The Next Chapter

How Muskrat Falls and a police incident inspired Eva Crocker's latest novel All I Ask

The St. John's writer spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing a novel about identity, privacy and freedom.
All I Ask is a novel by Eva Crocker. (House of Anansi Press, Steve Crocker)

Eva Crocker is a novelist and short story writer from Newfoundland. Her first book was the short story collection Barrelling ForwardCBC Books named Crocker a writer to watch in 2020.

Her latest novel is titled All I Ask. It's about a Newfoundland woman named Stacey who one morning wakes up to the police pounding on her door. They claim they are looking for "illegal digital material" and seize her phone and computer. 

The novel is about the nature of freedom, belonging and identity. All I Ask was on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Crocker spoke with Shelagh Rogers about why she wrote the novel. 

A breach of trust

"Like Stacey in the novel, I had a similar incident happen to me. A group of police officers insisted on entering my house and began searching it. I didn't have an opportunity to change out of my pyjamas. I had to go to my bedroom alone with a man, which is really disturbing for me.

"It turned out that they were investigating an incident that had happened months before I moved in. They didn't realize that there were new tenants in the house. In my case, the police didn't end up confiscating my electronics, but they would have if they didn't realize that I wasn't the suspect. 

Like Stacey in the novel, I had a similar incident happen to me. A group of police officers insisted on entering my house and began searching it.

"The incident got me thinking about how much worse things might have gone for me if I wasn't white and cis gendered, if English wasn't my first language, if I had a kid there with me or if I had a health condition or was elderly. It also made me think about privacy."

Muskrat Falls was billed as a strategy to meet the electricity needs of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador with environmental friendly, stable and competitively priced power. (Submitted by Nalcor Energy)

Finding a way in the world

"I also wanted to write about Newfoundland and St. John's in particular at this moment. I wanted to explore the crashing economy and also how this pervasive sense of doom that's been generated by the failure of Muskrat Falls is impacting people.

I also wanted to write about Newfoundland and St. John's in particular at this moment.

"I'm looking how that feeling is that uncertainty and lack of stability is present. It's set in winter. A lot of the things that Stacey is experiencing, including isolation, can feel more intense in the winter. People aren't hanging out outside and you're not comfortable just wandering around the city and running into people.

"The novel's a coming out story as well. While the protagonist is enduring this invasive investigation, she's also choosing to reveal parts of herself to another person in the world. I wanted to think about the difference between having agency over how much of yourself you reveal — and also what it feels like when that agency is taken away." 

Eva Crocker's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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