Who else but the author Miriam Toews could place a story in the "smallest town in Canada" where nothing interesting could ever possibly happen, and make the story interesting. She conjers up a collection of idiosyncratic personalities loaded with foibles and obsessions, and then proceeds to make them believeable and, if not loveable, at least interesting.
Never before in history has a small town mayor had to concentrate so mightily of such trivial details in order to maintain the town's population at 1500. When a woman in town gives birth to triplets it forces him to seek creative ways to make compensating population reductions. One thing is for sure, he can't ask his girl friend to move in with him because that would make a population change in the wrong direction. His motivations go deeper than maintaining the notoraity of being the "smallest town in Canada." It turns out that he has secret knowlege of his possible fraternal parentage; you'll need to read the book to see how that's connected to the town's population. Everything is made more complicated by his needing to keep the motivations for his actions a secret thus making him appear to be even more crazy.
The other main character in the book is a single mother (She's not the only one; the book seems to be filled with single mothers) who's returned to the town with her child to help her mother take care of her father who has suffered a stroke. Well, the long absent boy-friend/father-of-the child arrives in town too, and then things get complicated.
Then there's the stray dog that won't go away. This is a cast of characters so weird it's hard to believe their not real. This is creative writing at its best. The only thing wrong with the book it that nothing much happens, it sort of like real life.