A spaceship hurtles towards the moon, hippies gather at Woodstock, Charles Manson leads a cult into murder and a Kennedy drives off a Chappaquiddick dock: it’s the summer of 1969. And as mankind takes its giant leap, Jordan May March, disabled bastard and genius, age fourteen, limps and schemes her way towards adulthood. Trapped at the March family’s cottage, she spends her days memorizing Top 40 lists, avoiding her adoptive cousins, catching frogs and plottingto save Yogi, the bullied, buttertart-eating bear caged at the top of March Road. In her diary, reworking the scant facts of her adoption, Jordan visions and revisions a hundred different scenarios for her conception on that night in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel tore Toronto to shreds, imagining her conception at the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital or the CNE horse palace, and such parents as JFK, Louisa May Alcott, Perry Mason and the Queen of England.
But when bear-baiting cousin Derwood finds the diary and learns everything that the family will not face, the target of his torture shifts from Yogi the Bear to his disabled and haunted adopted cousin. As caged as Yogi, Jordan is drawn to desperate measures.
With its soundtrack of sixties pop songs, swamp creatures, motor boats and the rapid-fire punning of the family’s Marchspeak, When Fenelon Falls will take you to a time and place that was never as idyllic as it seemed, where not belonging turns the Summer of Love into a summer of loss.
'The meta-fictional aspect of the novel provides a generous extra layer of storytelling that is both funny and wise. The writing is strong and complex and the subject matter, unique, important and emotionally moving.'
– Lisa Moore, author of February
'The story is full of humour, surprises and a refreshingly unsentimental depiction of family relations. A boldand challenging undercurrent of darkness drives the plot forward … Palmer is a talented writer with an original voice and a marvellous ear for the nuance (and fun) of language.'
– Quill and Quire
Like Jordan in When Fenelon Falls, Dorothy Palmer was likely conceived during Hurricane Hazel and adopted at age three. She grew up in and near Toronto and spent childhood summers in Ontario's cottage country, just north of Fenelon Falls, where there really was a caged bear. In her twenty-three years as a drama/English teacher, Dorothy taught in a Mennonite colony, a four-room schoolhouse in rural Alberta, and an adult learning centre attached toa prison. She coaches for the Canadian Improv Games. When Fenelon Falls is her first novel.