Book Buzz: Ducks

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton

Katie loves her hometown of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. But growing up, she knows that one day she must leave to find work elsewhere. Over grayscale drawings of the island’s coastline, she tells us: “I learn that I can have opportunity or I can have home. I cannot have both, and either will always hurt.” 

When she graduates college with student loans, she sets out to find “the good job, the good money, the better life” in the oil sands of northern Alberta. She starts as a “tool crib attendant” and signs out hardware to male employees who leer at her and make lewd comments. As Katie bounces between remote work sites where sexual harassment is the only constant (men outnumber women 50-to-1), she wonders if good money always equals a better life.  

Ducks is a fully-fledged graphic memoir, a departure from Beaton’s comic strips (Hark, a Vagrant!). Her expressive, understated artwork captures the toll that the fossil fuel industry takes on Canada’s landscape and its humanity. 

Reviewed by Emma Radosevich, collection development librarian, Whatcom County Library System

(Originally published in Bellingham Alive May 2023 issue.)