Winner of the 2022 ReLit Awards
Finalist for the 2022 Trillium Book Award
A Gothic collection of stories featuring carnivorous beavers, art-eaters, and family intrigue, for fans of Alice Munro and Shirley Jackson
The small southern Ontario town known as The Pump lies at the crossroads of this world’s violence—a tainted water supply, an apathetic municipal government, the Gothic decay of rural domesticity—and another’s.
In Hegele’s interconnected stories, no one is immune to The Pump’s sacrificial games. Lighthouse dwellers, Boy Scouts, queer church camp leaders, love-sick and sick-sick writers, nine-year-old hunters, art-eaters—each must navigate the swamp of their own morality while living on land that is always slowly (and sometimes very quickly) killing them.
Sydney Hegele (née Brooman) (they/them) was raised in Grimsby, Ontario. They attended Western University in London, Ontario, and currently live in Toronto. The Pump is their debut short fiction collection. Their story “The Bottom” was shortlisted for The Malahat Review’s 2020 Open Season Awards, and they have recent work in American Chordata, Thorn Literary Magazine, and other literary journals.
“What a strange surprising delight this collection was… at once untenable and grotesquely beautiful.”– Heather O’Neill, author of When We Lost Our Heads
“Brooman’s writing is beautiful… Nightmarish and yet somehow fantastical, [The Pump] explores the question of morality in a town that represents the world at its most baldly violent.”—This Magazine
“Sydney Hegele’s (aka Sydney Warner Brooman) short fiction collection The Pump just won the ReLit Award. I read The Pump months ago, but I keep returning to that hair-raising town haunted by colonial industry and its various insidious poisons. The Pump is like a gothic small town on acid. This affirmed me, scared the crap out of me, and made me wondered how the author did it. The Pump is an assured and daring debut book about class, gender, desire, and the natural world in revolt against our abuse of it: astonishing for a first collection.—Tanis MacDonald, The Fiddlehead
“Canadian author Sydney Warner Brooman’s debut collection of short fiction instantly cements the non-binary writer as a name to watch. Their gothic tales of fantastical creatures and forged family is magical realism at its best. Drawn from Brooman’s upbringing in Grimsby, Ont., the stories feel rooted in both the mythic and the modern, touching on parenthood, loss and transitions.”—Chatelaine, Best Buzzy Books
“The Pump opens the door to a haunted world that is not easily forgettable. But proceed with caution: this collection will undoubtedly get under your skin.”—Quill & Quire
“In foregrounding the queer aspects of their stories and literalizing the horror that traditionally remains metaphorical, Brooman has created a collection that doesn’t tug at the edges of our literary pieties so much as tear them to shreds. By contorting beloved symbols of Canada’s national literature and character into bizarre and unfamiliar shapes, Brooman simultaneously locates their stories within a tradition and explodes that tradition for future practitioners.”—Toronto Star
“Hegele’s work has been compared to that of Alice Munro, and, for once, this comparison is accurate: Hegele is Munro through the looking-glass, and this collection is Southern Ontario Gothic queered and rabid.”—Erin Della Mattia, Prairie Fire
“A strange and satisfying debut which, despite its nightmarish magic, manages to capture something terrifyingly real.”—The Miramichi Reader
“If you left your small hometown because you were “different” – gay or trans in particular – you will see yourself in this smart, authentic and beautifully written book. If you didn’t, you will be spellbound nonetheless.”—Andrew Dobson
“The Pump follows the Southwestern Ontario Gothic tradition of Alice Munro, exposing the warped underside of small-town Ontario through a series of interconnected short stories… The Pump is strange, no doubt, but it is delicious in its strangeness.”—Erica McKeen, The Temz Review
“Brooman’s remarkably self-assured voice remains singular, authentic and wry. The Pump will stay with you, leaving its taste in your mouth: dread and mossy yellow water.”—Broken Pencil
“The Pump is populated with the kind of tough, awkward, dark, and tender characters you often find trapped in small town, no-place Canada. You’ll also find beavers, salt domes, a lighthouse, marshes, more beavers, a Mercury Villager, mosquitoes, and the rest of the beavers. Brooman has woven an inescapable, ferocious dream of a book. Good luck getting out.”—John Elizabeth Stintzi, author of Vanishing Monuments
“Bristling with magic, horror, and romance, Sydney Warner Brooman’s The Pump transforms small-town Southern Ontario into a place of violence and sacrifice — or maybe presents it as it truly is. Like nothing I’ve ever read before, these killer beavers, strange diseases, and infectious waters wouldn’t leave my head and drew me back to their world again and again. If only I blurbed delightfully weird books like this for the rest of my life, I’d be happy.”—Jess Taylor, Author of Pauls and Just Pervs
“This is the Southern Ontario that we don’t openly acknowledge but that scrapes at the back of our memories. The Pump shows us the surreal violence of living in the 401’s sprawl and the staggering beauty of the nature that surrounds it. Don’t be fooled by the nightmarish quality of these stories: they are as real as the Mercury Villager that Sydney Warner Brooman drives us in on. This is horror in broad daylight. These are the living ghosts that haunt so many of us who grew up here.”— Jia Qing Wilson-Yang, Lambda Award-winning author of Small Beauty
“This is what small-town Ontario looks like when David Attenborough is a distant memory, when social structures are as polluted as the water, when myth has returned—big time—in mounting waves, sweeping our smaller stories out to sea. I don’t what is more terrifying: that The Pump exists, or that here, in this wretched, sinking place, you can find something that you desperately love, something that you want to survive. The Pump is an astonishing debut collection from a writer who is just warming up.”—Tom Cull, author of Bad Animals