"Three Years with the Rat" by Jay Hosking

A young man has moved back to Toronto, the city he grew up in, after years of drifting between school and work that was getting him nowhere. His older sister, Grace, is the one who has brought him back home and she and her friends take him under their wing, helping him find friendship, romance, and a job.

Grace and her boyfriend John are promising researchers in psychophysics but it soon becomes apparent to the man that all is not well with his sister and her research. When the two of them disappear, first Grace then months later John, the man makes an incredible discovery while cleaning out their apartment. In the second bedroom that they always kept locked, Grace and John have left behind a box big enough to crawl inside of, a lab, rat, and a note that says “this is the only way back for us.”

After months of witnessing Grace’s rage and John’s mental health decline, the man knows that these are not ordinary circumstances. And he knows that he was brought back to Toronto for a mission. He has to discover the truth behind their research and he has to save his sister. As he digs deeper into a notebook left behind he knows that ultimately he can do this by entering the box himself. And his mission becomes one that will bend both time and space, throwing into question everything he has ever known about the universe.

Three Years with the Rat, the debut novel by Jay Hosking, is an addictive story that flows across genres to create one very interesting novel. 

From the moment I read the blurb about this book I was absolutely intrigued. I’m not much of a speculative fiction reader. I have given the genre a try many times and while I have enjoyed what I have read, it’s never been one that I naturally drift toward. It’s just not for me. But when a book comes along that leaps across genres, I’m very interested to see how well it is going to do. I think of The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, how it was able to blend the science fiction dimension of time travel with romance. I was absolutely hooked on that novel as I think it was the perfect combination for me. I guess it’s a sort of watered down science fiction that I can really get into. When I first read the blurb that was immediately what I thought this book would be. And it was.

This book was the perfect blend of genres. The relationships are what drive the book, between the narrator and Grace, Grace and John, the narrator and his girlfriend. The backstories of their families and how they shaped them into what they have become are all well thought out and well-written. These are characters who are richly developed, who have stories the reader can connect to, but who have also figured out a way to bend time and space. That’s a pretty cool combination in my opinion. And it was done so well in this book.

Some of the science in the book went a little over my head (which when it comes to science, probably isn’t that difficult to do.) I think for the most part it was well explained for people who don’t have a background in the area but there is a lot of science and philosophy to the book that at some points made me feel as though you really need to have some interest in it to fully appreciate the book.

I read this book mostly as I commuted to and from work as well as on my break at work. It’s written in short bursts, jumps back and forth between the three year period but is very easy to follow. This is a great book to pick up if you are looking for something intriguing to read but aren’t able to devote only one or two sittings to it. 

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.


  1. I found this very intriguing and challenging (in a good way) as well. For me, too, the characters were what pulled me through, when I began to wonder if the philosophizing and science-ing were just a bit beyond me. It quickly became a book I read during the day, rather than before-bed, when the brain cells are already weary! (PS Buddy was my favourite character!)


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