Reviewing the Evidence liked Going to Beautiful so much, they reviewed it twice!

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, June 2022

Jake Hardy has it all – until suddenly, he doesn’t. One night his beloved husband, a brilliant fashion designer, plunged to his death from their Toronto apartment balcony in an inexplicable accident. All the light has gone out of Hardy’s life. So has his ability to create the spectacular dining experiences that have made him a sought-after chef and entrepreneur. His business falters. He has barely the energy to care for his dog, and his adult son and next-door neighbor are worried.

A bit of light dawns when Hardy finds a draft of a document that he had already acted on: a handwritten list of places where his husband Eddie had wanted his ashes scattered. But there is one place that didn’t make it to the final version: Beautiful.

Eddie never talked about his childhood in Beautiful, Saskatchewan. City-dweller Hardy has no idea what to expect when he goes there, with the support of his elderly neighbor, Baz, who has no intention of relinquishing her extravagant style even when they arrive in the bleak, snow-covered prairie crossroads that appears to be a ghost town. No luxury hotel. However, they find a meal and company at a Chinese restaurant that remains open, a bed in a nearly-empty convent tended by a single nun, and to their surprise, discover that while Beautiful is clearly dying, it still hosts a warm, welcoming community of Ukrainian-Canadians. Hardy and Baz develop a new appreciation of the austere beauty of the prairie, and uncover some long-buried secrets that will change Hardy’s life.

GOING TO BEAUTIFUL is a tender love letter to the prairie landscape, to the Ukrainian farmers who settled on land that reminded them of their breadbasket homeland, and to the remnants of towns that are vanishing. (It’s especially poignant to read at a time when Ukraine is bravely fighting for its very existence in the face of a genocidal war.) Bidulka opens with a hot spark of tragedy, then warms readers with a cast of charming characters and gentle humor, while also peering into the darkness that shrouds secrets, even in places named Beautiful.

It’s an usual and delightful journey for readers, guided by a writer who knows exactly where he’s going.

§ Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

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