This novel is a fictional tale based on a historic incident where two brothers, George and Rufus Hamilton, were hung after the murder and robbery of a taxi driver in 1949. This murder happened in New Brunswick and the novel describes the brother’s lives and the poverty they lived with their entire lives. This Canadian novel is my 33rd book from the CBC list of 100 Novels that Make You Proud to be Canadian.
The boys were raised in a poor shack, abused by their violent father and neglected by their mother. They dropped out of school with George focusing on farm work which he felt suited to and Rue teaching himself to play the piano on an abandoned, damaged instrument. George married and was living a quiet life until his brother returned with dreams of entitlement and no commitment to working towards his goals.
Rufus devises a plan to murder for money and unfortunately for his wife and children, George goes along for the ‘ride’. The story is a sad expose of the life that these two boys may have lived leading up to the crime and shares the lack of planning and poor choices that led to their arrest. These were not sly and prepared criminals, they were uneducated petty thieves who participated in escalating crimes.
Clarke is a 7th generation Canadian who is a professor, novelist, playwright, poet and literary critic. He lives in Toronto and is Canada’s current poet laureate committed to amassing a treasure of Canadian poetry while promoting the arts. He has won the governor general’s award for his poetry.
Although this is another bleak read, George and Rue shares interesting Canadian history that I was not aware of. It is another story that is important to be told and one that might capture the interest of high school students while imparting historical details.