Pedal

Chelsea Rooney

Julia Hoop, a twenty-five-year-old counselling psych student, is working on her thesis, exploring an idea which makes her graduate supervisor squirm. She is conducting interview after interview with a group of women she affectionately calls the Molestas—women whose experience of childhood sexual abuse did not cause physical trauma. Julia is the expert, she claims, because she has the experience; her own father, Dirtbag, disappeared when she was eight leaving behind nothing but a legacy of addiction and violence.

When both her boyfriend and her graduate advisor break up with her on the same day, Julia leaves her city of Vancouver on a bicycle for a cross-Canada trip in search of her father, or so she tells people. Her unexpected travel partner is Smirks, a handsome athlete who also has a complicated history. Their travel days are marked by peaks of ecstatic physical exertion, and their nights by frustrated drinking and drugs. After an unsettling incident in rural Saskatchewan involving a trio of aggressive children, Julia wakes up in the morning to discover Smirks has disappeared. Everything, once again, falls apart.

Sometimes shocking in its candour, yet charmed with enigmatic characters, Pedal explores how we are shaped by accidents of timing—trauma and sex, brain chemistry and the landscape of our country—and challenges beliefs we hold dear about the nature of pedophilia, the essence of innocence and the idea that the past is something one runs from.

Pedal is the sort of valuable book that ignites debate, but doesn’t conclude it. Beyond anything, the novel wisely asserts that sexual abuse and trauma are not problems as simplistic and easily solved as we want them to be. Until we are able to have the hard conversations about their complexity we will be no closer to preventing their pervasiveness.”

— Stacey May Fowles, Globe and Mail

“Chelsea Rooney has written a novel that is simultaneously lacerating and deeply empathetic. It confronts difficult material in a frank and unflinching manner, yet remains grounded in an abiding authorial intelligence. Pedal marks the debut of a hugely promising writer.”

–Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire

“These aren’t comfortable or fun questions, but Pedal is undeniably fun to read regardless—and not just because Rooney is a playful and evocative prose-smith.”

–Will Johnson, Literary Goon

“Julia, the protagonist of this intense first novel, is a psychology grad student who risks everything to pursue scientific research in truly forbidden territory: sexual attraction between adults and children. She persists in her quest in spite of skeptical friends, fragile relatives, a squeamish thesis advisor, an enigmatic bike-tour companion, severe social taboos, and her own painful memories of a birth father she calls Dirtbag–not to prove any point but to find out what lies beyond the conventional wisdom. This is an unsettling novel–smart, fierce, confident, funny, and full of surprises–with an unforgettable young woman at the heart of the storm.”

–Mary Schendlinger, Senior Editor, Geist

“A taut, unsettling, and provoking debut novel […] [Chelsea Rooney] ought to be commended for perceptively addressing such a difficult and inflammatory (and decidedly uncommercial) topic with a subtlety that’s buoyed by ample empathy.”

–Brett Josef Grubisic, Vancouver Sun

“One of the most daring Canadian fiction debuts in years.”

–Shawn Syms, Winnipeg Review

“Pedal carries the reader through moments that, if they were not buoyed on either end by humour and lively prose, would sink to the depths of discomfort. Rooney handles her topic with sympathy and openness …With public dialogue on sexual abuse expanding, this novel comes at a key moment.”

The Coastal Spectator

Pedal is a brave and captivating book, written with an unflinching eye and a deep understanding of the torment that is the human condition. Chelsea Rooney is a major talent.”

–Steven Galloway, author of The Confabulist and The Cellist of Sarajevo

Amazon First Novel Award — Finalist
ReLit Awards 2016 — Shortlist