dreams.

Roan is a mentally strong character who is able to see through the illusions of the new world he finds himself in, training in secret and drawing strength from his prophetic dreams. Being able to read puts him in a position of power, but his unique combination of embracing peace while being able to defend himself allows him to find allies. Roaming around the Devastation being summoned by his sister leads him to Lumpy, another outcast who could use a friend. Together they make their way to Oasis, and then to another village to rescue some children caught up in a chaotic, self-serving society.

There’s a lot going on in Foon’s book, and I’m certain today’s reading has only revealed parts of it to me. There were aspects that I loved, such as Lumpy and Lelbit’s relationship, Roan’s inner struggle against the need for revenge, and the children themselves. I have questions about where the story is going, but it is the first book in The Longlight Legacy trilogy and I’m sure all will be revealed in the other novels.

What struck me most is that Roan is a genuine character struggling to come to terms with the end of life as he knew it and the beginning of trying to make his way under rules he doesn’t understand with a power he also doesn’t quite understand. Still, no matter what environment he finds himself in, he meets whatever challenges he faces with a remarkably level head and a strong grasp on his core values. I hope he is able to protect the children as he intends and start another Longlight-esque society.

Memorable Quotes:

“‘Exactly. Like King Zheng, when they took control, they acted without hesitation. Thought breeds dissent. Eliminate the thinkers and you control the population. So they closed the schools, burned books, and executed anyone who had knowledge that was not in their service. That’s the real reason no one know how to read and why we live in chaos.'” – Saint from The Dirt Eaters by Dennis Foon, page 52

“‘He watched revenge consume the world. And we turned away from it. We established this new community at Longlight, and we will never again raise a weapon, for fear of what we’ll become. You cannot get peace from war. Remember, Roan, remember.’


But Roan no longer accepts his father’s words.


He shouts into the darkness. ‘I will fight, Father!'” – Roan remembering the words of his father and choosing another way from The Dirt Eaters by Dennis Foon, page 112

“‘Ask yourself, Roan of Longlight, is there only one good story in you?’


‘I don’t know what you mean.’


‘I think you do,’ Kamyar smirks. ‘Here’s some free advice. Ask many questions. Accept nothing at face value. Create the future as you go.’ With that, he turns and vanishes into the catacombs.


Kamyar’s a bit overbearing, Roan thinks, but there’s nothing wrong with his counsel. Be cautious. Be careful who you trust.” – Conversation between Kamyar and Roan from The Dirt Eaters by Dennis Foon, pages 194-195

“That the love you bestowed might bear fruit

We stay behind.

That the spirit you shared be borne witness

We stay behind.

That your light burn bright in our hearts

We stay behind.

We stay behind and imagine your flight.” – A Longlight prayer from The Dirt Eaters by Dennis Foon, page 309

The Dirt Eaters by Dennis Foon is published by Annick Press, (2003).

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