A blizzard grounds the plane real-estate agent Clint Dokic is supposed to take from Winnipeg to Thompson where his very-pregnant wife Kaly waits. Undeterred, he forces his mother, Meg, and younger brother, over-educated, under-achieving Darryl, to join him on an ill-advised road trip in Darryl's 4 x 4.
The path to Thompson is expected to be long and treacherous, with blowing snow and icy roads. What the three Dokic's don't see coming is the journey they have to take within the vehicle. Each harbouring secrets that might destroy the others if known, the trio battle the elements, each other, and their own demons to arrive at a destination they aren't so sure they want to reach.
The Quill & Quire is pleasantly surprised
"The drunken, ill-advised road trip is not exactly a new literary form, but 4 X 4 is not the typical road novel."
Read the entire review here.
"Tefs tells a sexy yarn and does make you care about what's going to happen to his motley group. His ending is as uplifting and satisfying as one could want."
- Dave Williamson, Prairie Fire
"Tefs knows his story and he tells it well, like a man peeling the proverbial onion, revealing layer after layer...4 x 4 is the story of the Dokic family, and from the mean streets of Winnipeg to the frigid heart of Thompson, this is one tough onion."
- Brad Smith, The Globe and Mail
"Tefs has fashioned an impressive tale of unflinching humanity and ultimate redemption...(He) mixes a hazardous blizzard, strained relations, and close quarters into a dramatic powder-keg, with concealed skeletons the fuse."
- Corey Redekop, Winnipeg Free Press
"Tefs has a mean, lean style of writing that mirrors the landscape of this road trip."
- Andrew Armitage, Owen Sound Sun Times
Tef's writing "is sharp, lean and sexy, without a wasted word."
- The Winnipeg Free Press
"Tef's blend of experience and reflection, recounted honestly, holds attention and evokes admiration."
- The Globe and Mail
Suggested Book Club Questions for 4X4
- 4X4 is told from the revolving points of view of its four main characters. What is gained by this device? What are the risks of using this device?
- There's quite a bit of rough language in the novel: does it serve a purpose?
- In the novels of Thomas Hardy there are often minor coincidences that have major effects on the lives of the characters. Hardy called these minor events "satires of circumstance." What role do such "satires of circumstance" play in 4X4?
- Which of the two brothers do you like better at the outset of the novel?
- 4X4 occurs on Good Friday. What significance does this have to the plot of the novel?
- One reviewer referred to the events in 4X4 as "the road trip from hell." What do you think was meant by that?
- Another reviewer noted that the Dokic family has their share of secrets, and that "these subterranean issues affect the relationships on the surface." What are the secrets and how do they color the relations among the characters?
- Toward the end of the novel Darryl says that life is a puzzle that doesn't always add up? Is this true in the novel? Is it true in life in general?
- Do you like the boys' mother, Meg? In what ways is she a sympathetic character? In what ways might you judge her in what ways does she judge herself?
- Jimmy Dokic, the father, plays an important role in the novel, but he is not given a voice, as are the other characters. Why do you think that is?
- Over the course of the day that the 4X4 travels from Winnipeg to Thompson there are a number of violent occurrences. How do they contribute to the portraits of the characters and the development of the plot of the novel?
- Natives are given quite a bit of treatment in the novel. Are they treated fairly by the other characters? By the author?
- Which of the two brothers do you like better as the novel comes toward its conclusion?
- One commentator has said that Jimmy Dokic becomes a sympathetic character by the novel's conclusion. Do you agree?
- Another commentator has said that "the journey north is a metaphor for the story of the Dokices." In what ways is this true?
- Darryl has a fantasy about living in Australia. How does it evolve over the course of the novel?
- At one point in 4X4 the characters discuss whether or not Canada is a "great country." What is each of their points of view? With whom do you side most?
- For the tough hockey player, Darryl, what is the irony of the episode involving the deer? Do you see the brothers differently after this event?
- The novelist D.H. Lawrence said that the novel as an art form matters because it reveals to us the dynamic unfolding of relationships between people as they construct their lives. In what ways might that comment apply to 4X4?
- One commentator has said that 4X4 is a "tale of unflinching humanity and ultimate redemption." Do you agree? Wherein might the redemption lie?
- Which character in the novel made the strongest impression on you?
- Is the author better at evoking women or men characters?
- It has often been said that non-fiction comforts readers by answering questions but that fiction unsettles readers by asking questions. In 4X4 one of those questions might be, Why does a woman stay with a man who inflicts such damage? What other baffling questions about life does 4X4 ask, but not necessarily answer?
- What is the function of the final paragraphs of the novel?
- The novel might have ended with another section by the mother, Meg. What might she have thought and said?
- "4X4" is a fairly direct and simple title for this novel. What other titles might it have been given?
- Which, if any, books does 4X4 remind you of? Movies?
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Wayne Tefs was born in Winnipeg and grew up in northwestern Ontario. He edited a number of anthologies and published nine novels and a work of non-fiction. His novel Moon Lake received the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction in 2000 and his novel Be Wolf won the 2007 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. Wayne Tefs died in 2014.