The Gum Thief.


288 pages
ISBN 978-0-307-35627-7
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Naomi Brun

Naomi Brun is a freelance writer and a book reviewer for The Hamilton


Douglas Coupland is a prolific Canadian writer. His non-fiction works blend art and writing to make people think about Canadiana a little differently, and his eight novels are postmodern gems. His fiction focuses on “Generation X,” the liberally minded, socially disenfranchised cohort born in the sixties and early seventies.


The Gum Thief is a piece of classic Coupland. Roger, who has recently entered middle age, has had more than his fair share of bad luck. He lost his son in a tragic accident and his wife contracted cancer. She survived, but discovered that the only way she could move on with her life was to make a clean break, divorcing Roger and taking their remaining child with her. He lives in a basement apartment and drinks too much vodka. Unable to commit to his career, he works at Staples, where he meets Bethany. She, although only in her mid-20s, has also had a rough life. During a horrible year of her childhood, her best friend died of cancer, her parents divorced, and then three of her grandparents died. To survive, she learned to shut herself off emotionally from other people, and as she entered adolescence, discovered that the Goth look formed a highly effective shield. At 24, she wears pan-stick makeup on her face, paints her nails black, and is sick of life. The two misfits become friends when Bethany reads some of Roger’s writing, and through this friendship, they gain the courage to embrace their own lives once more.


The Gum Thief is a masterful work of 21st-century fiction. It is beyond postmodern, with its novel-in-a-novel and mind-numbing plethora of narrators, but the main theme remains constant and provides the novel with necessary clarity. If anything, The Gum Thief is a testament to hope, resilience, and the redemptive power of the written word.


Coupland, Douglas., “The Gum Thief.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024,