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My Book Challenge

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The books on my must-read list.
Life of Pi

Life of Pi

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also available: Paperback
tagged : literary, animals

One boy. One boat. One tiger.     
After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orangutan--and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and beloved works of fiction in recent years.

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Chapter 1

My suffering left me sad and gloomy.

Academic study and the steady, mindful practice of religion slowly brought me back to life. I have remained a faithful Hindu, Christian and Muslim. I decided to stay in Toronto. After one year of high school, I attended the University of Toronto and took a double-major Bachelor’s degree. My majors were religious studies and zoology. My fourth-year thesis for religious studies concerned certain aspects of the cosmogony theory of Isaac Luria, the great sixteenth-century Kabbalist from Safed. My zoology thesis was a functional analysis of the thyroid gland of the three-toed sloth. I chose the sloth because its demeanour — calm, quiet and introspective — did something to soothe my shattered self.

There are two-toed sloths and there are three-toed sloths, the case being determined by the forepaws of the animals, since all sloths have three claws on their hind paws. I had the great luck one summer of studying the three-toed sloth in situ in the equatorial jungles of Brazil. It is a highly intriguing creature. Its only real habit is indolence. It sleeps or rests on average twenty hours a day. Our team tested the sleep habits of five wild three-toed sloths by placing on their heads, in the early evening after they had fallen asleep, bright red plastic dishes filled with water. We found them still in place late the next morning, the water of the dishes swarming with insects. The sloth is at its busiest at sunset, using the word busy here in a most relaxed sense. It moves along the bough of a tree in its characteristic upside-down position at the speed of roughly 400 metres an hour. On the ground, it crawls to its next tree at the rate of 250 metres an hour, when motivated, which is 440 times slower than a motivated cheetah. Unmotivated, it covers four to five metres in an hour.

The three-toed sloth is not well informed about the outside world. On a scale of 2 to 10, where 2 represents unusual dullness and 10 extreme acuity, Beebe (1926) gave the sloth’s senses of taste, touch, sight and hearing a rating of 2, and its sense of smell a rating of 3. If you come upon a sleeping three-toed sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should suffice to awaken it; it will then look sleepily in every direction but yours. Why it should look about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Magoo-like blur. As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound. Beebe reported that firing guns next to sleeping or feeding sloths elicited little reaction. And the sloth’s slightly better sense of smell should not be overestimated. They are said to be able to sniff and avoid decayed branches, but Bullock (1968) reported that sloths fall to the ground clinging to decayed branches “often”.

How does it survive, you might ask.

Precisely by being so slow. Sleepiness and slothfulness keep it out of harm’s way, away from the notice of jaguars, ocelots, harpy eagles and anacondas. A sloth’s hairs shelter an algae that is brown during the dry season and green during the wet season, so the animal blends in with the surrounding moss and foliage and looks like a nest of white ants or of squirrels, or like nothing at all but part of a tree.

The three-toed sloth lives a peaceful, vegetarian life in perfect harmony with its environment. “A good-natured smile is forever on its lips,” reported Tirler (1966). I have seen that smile with my own eyes. I am not one given to projecting human traits and emotions onto animals, but many a time during that month in Brazil, looking up at sloths in repose, I felt I was in the presence of upside-down yogis deep in meditation or hermits deep in prayer, wise beings whose intense imaginative lives were beyond the reach of my scientific probing.

Sometimes I got my majors mixed up. A number of my fellow religious-studies students–muddled agnostics who didn’t know which way was up, in the thrall of reason, that fool’s gold for the bright–reminded me of the three-toed sloth; and the three-toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God.

I never had problems with my fellow scientists. Scientists are a friendly, atheistic, hard-working, beer-drinking lot whose minds are preoccupied with sex, chess and baseball when they are not preoccupied with science.

I was a very good student, if I may say so myself. I was tops at St. Michael’s College four years in a row. I got every possible student award from the Department of Zoology. If I got none from the Department of Religious Studies, it is simply because there are no student awards in this department (the rewards of religious study are not in mortal hands, we all know that). I would have received the Governor General’s Academic Medal, the University of Toronto’s highest undergraduate award, of which no small number of illustrious Canadians have been recipients, were it not for a beef-eating pink boy with a neck like a tree trunk and a temperament of unbearable good cheer.

I still smart a little at the slight. When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling. My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition. I mock this skull. I look at it and I say, “You’ve got the wrong fellow. You may not believe in life, but I don’t believe in death. Move on!” The skull snickers and moves ever closer, but that doesn’t surprise me. The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity–it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud. The pink boy also got the nod from the Rhodes Scholarship committee. I love him and I hope his time at Oxford was a rich experience. If Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, one day favours me bountifully, Oxford is fifth on the list of cities I would like to visit before I pass on, after Mecca, Varanasi, Jerusalem and Paris.

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The Birth House

The Birth House

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback

The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of Rares. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing. Dora becomes Miss B.’s apprentice, and together they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labours, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives. Filled with details as compelling as they are surprising, The Birth Ho …

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Prologue

My house stands at the edge of the earth. Together, the house and I have held strong against the churning tides of Fundy. Two sisters, stubborn in our bones.

My father, Judah Rare, built this farmhouse in 1917. It was my wedding gift. A strong house for a Rare woman, he said. I was eighteen. He and his five brothers, shipbuilders by trade, raised her worthy from timbers born on my grand­father’s land. Oak for stability and certainty, yellow birch for new life and change, spruce for protection from the world outside. Father was an intuitive carpenter, carrying out his work like holy ritual. His callused hands, veined with pride, had a memory for measure and a knowing of what it takes to withstand the sea.

Strength and a sense of knowing, that’s what you have to have to live in the Bay. Each morning you set your sights on the tasks ahead and hope that when the day is done you’re farther along than when you started. Our little village, perched on the crook of God’s finger, has always been ruled by storm and season. The men did whatever they had to do to get by. They joked with one another in fire-warmed kitchens after sunset, smoking their pipes, someone bringing out a fiddle . . . laughing as they chorused, no matter how rough, we can take it. The seasons were reflected in their faces, and in the movement of their bodies. When it was time for the shad, herring and cod to come in, they were fishermen, dark with tiresome wet from the sea. When the deer began to huddle on the back of the mountain, they became hunters and woodsmen. When spring came, they worked the green-scented earth, planting crops that would keep, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, turnips. Summer saw their weathered hands building ships and haying fields, and sunsets that ribboned over the water, daring the skies to turn night. The long days were filled with pride and ceremony as mighty sailing ships were launched from the shore. The Lauretta, The Reward, The Nordica, The Bluebird, The Huntley. My father said he’d scour two hundred acres of forest just to find the perfect trees to build a three-masted schooner. Tall yellow birch, gently arched by northwesterly winds, was highly prized. He could spot the keel in a tree’s curve and shadow, the return of the tide set in the grain.

Men wagered their lives with the sea for the honour of these vessels. Each morning they watched for the signs. Red skies in morning, sailors take warning. Each night they looked to the heavens, spotting starry creatures, or the point of a dragon’s tail. They told themselves that these were promises from God, that He would keep the wiry cold fingers of the sea from grabbing at them, from taking their lives. Sometimes men were taken. On those dark days the men who were left behind sat down together and made conversation of every detail, hitching truth to wives’ tales while mending their nets.

As the men bargained with the elements, the women tended to matters at home. They bartered with each other to fill their pantries and clothe their children. Grandmothers, aunts and sisters taught one another to stitch and cook and spin. On Sunday mornings mothers bent their knees between the stalwart pews at the Union Church, praying they would have enough. With hymnals clutched against their breasts, they told the Lord they would be ever faithful if their husbands were spared.

When husbands, fathers and sons were kept out in the fog longer than was safe, the women stood at their windows, holding their lamps, a chorus of lady moons beckoning their lovers back to shore. Waiting, they hushed their children to sleep and listened for the voice of the moon in the crashing waves. In the secret of the night, mothers whispered to their daughters that only the moon could force the waters to submit. It was the moon’s voice that called the men home, her voice that turned the tides of womanhood, her voice that pulled their babies into the light of birth.

My house became the birth house. That’s what the women came to call it, knocking on the door, ripe with child, water breaking on the porch. First-time mothers full of questions, young girls in trouble and seasoned women with a brood already at home. (I called those babies “toesies,” because they were more than their mamas could count on their fingers.) They all came to the house, wailing and keening their babies into the world. I wiped their feverish necks with cool, moist cloths, spooned porridge and hot tea into their tired bodies, talked them back from outside of themselves.

Ginny, she had two . . .

Sadie Loomer, she had a girl here.

Precious, she had twins . . . twice.

Celia had six boys, but she was married to my brother Albert . . . Rare men always have boys.

Iris Rose, she had Wrennie . . .

All I ever wanted was to keep them safe.

Part One

Around the year 1760, a ship of Scotch immigrants came to be wrecked on the shores of this place. Although the vessel was lost, her passengers and crew managed to find shelter here. They struggled through the winter – many taking ill, the women losing their children, the men making the difficult journey down North Mountain to the valley below, carrying sacks of potatoes and other goods back to their temporary home, now called Scots Bay.
In the spring, when all who had been stranded chose to make their way to more established communities, the daughter of the ship’s captain, Annie MacIssac, stayed behind. She had fallen in love with a Mi’kmaq man she called Silent Rare.
On the evening of a full moon in June, Silent went out in his canoe to catch the shad that were spawning around the tip of Cape Split. As the night wore on, Annie began to worry that some ill had befallen her love. She looked across the water for signs of him but found nothing. She walked to the cove where they had first met and began to call out to him, promising her heart, her fidelity and a thousand sons to his name. The moon, seeing Annie’s sadness, began to sing, forcing the waves inland, strong and fast, bringing Silent safely back to his lover.
Since that time, every child born from the Rare name has been male, and even now, when the moon is full, you can hear her voice, the voice of the moon, singing the sailors home.
A Rare Family History, 1850

1

Ever since I can remember, people have had more than enough to say about me. As the only daughter in five generations of Rares, most figure I was changed by faeries or not my father’s child. Mother works and prays too hard to have anyone but those with the cruellest of tongues doubt her devotion to my father. When there’s no good explanation for something, people of the Bay find it easier to believe in mermaids and moss babies, to call it witchery and be done with it. Long after the New England Planters’ seed wore the Mi’kmaq out of my family’s blood, I was born with coal black hair, cinnamon skin and a caul over my face. A foretelling. A sign. A gift that supposedly allows me to talk to animals, see people’s deaths and hear the whisperings of spirits. A charm for protection against drowning.

When one of Laird Jessup’s Highland heifers gave birth to a three-legged albino calf, talk followed and people tried to guess what could have made such a creature. In the end, most people blamed me for it. I had witnessed the cow bawling her calf onto the ground. I had been the one who ran to the Jessups’ to tell the young farmer about the strange thing that had happened. Dora talked to ghosts, Dora ate bat soup, Dora slit the Devil’s throat and flew over the chicken coop. My classmates chanted that verse between the slats of the garden gate, along with all the other words their parents taught them not to say. Of course, there are plenty of schoolyard stories about Miss B. too, most of them ending with, if your cat or your baby goes missing, you’ll know where to find the bones. It’s talk like that that’s made us such good friends. Miss B. says she’s glad for gossip. “It keep folks from comin’ to places they don’t belong.”

Most days I wake up and say a prayer. I want, I wish, I wait for something to happen to me. While I thank God for all good things, I don’t say this verse to Him, or to Jesus or even to Mary. They are far too busy to be worrying about the affairs and wishes of my heart. No, I say my prayer more to the air than anything else, hoping it might catch on the wind and find its way to anything, to something that’s mine. Mother says, a young lady should take care with what she wishes for. I’m beginning to think she’s right.

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Blackstrap Hawco

Blackstrap Hawco

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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Fifteen years in the making, this book is the one Canada’s “heavyweight champ of brash and beautiful literature” was meant to write. An epic masterwork about Newfoundland’s working class, Blackstrap Hawco spans more than a century in gorgeous and widely varied prose, reminding us that even when writing about the degradation of identity and language, Harvey does it magnificently.

Named in a moment of anger, Blackstrap Hawco is heir to an island dominion picked over by its adoptive nation. …

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Book One
1886-1992

In 1953, my great-grandfather, Jacob Hawco, faced death on the trapline. He was only three miles from his home in Bareneed, a small fishing community that eventually was resettled by the government of Joseph Smallwood in 1962, and then repopulated some time later.
My great-grandfather would sell his pelts to the merchant store in Bareneed. It was owned by Bowering Brothers. Jacob had met his future wife, Emily Duncan, my great-grandmother, in that store. Emily’s father, Alan, who had fled Liverpool, England, for reasons that will later be revealed, had come to Bareneed to take over the store in 1926.
The story (below) of Jacob’s peril on the trapline was told to me by Andrew Tuttle, who I recently discovered was my cousin and who now resides in Boston.
The story of my grandfather’s birth was written down for me and is printed almost exactly as written, besides editorial corrections and tone alterations, by Pamela Critch (née Murphy), the great-great-granddaughter of the midwife in attendance.
The sections throughout this book featuring Blackstrap Hawco were originally in Book Two (Blackstrap’s story from 1971 to 2007) and were moved to Book One in order to give cohesion to the collected diaries, interviews and journal entries that make up Book One of this narrative.

1953

Bareneed, Newfoundland
Blackstrap Hawco’s father, Jacob, meets with wilderness injury prior to Blackstrap’s birth

The rabbit was cleanly frozen, its glassy eyes depthless, its white fur vaguely speckled against the purity of snow. Crouching beside the rabbit, Jacob Hawco did not remove his mitts. His fingers were damp with sweat and might stick to the snare wire. He knew of the restrictions placed on using picture wire to snare rabbits, but he believed the decree was made by people who knew nothing of living off the land, of survival through one’s own efforts. Ignorant people who insisted that their misunderstandings be forced upon everyone else, no matter what the cost. Who’re da real barbarians? Jacob asked himself. People never knowing people at all.

The winter air was piercingly fresh to such a degree that it stung his skin. Yet there was not a breath of wind. Beyond the grove of spruce, birch and larch, the sun blazed against a field of white. Jacob stared toward the clearing, his breath rising to cloud the brilliant aura. He watched toward the luminous white while he loosened the snare loop from the groove cut into the rabbit’s fur and throat. The white appeared to be shifting within itself, throbbing as though something startling might take form. He stared back down at the rabbit that appeared whiter with the glare burned into his eyes. He watched it laid out in both his hands. For a moment, he thought on the lightness of it, then lifted the flap of the burlap satchel hanging from his shoulder, and dropped the rabbit in.

Turning and standing at once, he sensed his right boot breaking loose from its snowshoe, snapping a worn strap that needed tending, his boot plunging through the snow, toward the incline of a hidden burrow. He grabbed for a tree, snatched to hold, his mitts slipping along the thin bald limb. Instantly — before the pain was delivered — he knew of the damage he had caused himself, heard the bone snap, felt it through his entire body, the blare of the crack within the rush of noise resulting from one misdirected step.

Buckling onto the snow, he was vaguely aware — through the searing, deafening pain — of a fox scurrying out from the hole his foot had sunk into.

Sweet adorable Christ h’almighty, sweet mudder a’ Christ, Jaysus, Jaysus, Jaysus. He cursed the pain, cursed himself, cursed his own stupidity to hold up strength. Face flinching with the immediacy of injury, he became aware of his arms sunk in the deep snow; the biting crystal cold at his wrists. No way a’ make’n it t’roo da woods now. No way. Stunned. How bloody, Christly stunned. He raised his head to stare along the snow path, the blazing sun beyond the trees. He pulled his hands up out of the snow, struggled to lean on his side, used both hands to yank his boot from the hole, prop himself up on an elbow. The worst of the pain tore through him.

The misery he experienced when he rolled over was of inhuman cruelty. The sweat poured from his brow and cheeks, had no time to dot the snow before it froze onto his skin in sparkling salt crystals, yet sopped the hair beneath his woollen cap. He reached for a resilient branch of a bush sticking up through the snow, gathered a fistful, and hauled himself to a sitting position.

From where he sat, he stared at his leg. The blood on the snow. Not a great deal of it, a spray of flecks, although it could be pouring down, deeper into the soft snow, staining the ice-hard earth beneath. The wetness already frozen, stiffening the fabric of his trousers. The jagged bone broken through the skin and showing itself where its tip cut through his pants. Such violent damage from a simple fall. He knew he could not stand, would not even attempt it. There was no walking this way. Not with the buckle broken on his snowshoe. One foot sunk deep in the snow with each painful step, the other cradled on the surface by the snowshoe. Never could he walk like that.

A rustle of movement caught his eye. It pained to move his head, for now every part of him appeared connected directly to his leg. Clumps of accumulated snow quietly fell from the boughs of a nearby evergreen. Jacob watched the fox, favouring one front paw, show itself, out from around the trees. It stood there, studying him, raising its snout, sniffing the air.

Jacob searched around. Nothing to help him. No way of walking. He lay on his back, endured the chaos of misery as he rolled over onto his stomach. He would have to drag himself along the trapline, hoping his damaged leg would not freeze. He must keep off the ground. Preserve his body’s warmth. Edge up a tree as he came across it. Stand for a while. Try to get ahead like that. Yet, ultimately, he would have to crawl most of the way. He thought of a fire, of returning to the tilt he had built a mile back in the woods. Heat would sustain him. The other way. He must turn the other way. Not toward the brilliant clearing at the edge of the grove, but deeper into the still, wintry woods. There he would find warmth.

No one was expecting him at home for days.

He was on the trapline, his leg broken. It was a pitiful situation, yet one that might be mastered. He grabbed for a bush, and, grimacing, edged himself ahead a few inches. He wished that Emily had allowed Jacob Jr. to come along. The boy would find his way out and return with help, but Jacob did not really need help. No, it was strangely funny in itself. He chuckled despite the agony, his humour boring into the pain. He would figure it all out. Narry a problem. Narry a care in da world. Nut’n but clear roads ahead. I’s at me leisure. Jacob Jr. was in school learning from books of no good use to him, education at the insistence of Junior’s educated mother. The boy should be here, in the woods, learning the truth of nature’s doing.

T’ink, Jacob told himself. Forget da foolishness ’n t’ink. Already his neck muscles were beginning to strain from holding his head up off the snow. He reached for another bush, just barely out of reach, lurched for it, grabbed hold, struggled to pull his body ahead another few inches. He knew how reason alone would prevent him from becoming empty like the rabbit in his bag.

How to beat the odds?

How to survive?

He tried making plans, as a means of smothering the pain, yet his mind shifted on its own, to centre on the fine tale that would be salvaged from this stroke of misfortune. A glorious yarn worth telling. Emily loved an adventure story, the way Jacob kept her captivated by its telling, the glint in her eyes when she glanced up from her needlepoint, awaiting the next word while he reeled out the yarns about catastrophe at sea and the overcoming of great peril. Icebergs snapping in half nearby and spilling chunks of ice onto the deck up on the Labrador. Huge slabs of ice, big enough to punch holes in the wood, beating down around them, the vibrations knocking every man off his feet. Or men dying of unknown maladies on board and shoved away in crates piled high with pickling salt. Having to pass by the crate every day during his ocean-bound duties while they carried on their voyage. Muttering a few words in passing. A blessing. No turning back when there was a living to be earned. Not even death able to waylay a fishing voyage. Emily’s favourite tales told with a bit of difference each time. This would amount to one of them. But the story would be of use to no one, would add up to nothing if it died in his head.

Pain was no story at all. It was nothing but an exclamation point. It came at him and he shut his eyes. Pain with its own varying, flickering shades of pink, red and white behind his eyelids.
Gradually, with his body relaxing from the clutch of torment, he grunted in near relief and reached ahead for another bush, snatched a handful of tangled branches and dragged himself forward. Squinting in mortal agony, he imagined Emily’s eyes on him and drove the pain from his expression. He considered the way he would deliver the tale, sitting around the kitchen lantern at night, the amber glow on his face, Emily’s smiling intent eyes carefully peeking at him as he explained with words and gesture, his hands making it whole again. And Jacob Jr. there, too. The boy wanting him to repeat the part about the fox. The part about the bone snapping. The terrible sound it made. The part about the trail he dragged himself along with the smear of red after him. The crackle of the woodstove behind Emily and Jacob Jr. The full warmth of his home with the wind howling beyond the windowpane, hurling snow pellets against the glass. He would live to smile at that.

Cringing out a chuckle, he grabbed another bush, yanked at it to feel it come loose in his hand. The entire bush up from the snow. Roots and all. A spray of dirt sprinkled along the snow. Grains of earth on his lips. He spat them away and strained a glance back to see the trail of his own blood smeared in the snow, exactly as he imagined. He snatched for another bush, wound the clump of branches around his mitt, dragged his body forward over the recesses of his snowshoe prints, the trail that had led him to his stroke of hard luck, the trail that he now retraced.

His thoughts on the fleeing fox. Had it been injured by his foot’s intrusion into its burrow? He cast a glance off to the right, saw it trotting along, sitting when Jacob paused to dam his eyes shut and grind his teeth against a wicked flurry of pain. Other concerns niggled him through the breathless sweat of injury’s noise that he heard and tasted like metal in his mouth each time he shifted.

The fox favoured its front paw as it trotted closer on three, sniffing at Jacob.

He thought ahead, the traps set, the fox. Steel jaws snapping shut to penetrate the fox’s leg. It whimpered like a beagle barred out, sticking close. An omen, Jacob decided. T’ink, he told himself. Dis’ll be easy. Jus’ git da right end’n fer da story.

Emily.

How he grabbed for the branch and it snapped off in his hand. No, how the bush came up by the roots, snow flying back at him like a slap in the face. No, how the branch whipped back and lashed his face and he was blinded for minutes, not fully regaining his sight until . . . He would explain how movement slowed down, how the fox scurried from its hole, running off like a mutt, yapping, as Jacob toppled over into the soft snow, his arms sinking deep, trying to rise but impossible, impos­sible . . . No, how he passed out with the unbearable suffering and woke with his body gone numb, the side of his face pressed to the snow as though it were dead, nothing but meat. Dat’s all we be, Junior. Nut’n but da worst sort o’ ugly meat widt da blessed life spilled outta us. Barely a breath of life left in him, thinking of a way, and how he knew that he must set the leg himself with two pieces of wood, cleaved from a tree with his axe, and wait for it to mend. Cleaved it meself, Emily, frum a larch tree pointed t’ward da east. Drag himself over the trapline, checking the snares and traps he had set, careful not to set them off himself, collecting carcasses along the way, filling his satchel or dragging the carcasses at his side, pulling himself along, pulling the carcasses along, inch by inch. Him and his prized pelts, back to the safety of his tilt. ’N dere dey be, b’ys, right dere in dat sack. Nut’n to it.

A dusting of snow sprinkled before his face. Looking up, he saw a lone crow shifting on a snow-covered bough and — despite his flinching pain — could not help but grin at the perfection of its deathly presence.

Blackstrap’s mother, Emily, recalls the night her family fled Liverpool

The Caribou and the Cabot sailed between the straits of Conception Bay, carrying men from the iron ore mines on Bell Isle, back the ten or twelve miles to their home towns along the ragged-cliffed Newfoundland coast. Carbonear, Harbour Grace, Spaniard’s Bay, Port de Grave, Bareneed. Good money was to be made on Bell Isle; the booming town was full of mainlanders, Americans and Canadians, shipped in with the knowledge required to exploit the resources and maintain the mines.

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The Book Of Negroes

The Book Of Negroes

A Novel
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Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle—a string of slaves— Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.” This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave th …

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Death as a Fine Art

Death as a Fine Art

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Journey into the fashionable art world of 1960s Vancouver as Margaret Spencer and Nat Southby return in Death as a Fine Art, the fifth book in the Margaret Spencer mystery series. The owner of the Silver Unicorn Art Gallery is dead, and Southby and Spencer, Private Investigators are back at work in search of the killer. With plenty of suspects and twists and turns along the way, Maggie and Nat have their work cut out for them.

The cast of memorable characters are no match for the investigators. M …

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Elephant Winter

Elephant Winter

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover Paperback
tagged : literary

Sophie Walker is back from Africa to nurse her dying mother. Her mother's Ontario farm borders on "Safari"—a tacky tourist spot now deserted for the winter. From her mother's window Sophie sees not cows, or horses, but a group of Indian elephants playing gracefully in the snow. Elephant Winter is a novel about the forms of intimacy, from the turbulent love between a mother and daughter to the fulfilling bond between Sophie and the elephants.

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Beware This Boy

Beware This Boy

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback

November, 1940. Tom Tyler, Detective Inspector of the small Shropshire town of Whitchurch, is a troubled man. The preceding summer had been a dark one for Britain, and even darker for Tom's own family and personal life. So he jumps at the opportunity to help out in the nearby city of Birmingham, where an explosion in a munitions factory has killed or badly injured several of the young women who have taken on dangerous work in support of the war effort.
At first, it seems more than likely the exp …

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Dead Ground in Between

Dead Ground in Between

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback

From Canada's premier author of historical mysteries, Maureen Jennings, comes the haunting fourth novel in the DI Tom Tyler series. Set in Britain during the darkest days of World War II, this is a must-read for fans of Foyle's War, Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, and wartime dramas.

It's late 1942; the war is still raging and the upcoming Christmas season looks bleak. Detective Inspector Tom Tyler is settling into his placement in Ludlow, Shropshire, a small town jammed with people s …

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