I live in Calgary, my husband and his family work in the oil and gas industry, and I read books. Clearly, Long Change was written for me. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read a book by Don Gillmor before, and I really should have, in fact his last book Mount Pleasant sounds really interesting, so I’m going to be picking that up shortly too. After reading his latest book that focuses on the fictitious (but very realistic and believable) oil man Ritt Devlin, I’ve been converted-I am now a Gillmor believer! He is well known in Alberta, he’s frequently found at the Banff Centre teaching, and his writing is prolific and varied; children’s books, magazine articles and books of non-fiction all make up his impressive writing CV. So it’s no surprise the writing in Long Change was absorbing and informative, all at the same time.
As mentioned above, Long Change is a meditation on oil; how it controls people, economies, and of course politics. With the all-time lows of oil prices, this book is particularly relevant. I doubt this was done intentionally, but reading it was actually quite comforting, because it reminded me of the fluency of oil prices, and its direct affect on Calgary. There have been crashes in oil prices in the past, and yet everything seems to right itself again when it comes to the economy. What’s left in pieces is us; the lengths we went to to protect ourselves during the crash, and the scars that are left from our desperation while things looked bleak.
But enough about the economy; Ritt is a wonderful, steadfast man who we enjoy reading about, seeing the world through his eyes. Although he becomes involved with unsavoury people, and turns the other way when he suspects foul play, we still believe he is at his core, a good man. I’m not sure if every reader felt the same way about him as I did. Although he does bad things (sometimes accidentally), I still feel immense compassion for him.
Gillmor endears him to us by giving Ritt’s love life the same amount of attention as his working life. As a young man, Ritt he meets his soulmate Oda, who dies tragically young. He then goes through two more women, both never being able to live up to Oda’s legacy, but he tries desperately to love them the same way. Gillmor uses this contrast well; in business, Ritt is optimistic and driven, building a company all his own, but in love, he flounders, struggling to be happy but never able to successfully recreate what he lost all those years ago. The significant attention to Ritt’s romantic turmoil was surprising to me, because I thought a very masculine book such as this would downplay all types of ‘feelings’. However, this unique perspective is what makes Gillmor’s writing so satisfying; he truly keeps the reader’s experience in mind throughout the whole story. He’s done a wonderful job of demonstrating the human side to ‘big oil’, so there is no better time than now to pick up this book.