Reviewed by Jim Napier, May 2022

Toronto, Ontario: celebrity chef, author, and restauranteur Jake Hardy and his husband, successful fashion designer Eddie Kravets, are living a dream life. Comfortably ensconced in spacious digs on the top floor of a fashionable apartment building, they go from success to success, pausing only to realize just how fortunate they are.

But even dreams aren’t perfect. In the early hours of the morning Jake is awakened by the police, who break the news that his partner’s body has been found on the ground just below their balcony. Eddie Kravets is dead.

Jake is devastated. His dream world has come crushing down, and he grieves uncontrollably. His sorrow is not lessened by the jaded rumours that emerge in the wake of his husband’s death: Eddie had been sleepwalking or on drugs, or had committed suicide; his death had been the result of an argument with an employee, or worse, the climax of a violent quarrel with Jake. Over the weeks that follow Jake and the closest of those around him, a seventy-eight-year-old neighbour, Baz, and Jake’s son, Connor) wrestle with a toxic mix of well-meaning sympathizers, nosy gawkers, and online gossip mongers, all of them having the effect of ripping a bandage off the fresh wound that is now Jake’s daily reality.

He finds only a tiny measure of solace in sifting through Eddie’s things in the days and weeks that follow. Ever the planner, Eddie had made a list of places he wanted his ashes spread. They include Providenciales, Grimaud, and enigmatically, the word Beautiful. Further searching reveals that the word in not simply a placeholder, but an actual location: Beautiful, Saskatchewan.

And so Jake’s odyssey begins. Intrigued by Eddie’s list, Jake Hardy resolves to travel to Beautiful with Baz and check it out. What they finds takes them into an entirely other world, one which clarifies Eddie’s roots in ways that Jake could not have foreseen; and far from living up to its name, the town of Beautiful harbours more than its share of dark secrets, and more than one murderer.

Canadian author Anthony Bilduka has served up a richly textured and layered plot, with nuanced characters, placing them in a sometimes brooding landscape and surrounding them with a compelling atmosphere. GOING TO BEAUTIFUL moves deceptively easily between being a lyrical celebration of life and an unflinching exploration of the dark recesses of twisted souls –- a challenging task for any author –- and Bidulka succeeds brilliantly. It is a totally original and evocative odyssey that will keep you enthralled until the very last page. It’s all vintage Bidulka, and if you’ve never encountered him before, you’re in for a real treat.

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