$19.95 CAD

Bittersweet Sands: 24 Days in Fort McMurray

Rick Ranson 978-1-927063-62-0 | 152 Pages October, 2014 Biography & Memoir, Canadian North, Ebook, Environment & Ecology, Humour, Non-Fiction, Travel

Also available as an ebook from

About this book

Rick Ranson has collected stories from all over North America, from the DEW Line and the drill ships of Working North to the raging waters of the Mississippi in Paddling South. Now, join this engaging raconteur as he ventures to one of Canada’s most talked-about locations: Fort McMurray, home of the oilsands.

In Bittersweet Sands, Rick Ranson recounts a twenty-four day shift at an oilsands operation undergoing a shutdown, giving us a glimpse at a world most of us only know from the evening news. Along the way, he encounters a group of engaging roughnecks, including a husband-and-wife welding crew, a petty fascist safety inspector, and the tough-as-nails secretary that keeps them all in line.


"Ranson catches the spirit of the McMurray. It's the honest, funny, painful truth."

~ David Finch, author of Hell's Half Acre: Early Days in the Great Alberta Oil Patch

"Beyond simply finding a throughline through a collection of anecdotes, Bittersweet Sands succeeds in offering a compelling portrait of that unusual community, one that rarely factors into discussions of the oilsands: hard men drawn together by work, getting rich, but isolated from family and friends and left without much else aside from each other to help pass the time."

~ Paul Blinov, Vue Weekly

"Bittersweet Sands is a quick and easy read. I felt that I had a better understanding of the flavour and feel of life in Fort McMurray after I read it. If you have relatives that work in the patch, you might want to pick this one up." full review

~ Alexis Kienlen, Daily Herald-Tribune

"The book is certainly not a full picture of life in and around Fort McMurray, but that cannot be expected from a 24-day snapshot taken by an out-of-town worker. Instead, it is an entertaining collection of stories told from a familiar setting." full review

~ Jessica McIntosh, Fort McMurray Today