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Spotlight: Newfoundland and Labrador
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Spotlight: Newfoundland and Labrador

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New work (2017/2018) from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Bay of Hope

Bay of Hope

Five Years in Newfoundland
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

A “come from away” exploring love, loneliness, and adventure in remote Newfoundland

Part memoir, part nature writing, part love story, Bay of Hope is an occasionally comical, often adversarial, and always emotional story about the five years ecologist David Ward lived in an isolated Newfoundland community; of how he ended up there, worked, survived the elements, and coped with loneliness and a lack of intimacy. But this book is also a story about David’s 78 McCallum, Newfoundland, neighbors …

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Excerpt

An official with the provincial government’s Department of Municipal Affairs will be in McCallum in late August to hold an information session about possible resettlement. Apparently, a recent unofficial poll in McCallum resulted in 79 percent of eligible residents voting for resettlement.

The St. John’s Telegram, August 2, 2013

I wish the town of McCallum had kept its name Bonne Bay. It was changed to honour the Newfoundland governor shortly after the time of his term. Bonne Bay is a poetic title and fitting tribute to the Southwest Coast’s French history, and semantically correct given that “bonne” means “good.” The only pleasure I get from knowing this outport was named after a British colonizer comes from learning that Sir Henry Edward McCallum didn’t get along with politicians, including Newfoundland premier Robert Bond, the son of a St. John’s merchant. That’s why Henry served such a short time as governor of Newfoundland (1899–1901) before being appointed elsewhere, because of the tension between the two men.

Henry’s fast transfer out of Newfoundland was unfortunate, given that every region Henry governed — except Newfoundland — grew immensely. Henry McCallum was a huge success. It appears that Newfoundland’s failure to grow as much as Henry’s other colonies — Lagos, Natal, Ceylon — is a direct result of government’s long-term mismanagement of the island’s fishery and extended economy, because Newfoundlanders gave birth to a comparable number of children, but with there being no work, Newfoundlanders were forced to assemble their families elsewhere. All of which makes me wonder: If government post–Henry McCallum had been competent, how many people would reside in Newfoundland now? And how many would live in McCallum, a community that, while its population peaked at 284 in the late 1980s, has the same number of residents today — 79 — as it did when Henry was governor?

It’s easy to see why rural Newfoundland is dying. Children grow up and leave for work or school and don’t come back, while the rest of us just get older. You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out what happens next. What I don’t understand is why so many people from elsewhere feel compelled to tell McCallum residents that their hometown is at death’s door. I write for a Newfoundland newspaper — I’m trying to live The Shipping News dream — so, via email, snail mail, social media, and site visits, I meet a lot of people, many of whom insist on telling me that the outports are dying. But, never mind me, nobody is on the receiving end of this unwanted information more than McCallum residents, who habitually hear it from friends, family and others who have moved away. Like the inhabitants hadn’t noticed. I suspect this need for the informer to feel smart at the expense of others is similar to what followers of professional wrestling face when non-fans insist on telling fans that their source of pleasure, “It’s fake, you know?” No kidding? Or, as they say in Newfoundland: “The devil?”

Scroll through Newfoundland newspapers. Whenever an article appears containing content about an isolated outport, a lot of readers post heated comments implying that every outport person deserves to rot in hell for finding themselves in a situation where government has offered them a buyout. It’s unsettling to think that so many of this angry gang are out there, holding on so tightly to their badly informed beliefs. These ignorant individuals, behind anonymous names like “God Bless Britain” and “u don tno,” see themselves as having a keen understanding of Canada’s most complex socioeconomic issues.

The groups that represents these haters — their governments — are not a lot different. The only difference is that, for governments, silence is the tool of choice because not standing up for rural populations ruffles the fewest feathers — a significant part of any government goal.

I suspect that most politicians are too full of fear to act otherwise. I’m sure some of them went into service with the best intentions, but, once within their power-worshiping parties, they find themselves neutered by pompous blowhards who use intimidating tactics like humiliation to keep their doubters at bay. Otherwise, how did Premier Danny Williams consistently get away with placing smiling, clapping women — like McCallum’s member of the house of assembly — behind him whenever the camera was on, in an effort to capture the female vote and the male viewer? Why would any self-respecting woman agree to such lapdog duties unless she felt she had no choice? So, while this pitiable group of politicians may not have the same desire that their voters do to repeatedly point out to outport people their eventual expiry, they do make daily decisions, behind closed doors, that contribute to the death of rural Newfoundland.

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The End of Music

The End of Music

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : family life

In The End of Music, Jamie Fitzpatrick’s two mesmerizing, interwoven narratives circle the lives of Joyce, a modern young woman navigating the fraught social mores of a small town in its post-war heyday, and her son, Carter, more than fifty years later, whose days as an aspiring rock star are over. As Joyce’s memories of the past begin to escape her, her son’s past returns to haunt him. Brilliantly and unflinchingly revealing the inner lives of his characters, Fitzpatrick offers an extraor …

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Spirited Away

Spirited Away

Fairy stories of old Newfoundland
by Tom Dawe
illustrated by Veselina Tomova
edition:Hardcover

In this companion volume to their collaboration An Old Man's Winter Night, Tom Dawe and Veselina Tomova present a fascinating, tantalizing, and chilling collection of fairy lore. No benign tooth fairies here; these fairies are amoral, tricky, dangerous, and beguiling.

 

A young school teacher learns about strange lights in a foreboding marsh; a nurse in a remote outport visits the baby she delivered just weeks before to find a devastating change; a woman meets a mysterious funeral procession late …

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A Newfoundlander in Canada

A Newfoundlander in Canada

Always Going Somewhere, Always Coming Home
edition:Hardcover

Following the fantastic success of his bestselling memoir, Where I Belong, Great Big Sea front man Alan Doyle returns with a hilarious, heartwarming account of leaving Newfoundland and discovering Canada for the first time.

Armed with the same personable, candid style found in his first book, Alan Doyle turns his perspective outward from Petty Harbour toward mainland Canada, reflecting on what it was like to venture away from the comforts of home and the familiarity of the island.
     Often in …

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Excerpt

A Map of Canada

There once was a boy who lived in a tiny fishing village on an island in the middle of the ocean. That boy was me. And there on the old new bridge separating the Catholic and Protestant sides of Petty Harbour, I daydreamed about what else might be waiting for me over the tall hills surrounding my tiny home.
     I would lie awake at night in the modest bedroom I shared with my brother, Bernie, and wonder aloud, as he muttered sleepy responses.
     “How dark does it get in the desert?”
     “Real dark, probably. Go to sleep.”
     “Is a skyscraper taller than Boone’s Head?”
     “Don’t know. Never saw one. Go to sleep, please.”
     “Can you drive from New York to Los Angeles?”
     “Yes, saw it on TV. Go to friggin’ sleep.”
     “How far is that?”
     “Don’t know. Shut up and go to sleep.”
     “Denny said there are mountains so high in India that you can look down on a plane. Is that true?”
     “Yep.”
     “So how far away is Vancouver?”
     “Don’t know. I’m asleep.”
     I confess that as a very young fella I spent an equal amount of time thinking about Dublin and Hollywood as I did about Toronto or Vancouver. To me, they were all the same, faraway places that I had little, if any, chance of ever seeing in person. I was probably supposed to be more familiar with Calgary than Lisbon, but I wasn’t. I had met lots of people from Portugal, as the White Fleet often summered off the rocks in Petty Harbour buying excess fish from the locals, but I don’t think I’d ever met anyone from Alberta.
     For a while what country I was part of was not entirely clear to me. Most of the older people in Petty Harbour said we were still part of the country of Newfoundland and therefore I was a Newfoundlander. My mom and teachers said we were a part of Canada and therefore I was a Canadian. I was certainly happy with either one. Standing on the bridge in Petty Harbour, I could have been part of Canada, China, Poland, or South Africa and it would not have made one pinch of difference to my day-to-day. They all seemed equally distant and fantastical to me.
     But the truth, of course, is that my mom and teachers were right. I was a Canadian. The Dominion of Newfoundland joined the country of Canada in 1949, when both my parents were well into their childhoods, and though I rarely think of myself as such, I am a first-generation Canadian. Though unlike other first-generation Canadians, my parents never left anywhere and arrived anywhere else. So here we all were supposedly in a new country. A new country we knew very little about and one that probably knew very little about us.
     Sometime in my earliest years of school, I was given a photo­copied map of Canada pasted onto a piece of construction paper. There were no words or lines to separate provinces, just an out­line of the mainland of the country and its outlying islands. My job was to take my crayons and cover it with as many details as I could name—cities, lakes, mountains, landmarks, even buildings of note. I had very little to go on except for what I’d heard the adults around me describe. With the voices of my parents and of other grown-ups around Petty Harbour in my head, I began to fill in the map. As far as I knew the map of Canada consisted of the following regions from east to west.
     First, I wrote NEWFOUNDLAND in the ocean by the funny-shaped island reaching backwards to the mother country of Ireland or England, depending on which side of the bridge you were from. I knew I lived only a few kilometres from the most easterly point in all of Canada and in fact North America, and if I wanted to go anywhere in the province of Newfoundland or the country of Canada, I had only one way to go.
     And that was west across the overpass and the mythical yet very real gateway between rural Newfoundland and its baymen, like my young self, and the city of St. John’s and its townies, like the adult self I hoped to be. So on the map of Newfoundland, I figured there could be only two regions. In crayon I spelled out in capital letters the one around the greater St. John’s area known as TOWN, and the rest would be a giant area known as AROUND THE BAY.
     I knew Labrador was a place up above me, but the fishermen on the wharf referred to going there as “down on the Labrador,” which I found, and still find, confusing. In the same vein, folks from my hometown would say “let’s go up the Southern Shore.” I have never heard a single person outside of Newfoundland, before or since, say “down to the north” as in Labrador or “up to the south” as in the Southern Shore. No wonder my mapping skills were stunted so early. But I knew Labrador was actually a part of my province, and not part of Quebec, the province to which it is attached, which again was very confusing. All I really knew about Labrador was that it was a vast, beautiful, sparsely populated place with a huge coastline and massive rivers and an iron ore mine in Labrador City. I had heard a cousin say you could drive from Labrador City to a town in Quebec in twenty minutes or so, but I honestly thought that was just a story. “Imagine!” I once said to the other ten-year-olds working on the wharf in Petty Harbour. “Driving from one province to another and back while on your dinner break. Must be impossible.”
     So with my crayon I mapped out Labrador as a mass of land along the mainland coast above Newfoundland that for some reason bent inland just long and far enough to reach Labrador City and the mine. I asked my teacher why the Labrador–Quebec border bent in so sharply. Walking briskly up the aisle, she told me, “Because that is where the mine is.” I asked, “Why didn’t Quebec get the mine?” She broke her stride and turned her head to the side and appeared to be thinking about it, and after a little while she turned back to me and said, “Finish your work now.” I wrote LABRADOR down the coastline.
     For the first years of my life I was sure we were part of the Maritimes, but it turns out we are not. We are part of Atlantic Canada, which comprises the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador. Not sure who was in charge of that distinction, but even as a kid it seemed unnecessary to me. So I drew a big circle around Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick and wrote MARITIMES in the ocean between them, then set to try to name what I knew about them individually.  
     I’d heard an uncle say he drove a cement truck onto the ferry on the west coast of Newfoundland and when it landed on the other side he was in North Sydney. So I wrote NORTH SYDNEY in what I would come to learn was Cape Breton Island and drew an arrow to its northernmost tip, as I figured that’s where the ferry would land. Turns out I was off by quite a bit, as the NL–NS ferry bypasses about 180 kilometres of Nova Scotia land before finally docking about halfway down Cape Breton Island.
     I knew there was a city where many of the airplanes headed our way stopped, so I just wrote HALIFAX across the lower part of Nova Scotia.
I knew Prince Edward Island was the little bit in the bay next to HALIFAX. To make the label fit, I used the province ’s initials, but in my haste, I put PIE there instead. My teacher thought that was hilarious. (I was delighted many years later when my own son asked if we could go see one of the sandy beaches on P.I.E.)
     I knew there was something between PIE and Quebec, but was not sure what it was. All I could recall was how people from St. John’s area complained their Sears catalogue packages were always being sent to a city with almost exactly the same name in another Atlantic province. I figured this must be the place, so in the New Brunswick area, I wrote OTHER ST. JOHNS.
     As a Montreal Canadiens fan, I knew the next bit quite well. I wrote MONTREAL, QUEBEC, which I’m sure must have spilled over into Ontario. I drew the Habs logo, the H inside the C, somewhere in the middle of the province as an homage to the team I loved so much.
     I knew the Maple Leafs came from the next place to Montreal as they played each other on Hockey Night in Canada quite often. I knew about the CN Tower because the just-built tallest building in the world that looked like a fancy robot was on TV a lot too. But I knew this city for many reasons besides.
     You see, Toronto—pronounced “Chronto” in Petty Harbour— was the place where everybody went to for seemingly everything. They went there to work in factories, to catch planes, to go on holidays, and to watch hockey games at the Gardens. Every few weeks there would be a card game or a darts tournament to raise money to send someone from Petty Harbour to Toronto for a kidney transplant, or to see a specialist about a bone disorder, or for heart surgery, or any myriad of ailments not easily or quickly treated in Newfoundland. There were so many people going there for so many different reasons, I assumed it must be a huge place. I knew around where it started, but had no idea where it ended. So on the crayon map, as I could not recall how the city was spelled on the Maple Leafs jersey, I wrote in the name the way it sounded. I wrote CHRONTO through all of Ontario and what must have been most of Manitoba.
     I skipped over to the other coast and wrote BRITISH COLUMBIA up and down next to the Pacific Ocean. I knew there was a city called VANCOUVER in there somewhere, so I wrote that right beneath the BRITISH COLUMBIA, and as I saw people skiing there on TV, I drew mountains, quite coincidentally exactly where the Rockies separate B.C. and Alberta.
     There were still two massive pieces of unnamed land. I strained to recall conversations the adults would have about where people went to find work and all I could think was Chronto. Then I remembered a series of chats on the wharf between two fishermen cursing the low price for fish and the high price of gas.
      “Sure you’d starve to death at this racket. Jaysus, we’re spend­ing more than we’re making. Me and the brother are going out West to see if we can make a go of it. If it don’t work there, shag it, we’ll go up north and give it a go.”
     “Out West” and “up north.” I figured that must be what was left.
     I wrote OUT WEST over Saskatchewan and Alberta, and across the top of the map, from Alaska to Hudson Bay, I wrote UP NORTH.
     That was it. That was all I knew about the country my mom and teachers told me was mine and most of the older fishermen on the wharf told me was not. Outside of my own province, I wrote about ten names and drew one tower and a mountain range and a Habs logo. At that tender age, that was my Canada.
     How did Newfoundland fit into Canada? Did we fit at all? I wasn’t sure, and I supposed it did not really matter all that much to me because there was almost no chance I’d ever get to see it anyway.
     Then, in the final days of 1992, my life changed forever, when Séan McCann shook my hand on Water Street and asked me to join a band that he and Bob Hallett and Darrell Power were des­tined to start. A few weeks later Great Big Sea was born, and two of the biggest, most impossible dreams of my life became a whole lot more possible. I was going to play in a band for a living. And these guys were not just aiming to play around St. John’s and down the Southern Shore where I’d apprenticed for so many years. These guys were talking about going across the vast island of Newfoundland en route to the country of Canada. And these boys were serious. We were going “up to Canada,” as my grand­father would say. I could not have been more excited.

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Most Anything You Please

Most Anything You Please

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

For decades, the Holloways have operated a convenience store in the working-class neighborhood of Rabbittown in St. John’s, and every customer has a story. In a vibrant, contemporary family saga, filled with idiosyncratic characters, Trudy Morgan-Cole tells the tale of three generations of Holloway women—Ellen, Audrey, and Rachel—their loves and their livelihood in times of great change. Most Anything You Please captures the spirit of a community and the women who hold it together, reveali …

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Catching the Light

Catching the Light

edition:Paperback

This was the line between here and there. No landwash, no vague intertidal zone, no undecided. She stood at the edge, a mass of instincts and yearnings and despair, while the dawn painted itself in around her, shade by delicate shade.

The kids call her Lighthouse: no lights on up there. In a small town, everyone knows when you can't read. But Cathy is just distracted by the light, lines, and artistry of everyday life. She is a talented artist growing up in tiny Mariners Cove and yearns for accept …

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Last Lullaby

Last Lullaby

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

Set in the fictional town of Paddy's Arm, Newfoundland, Alice Walsh's debut mystery novel is at once harrowing and homey, equal parts police procedural and diner gossip. When Claire and Bram's only child dies suddenly, it at first appears to be a case of crib death. But when the real cause of death indicates homicide and Claire is arrested as the number-one suspect, her friend, lawyer Lauren LaVallee, promises she'll do everything she can to prove Claire's innocence.

As Lauren combs Paddy's Arm …

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Cod Only Knows

Cod Only Knows

edition:eBook
tagged :

Finally! A new book in the popular Shores Mysteries series!

For the first time in thirty years, all the signs have returned to the waters off The Shores. Signs of a presumed gone, possibly legendary giant cod.

A photograph is the only evidence the big one ever existed. The Shores's mysterious Abel Mack almost landed the most giant of the giant cod the last time they appeared.

At all costs, two powerful men with competing interests are after the biggest cod. They are closing in on The Shores--but …

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