Set in the British Columbia Interior, the novel Cambium Blue is an homage to resource towns, independent women and local newspapers.
In 1994, at the outset of the bark beetle epidemic that will decimate millions of acres of pine forest in western North America, a fiercely independent lumber town faces a bleak future when its only sawmill is shuttered. Encouraged by a provincial government intent on transitioning the region from timber to tourism, the town council embraces a resort developer as their last, best hope. A failure to anticipate the human cost of that choice ignites a struggle for the very soul of the community.
Cambium Blue’s narrative alternates between three viewpoints. Stevie Jeffers is a timid, twenty-four year-old single mom who stakes her future on the town after a traumatic break-up. Nash Malone is a reclusive Spanish Civil War veteran who supplements his pension with salvage from the local dump—an occupation that puts him on a collision course with the town’s plan to beautify itself. At fifty-four years old, cash-strapped and short-staffed Maggie Evans is treading water while waiting to sell her dead husband’s newspaper, the barely solvent Chronicle. As the characters’ lives intertwine and the conflict heats up, they will each be challenged to traverse the ambiguous divide between substance and hype, past and future, hope and despair.
Rich with unforgettable characters and set in the Interior hinterland of British Columbia, Cambium Blue is a masterful and compassionate illumination of the human politics of a small town, and the intersection of individual lives with political agendas and environmental catastrophes.
About the author
Maureen Brownlee was born on the western slope of the northern Rockies. A former journalist, she has also worked as an outfitter’s cook, a trail guide, a bookkeeper and an employment counsellor. For ten years she was variously publisher, editor, reporter, photographer, graphic designer (and janitor) for a weekly community newspaper. She studied Literature and Creative Writing through the Open University and UNBC. Cambium Blue is her second novel, her first was Loggers’ Daughters (Oolichan Books, 2013). Brownlee lives near Valemount, BC.
"Maureen Brownlee's heart shines through these characters and this place: Cambium Blue is a wise and moving meditation on life in a small town and what it means to be human."
Jacqueline Baker, author of <i>The Broken Hours</i> and <i>The Horseman's Graves</i>
"Maureen Brownlee fits a universe of love, struggle, heartbreak and joy into one small northern town—and in so doing, snuggles this book right into our own hearts in the process. Cambium Blue is a wonderful meditation on the communities that keep us going and a sweet testament to the friendships that surprise us at all stages of life. A beautiful gem of a novel."
Amanda Leduc, author of <i>The Centaur’s Wife</i>, <i>The Miracles of Ordinary Men</i>, <i>Disfigured: on Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space</i>
"Maureen Brownlee is a vital and important voice in British Columbia fiction, capturing a way of life under-represented in our country's literature. Cambium Blue vibrates with violence and sings with beauty. This story, these characters, this environmental and political discussion - all so crucially important today, right now. Read it."
Angie Abdou, author of <i>The Bone Cage, In Case I Go</i> and <i>This One Wild Life: a Mother-Daughter Wilderness Memoir</i>