Dark and funny and dangerously nuanced, in Exit Lines (Knopf Canada) Joan Barfoot manages another notch on an already impressive double bandolier of high impact Canadian novels.

At three o’clock in the morning, that defenceless hour when anything feels possible and nothing human or inhuman out of the question, the Idyll Inn’s only sounds are the low hum and thrum a complicated building makes to keep itself going. Like any living body, even a sleeping or unconscious one, a building has to sustain its versions of blood and breath, so there’s a perpetual buzz to it, white noise in the night.

Four new guests a retirement home form a pact of “pleasurable rebellion.” The concept is funny and, on the surface of things, the approach is lighthearted. However, Barfoot deals here with topics most of us would much rather skate past: mortality, morality and a diminished twilight as a footnote to a vibrantly lived life.

Like her previous novel, the Giller-finalist Luck, Barfoot captures humanity in a way that both resonates and makes one wonder at a world slightly askew. Barfoot’s vision is always worth watching, and there’s no exception to that rule in sight in Exit Lines.

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