Stuck in a small town in Alberta, Rose misses her father and watches in horror as a local widower wins over both her mother and sister. She finds solace in a fellow nerd, Jason, but when her sister, Sara, is violently assaulted Rose must decide whether to stick to the town’s story or find the strength to help a friend.
Exploring the vulnerability of difference in a closed community, The Old Arbutus Tree is a story of discovery, empathy and learning how and who to trust. It lays bare the common confusion of adolescent sexual identity and the devastating effects of a small town’s prejudice. When power, privilege and access conspire against justice, Rose and Jason are forced to see how desire is policed by our peers, our town, and the wider judicial and medical establishments. Can they help each other recognise real love, in whatever form it comes, and give themselves permission to accept it?
Detailing the events leading up to an unknown gunman opening fire in the town of Pitcher Creek, The Old Arbutus Tree forces us to consider how violence begets violence and how we can break free of this cycle. Is sexual difference really something to fear? How did government-sanctioned institutions in 1980s Canada fail young men as they discovered love for the first time, with each other? Does tragedy need to hit a whole community, not just a single family, before someone speaks up for those without a voice?