A girl faints in the Toronto subway. Her friends are taken to the hospital with unexplained rashes; they complain about a funny smell in the subway. Swarms of police arrive, and then the hazmat team. Panic ripples through the city, and words like poisoning and terrorism become airborne. Soon, people are collapsing all over the city in subways and streetcars and malls, always prompted, they say, by some unidentifiable odour.
Alex was witness to this first episode. He's a photographer: of injuries and deaths, for his job at the hospital, and of life, in his evening explorations of every nook and cranny of the city. Alex is a diabetic, now facing the very real possibility of losing his sight, and he's determined to create a permanent vision of his city through his camera lens. As he rushes to take advantage of his dying sight, he encounters an old girlfriend - the one who shattered his heart in the eighties, while she was fighting for abortion rights and social justice and he was battling his body's chemical demons. But now Susie-Paul is fighting her own crisis: her schizophrenic brother has been missing for months, and the streets of Toronto are more hostile than ever.
Maggie Helwig, author of the critically lauded Between Mountains, has fashioned a novel not of bold actions but of small gestures, showing how easy and gentle is the slide into paranoia, and how enormous and terrifying is the slide into love. This is a remarkable novel: romantically and politically charged, utterly convincing in its portrait of our individual and societal instability, and steadfast in its faith in redemption.