Recommended Reading List
9781771963114_cover
Download list
Please login or register to use this feature.

New Books from Nova Scotia

By kileyturner
0 ratings
rated!
rated!
tagged:
As always, some of Canada's best books come from Nova Scotia or are set there.
Throw Down Your Shadows

Throw Down Your Shadows

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Sixteen-year-old Winnie is a creature of habit, a lover of ritual and stability. If she had her way, not much would change. But when a new family moves to town, Winnie and her three best friends—all boys—find themselves changing quickly and dramatically to impress Caleb, their strange and charismatic new companion. Under Caleb's influence, Winnie and her friends test boundaries, flirt with danger, and in the end, illuminate darkness within each other and themselves.

Following a before and af …

More Info
Excerpt

Though we had never met, he waved at us like he knew us. An open palm raised above his head. Bewitching grey eyes under dark, curly hair.

What is a wave, really? It is recognition. It is I see you. But it's not always a gesture of welcome. Sometimes a wave means caution. I see you (stay back). I see you (I'm busy). I see you (please, not now). His palm was raised, demanding our attention, letting us know we had appeared in his world. But his hand stayed frozen, inert. He didn't move it from side to side, like you do with those you're happy to see.

His hand was a stop sign but we mistook it for a green light.

AFTER

There is a moment when I first open my eyes. Not even a moment. It's gone before it begins. The night before, all its destruction, the fire, a dream. Something imagined. Confusing and irrational. I blink hard, but my eyes can't unsee. All that smoke, the heat. Don't fool yourself, Winnie. It happened.

I contemplate never leaving my room. Staying in bed with my hands clamped between my knees, turned towards the wall forever. What does the morning after look like? Not knowing makes me squirm.

I wonder if Ruth will do the regular things. Make coffee, serve it up hot. Did she bother to put on pajamas last night? I slept in a T-shirt, no underwear. I felt the need to let my whole body breathe.

Toast. She always makes toast. But who will eat it? And what about Mac? I don't think he came home last night. I didn't hear him. He tends to stomp up the stairs and across the hall. I would have heard the stomping and the opening and closing of doors. I would have heard them talking. Or maybe there was nothing to say.

I slide out of bed and into sweatpants. I listen before I open the door. Nothing. My hand hovers above the doorknob and I wait for a sign of what comes next. There's a strong chance everything will be different today, the old ways of doing and being no longer suitable. This is not a place that changes much but even those who are stuck and stubborn can't ignore such a profound disruption.

I finally turn the knob. I tiptoe downstairs, past the closed door of Ruth's bedroom. The house is unusually quiet. Dark corners and the echo of a clock hand. It's the end of October and the cold haunts my bare feet. I continue past the living room, the dining room. Everything quiet and empty and cold.

I nearly jump out of my skin when I find Ruth at the kitchen table. She's wearing pajamas.

"You scared me," I whisper. "Your door was closed."

She points upwards and I understand. Mac is sleeping.

She made coffee but no toast. She pours me a cup and we sink into silence. We wait.

BEFORE

Mona warned me. It was the only future she ever accurately predicted, our local psychic who couldn't see rain rolling in from the other end of the valley. I didn't believe in fortune-telling or astrology or anything like that, but Mona was my mother's best friend and my best friend Jake's mother. If she wanted to read my future, I wouldn't stop her.

"Hi, Mone," I said, opening the door of her tiny office.

"Winnie, come in." Her voice was low and hushed.

I sat down on the empty chair, the only clear space in the small room. Her office was tucked into the east corner of their farmhouse. A room with an unusually low ceiling, jam-packed with junk. There were crystal balls and heavy curtains and charts of the night sky, dirty teacups everywhere. But there were also used batteries and too many stray pens, milk crates full of old electronics. Radios and VCRs, a broken toaster.

"I'll need a moment," she said, gathering herself, eyes closed. A big bowl of water sat between us on her desk.

Mona was not a small woman. She was tall and broad, like her son Jake. They both had the same blonde hair, the colour of wheat, though Mona's was long and stringy, reaching down past her sagging breasts. She didn't dress like a psychic. No glittering scarves or gaudy jewelry. That wouldn't be practical on the farm. Mona dressed like every other farmer. Jeans with plaid, roomy shirts she didn't mind tearing on the pasture fence. The only difference between farm Mona and psychic Mona was her hair. When she was working on the farm, she wore it tied back in a long braid. During readings, it hung long and free.

I breathed in deeply. The room, like Mona, smelled of sweet beeswax and hay. They kept hives on the farm and she used the wax to make candles. She sold them out of her kitchen. The hay was just something that followed you around where we lived. She opened her eyes. It seemed she was ready.

"I asked you to come in for a reading, Winnie, because I had a dream about you two nights ago. I don't usually dream about people I know. My dreams are full of strangers, faces I don't recognize." She tilted her head to the side, considering. "The dead, perhaps. I've always thought I might also be a medium."

I nodded. I was used to this. Mona and my mother, Ruth, had been close friends for as long as I could remember. On the surface, they seemed like very different people but they shared an unconventional sensibility, an eccentric way of moving and being in the world. Mona as a psychic, Ruth as an artist.

"But the other night, I dreamt of you, Winnie. You as a grown woman. You looked different, more like your mother. But it was you, undeniably. Red hair. Same dark brown eyes. You were living somewhere far away. A foreign place that looked a bit like home. Rolling fields, a river. You were happy there. I thought we could try to conjure it, that place. You, there. I thought if I could see it more clearly, we could locate it. See where you're headed in this life."

I wondered how she knew the place was necessarily elsewhere. Looked a bit like home. Sounded like home to me.

"It's been a while since you've done a reading. I'll remind you that I ask you to remain silent throughout the process. When I am done, you are free to ask one question. I will let you know when you can speak. Until that time, please try to sit still to ensure the reading is as accurate as possible."

I suppressed a small laugh as she waved her hands over the bowl of water. This was how she did her readings, how she mined the invented futures of our most gullible neighbours: the recently divorced, the grieving. She claimed to interpret energy as it bounced off the surface of the liquid. As a child, I'd sat for many readings. When I was eleven, Mona told me I would attend eight funerals in the next five years, that I would need a passport by the time I turned fourteen, and that I had been a Salem witch in a past life. The predictions didn't come true and the third claim just seemed absurd. I stopped doing the readings when I realized it was all a hoax. It had been a while and I'd forgotten how seriously she took it.

After several minutes of hand-waving, Mona stopped, stared at the bowl, and frowned. "I'm not seeing that place today," she said. "I'm just seeing home. The valley. You in the valley."

I wanted to say, maybe it was always the valley. Maybe your dream was just like any other dream, a messy pastiche of memory and imagination, snapshots of life cut through with nonsensical intrusions and nothing more.

She continued to wave her hands once again and I realized I needed to pee. Gazing at the bowl of water, unable to move.

"Ah, here's something." Mona brought her hands to her chest and looked at me, suddenly intent. "I'm getting change from you, Winnie. Dramatic change. Everything is going to change for you this summer. You will become a woman. The woman you're meant to be."

She let the words sink in for a few long moments and then continued. "Also, you should avoid anything hot. Definitely don't take up smoking. No bonfires or fireworks, Winnie. I smell smoke in your future."

When the reading was finished, she told me I could ask my question.

I yawned, looking around. "What do you keep in that locked cabinet in the corner?"

Mona turned to face the cabinet behind her and then back at me. Her green eyes were large and blinking. I wasn't doing this right.

"That's all you want to know?"

I shrugged. "I've always wondered."

I'd forgotten about the cabinet, which I had tried to break into as a child. We didn't have locked cabinets or drawers in my house and so it fascinated me, this mysterious space, off limits to anyone who didn't have a key. Mona's son Jake and I took turns guessing what might be inside. I imagined important documents or shiny, expensive jewelry. Maybe even stacks of money. It was fun to think Mona might have another life, exotic and confidential, the evidence hidden behind the cupboard doors. Could she be a spy? A criminal? Nothing about her life or personality suggested this was the case but it was fun to indulge in the fantasy. I liked reading books about people with secret lives—double agents, assassins—and it was thrilling to pretend I might know someone living a life in disguise.

I became obsessed with the locked cabinet. I wanted to open it. I felt entitled to know the truth. On many occasions, Jake looked on, quiet and nervous, while I unsuccessfully stuck a bobby pin in the lock, jiggling and listening for a click, like I had seen people do on TV. Eventually, unsuccessful, I let it go. Of course Mona wasn't a spy. I didn't think she was even a real psychic.

"Winnie, come on. You have nothing else to ask? You only get one question, remember."

I crossed my arms. "Nope."

close this panel
Good Mothers Don't

Good Mothers Don't

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

It's 1960, and Elizabeth has a good life. A husband who takes care of her, two healthy children, a farm in the Forties Settlement. But Elizabeth is slowly coming apart, her reality splintering. She knows she will harm her children, wants to harm her children, wants to be stopped from harming her children. She doesn't sleep, becomes incoherent. Elizabeth is taken away.

We rejoin her in 1975, "well" once again, living in a group home and desperately trying to fill in the enormous gaps electric sho …

More Info
Excerpt

Harmony House

1975

I am well now.

When the pink dawn draws near to my bedroom window I take comfort in those words. For a long time I wouldn't have been able to make that claim, but now, if someone were to ask, "How are you, Elizabeth?" I could reply, "I'm very well, thank you," and I'd be right, and could show proof if need be. Still, there are times when I'm uncertain about that claim—when I fail to remember something so simple, or when a kernel of fear sprouts in my chest, sending out gnarly vines that spread far and wide, or when a whispered thought comes into my head when I hadn't been thinking of anything in particular at the time. The hospital says I'm well and so does the doctor who signed my release forms. They said that more than five years ago, and no one in their right mind would argue their own wellness when it's been clearly stated as fact, and neither should I.

They released me—the same authorities who declared me well—when dandelion seeds were blowing in the wind. There was a field of them along the route we took the day I came to Harmony House. I hadn't seen a dandelion for years, let alone a field full of them; soft grey balls of fluff trembling in the wind, their downy pips flying out across the air. I smiled and imagined that I might like to chase after them had we not been going at such a speed that I couldn't cry out for the car to be stopped.

That would not be the behaviour of someone who is well.

Wellness brings with it a certain responsibility, a promise not to act in a particular way or to say things of an inappropriate nature. So I watched and imagined and smiled until we were well past the field of dandelions, with Mrs. Weaver none the wiser.

"You can go home," the doctor said the day I was declared well. He was smiling as if this suggestion would have me leaping for joy. Home was a word I hadn't uttered in years; I feared for the longest while no such word existed for me. Or maybe it did exist in some strange, out-of-the-way place, one no one would tell me about. For sure it was some closely guarded secret and, somehow, intended for my own good.

"Where is home?" I said, sitting across from the doctor. I looked down and stopped myself from fiddling with the hem of my dress. I wondered if he knew more than he was letting on. He was a young man, too young to be in charge of my life, yet I accepted what he said even with the reservations I felt inside. They would send me home no matter where that home was. It was time to release the secret they'd been keeping from me for all these years.

"You're ready to re-enter the world, Elizabeth. That's all you need to know at this point."

His words caused my knees to tremble, and I crossed my legs to tame the uneasiness hammering away inside me. I didn't want the doctor to see how jumpy this made me in case he reversed his declaration of my wellness. His smile didn't wane, but neither did he look directly at me, as if he didn't want to see that far into the future—my future. The future that suddenly seemed murky and undefined. What was waiting for me in this future he spoke of? Even he didn't seem to have the answer to that.

"Someone will make all the arrangements. No need for you to worry about any of it," he said before he left me that day. I spent the next few weeks wondering about this someone and the arrangements they were making for me to go home.

Home. I had a home one time, one that hadn't been arranged. I must have. Everyone does. Step by step we build our lives with every choice we make, every thought we think, everything we feel and all the people we encounter. But that life, my life, was gone. I had no idea where. Places cannot stop existing. Yet it seemed that home, or at least my home, had done just that. Now there was nothing but a vague sense of familiarity lurking deep within me, a tangle of stale memories that I fought hard to remember. Flashes and flickers, small bits of the past, moved like static in my brain as I waited to start my life over again. And I began to wonder just how important those flashes and flickers might eventually prove to be. Some nights I couldn't shut them off. I'd toss and turn and wrestle the unknown, certain that something, or someone, would prevent me from ever seeing home.

This home the doctor spoke of became Harmony House, on a quiet back street in a little town not far from Halifax; a new start with freedoms I could only have dreamt about from inside the hospital walls. Home was a place to eat and sleep and watch TV, a place to breathe in the wide-open spaces, with trips into town and some money in my purse. And there was an old woman, the occupant of the bed on the other side of the room, who had been there for several years before my arrival.

"Mrs. Zimmer has her ways, but you'll get used to her soon enough," said Mrs. Weaver as we pulled up the driveway to Harmony House. "She means well." She left me standing in the middle of the room without a clue as to what I should do next. Setting my suitcase on the empty bed, I looked toward my roommate.

"Hello," I said with a smile she didn't return. Her mouth was pulled into a scowl and her flabby arms were folded in front of her. She turned her head and stared directly at me. I felt like an alien from a distant planet, a being with three eyes and a pair of horns sticking out from my head.

"Sal croaked just the other night," she said as I put my things in the dresser that had my name on it. "Stiff as a poker in the morning when they came to wake her. They just changed the sheets before you got here. The bed's probably still warm. We shared this room for four long years," she said, stretching out those last three words to indicate how miserable those years had been for her. She finished her speech by adding, with what seemed like a fair bit of satisfaction, "She always had a lot of gas." Raising a bushy eyebrow, she added, "You're not gassy, are you?"

Since the declaration of my wellness, I've contemplated my illness as many times as one can consider something they have little memory of. I'm uncertain as to when I became ill, what time of year, or even the year itself; whether dandelions were blooming or coloured leaves were hanging on the trees. I like to imagine it might have been in the cold of winter, a time when nature pulls back her hand, tired of making the flowers bloom and the grass grow; a time of rest. Certainly not in spring, with small shoots popping up from the ground, new life emerging. Perhaps I went to sleep one night fully aware of my life, but then entered a whole new realm of existence, a corridor that led me into a world different from the one I'd known all along. Or I might have been put under a fairy spell, transported to another land, stripped bare of my life, my memories stolen.

But I am well now, and all that is childlike thinking, hardly plausible explanations for the life I've lost.

So much of my life is now made up of uncertainties. But I've been told there is nothing unique in that. The only certainty in life is life's uncertainty. Sometimes in order for us to get to that place of wellness, things must be sacrificed. Life is a trade-off, a juggling of people, places, and events, maybe even the disappearance of time and memory if I were to make a guess. Isn't it only right that we lose some things along the way? I'm told even the most experienced juggler will drop a ball or two; I, who knows nothing about juggling, have managed to drop them all.

All these years and I still fight to push back the fear I sometimes feel, even with the declaration of my wellness. For a time it works and the panic quells for weeks, months, but eventually it floats to the top like a dead body at the rim of a lake. It's my own fault. I'll admit that much. An important aspect of wellness is the acceptance of the part we play in our own life's circumstance. If this hadn't happened, or If only I had done things differently. Perhaps if I had been stronger. I think all these things and wonder how much of it is true and how much is imagined, and it always comes back to the same irreversible thing.

A whispered thought as I drift into sleep.

The one thing that started it all.

You wouldn't have lost the life you had if you hadn't gone crazy.

close this panel
Watching You Without Me

Watching You Without Me

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

The highly anticipated new literary suspense novel from Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Lynn Coady.

After her mother’s sudden death, Karen finds herself back in her childhood home in Nova Scotia for the first time in a decade, acting as full-time caregiver to Kelli, her older sister. Overwhelmed with grief and the daily needs of Kelli, who was born with a developmental disability, Karen begins to feel consumed by the isolation of her new role. On top of that, she’s weighed down with …

More Info
Excerpt

These days, when I tell this story to friends, it’s always the moment Trevor lets himself in with his key the next day — a Sunday — that makes them kind of whoop in their seats. Or flop backward in a gesture of full-bodied incredulity. Or just stare at me like I’m an idiot. But, I explain, Trevor had a key, and that was what he was used to doing. Apparently my mother had given it to him for both of their convenience. The key was sanctioned. She hadn’t given it to any of the other care workers, but that was because, I assumed, they were on a rotation — you never knew who would be coming to bathe Kelli from week to week. Trevor, however, only covered walks, and he turned up like clockwork every Tuesday and Friday morning at ten on the dot.

But this was Sunday, some of my friends argue, and he wasn’t working, he was visiting. Yes, I say, but why would he deviate from habit? This was a house he had a key for, and whenever he came over, he would open the door and come in. That was his routine. So it’s understandable he’d do the same thing on Sunday he would’ve done on a Tuesday or Friday. Isn’t it?

At the time, I thought nothing of it. Trevor said he’d come at ten on Sunday, just as he did on Tuesdays and Fridays, and it was ten on the dot when he inserted his key in the door. Kelli and I had our jackets on, ready to go.

I have to admit, everything about that day was off. It started with Trevor’s insistence we all cram into the cab of his pickup truck when there was a perfectly comfortable two-door sedan parked in the driveway.

“No,” said Trevor. “I’m more comfortable driving the truck.” As if the question of who would drive had already been discussed and dispensed with.

So Kelli got in the middle, which she was not too happy about, especially when I had to root around beneath her thighs and buttocks to find the middle safety belt, which it turned out had been used so rarely it had been all but consumed by the tuck of the seat. Then I stuffed myself in beside her, which I was not happy about because being crammed against my sister was a lot like cuddling up against a lavishly padded space heater. And then, of course, there was Trevor, squeezing in behind the wheel, calling, “Suck in your guts, girls!” before he closed the door.

“Knee,” said Kelli a moment after we pulled out of the driveway. Which meant her right knee was cramping up, as it often did when she sat in close quarters.

“Your knee sore, Kelli?” I asked.

“Knee sore.”

“She’s got arthritis,” I explained to Trevor. “We should maybe get the sedan …”

Trevor glanced down at Kelli’s thighs, like two massive, sweatpants-clad loaves of bread squashed together.

“Ah, you’re good, darlin.’”

“Knee sore.”

“It’s a short trip.”

It was a thirty-minute trip out of town, the last five minutes of which took place along a winding dirt road that grew darker the deeper it took us into the woods.

This is like a fairy tale, I remember thinking. But the cautionary, old-world kind, the kind that never bothered with happy endings. Where parents take their innocent and trusting children to the forest and abandon them for hungry old ladies to entice into their ovens, for talking wolves to swallow whole.

“Kelli’s knee,” said Kelli.

“Almost there, Beaner.”

And it was true. All at once the woods opened up — also like a fairy tale, but this time of the Disney variety. Because what stood before us was a mansion. An honest-to-god Regency-style mansion like something out of Masterpiece Theatre. Where was the horse and carriage? Where were Mr. Darcy and the Bennett sisters? It had a Doric portico and French windows and buttresses and balustrades.

“This is it,” said Trevor. “Barnbarroch Manor.”

I burst out laughing. The angry kind.

close this panel
Aubrey McKee

Aubrey McKee

edition:Paperback

I am from Halifax, salt-water city, a place of silted genius, sudden women, figures floating in all waters. “People from Halifax are all famous,” my sister Faith has said. “Because everyone in Halifax knows each other’s business.”
From basement rec rooms to midnight railway tracks, Action Transfers to Smarties boxes crammed with joints, from Paul McCartney on the kitchen radio to their furious teenaged cover of The Ramones, Aubrey McKee and his familiars navigate late adolescence amids …

More Info
Postmark Berlin

Postmark Berlin

A Mystery
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook

 

From two-time winner of the Arthur Ellis Award comes a new mystery that will keep readers guessing along with Collins and Burke. From Halifax, Nova Scotia all the way to Berlin, Germany, Father Brennan Burke searches for answers in the murder of a parishioner and finds that she was a woman with many secrets in her past.

Father Brennan Burke is coming off a rough stint in Belfast and he’s been trying to obliterate those memories with drink ever since. His troubles intensify when the body of one …

More Info
Excerpt

 

“And so, because you drank yourself senseless, you weren’t here for our parishioner Meika Keller. She came looking for you here at ten o’clock last night. Said you had agreed to see her.”

 

What? What was he saying? Meika Keller? Had she been talking to Brennan recently? Yes, of course. It was just . . . when? Yesterday, wasn’t it? He tried to clear his head.

 

“What did she say to you?” the bishop asked now.

 

“Say to me? When?”

 

“For the love of God, Brennan, wise up here. What did she want to talk to you about?”

 

“I don’t ….” It was coming back to him through the haze now. The woman had been chatting with him at Saint Mary’s University, where she was a professor and Brennan a part-time lecturer. As Meika was leaving the campus, she asked if she could come and speak with him. Could she meet him that night after a charity event of some kind that she had to attend. That would have been last night.

 

“What time is it?” Brennan asked now.

 

“It’s too late, Brennan. That’s what time it is.”

 

“No, no, I’ll see her. Just let me . . .”

 

“Was it a confession she asked for, Brennan? At least, tell me that.”

 

He tried to reconstruct the conversation with Meika Keller. She was usually cheerful, witty, full of personality. She had always struck him as unflappable. Yesterday, though, her manner was different. There was something on her mind and it must have been serious, if she wanted to meet Father Burke at ten o’clock at night.

 

“I’m thinking yes, Dennis, she may have wanted to see me in the confessional. Well, I’ll track her down now and apologize and hear what she has to say. Maybe help put her mind at rest.”

 

“No, you won’t, Brennan.”

 

Something in Cronin’s manner gave Brennan a chill. “What is it, Dennis?”

 

“At seven thirty-five this morning, Meika Keller’s body washed up on the beach at Point Pleasant Park.”

 

close this panel
The Spoon Stealer

The Spoon Stealer

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Born into a basket of clean sheets—ruining a perfectly good load of laundry—Emmeline never quite fit in on her family's rural Nova Scotian farm. After suffering multiple losses in the First World War, her family became so heavy with grief, toxicity, and mental illness that Emmeline felt their weight smothering her. And so, she fled across the Atlantic and built her life in England. Now she is retired and living in a small coastal town with her best friend, Vera, an excellent conversationalis …

More Info
The Girl He Left Behind

The Girl He Left Behind

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Fifteen years ago, Willow Alexander was jilted at the altar by her high school sweetheart, Graham Currie, who left their wedding rehearsal the night before knowing he would not be returning the next day. 

Confused and devastated, Willow remains in the small town of Glenmor in Cape Breton, caring for her ailing parents and nursing her heartache. What no one knows is that Willow lost more than her marriage on that shocking day, which is why she remains on her family’s expansive property, in the s …

More Info
Brighten the Corner Where You Are

Brighten the Corner Where You Are

A Novel Inspired by the Life of Maud Lewis
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

A brilliant novel reimagining the life of internationally renowned folk artist Maud Lewis by an award-winning author.

But I had known since forever that it's colours that keep the world turning,
that keep a person going.

One glimpse of the tiny painted house that folk art legend Maud Lewis shared with her husband, Everett, in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, during the mid-twentieth century and the startling contrast between her joyful artwork and her life's deprivations is evident. One glimpse at he …

More Info
Excerpt

I've Been Everywhere

 

The first thing you need to remember is that I'm no longer down where you are, haven't been down your way in years, in what you people call the land of the living. You could say I'm in the wind, a song riding the airwaves and the frost in the air that paints leaves orange. As the rain and the sunshine do, I go where I want. The wind's whistling carries me, takes me back, oh yes, to when the radio filled the house with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys singing "My Life's Been A Pleasure." Though I'm not sure I would go that far. Freed of life's woes, these days I see joys that, in life, I just guessed up. If you know anything about me, you might be thinking, oh my, that one's better off out of her misery. Which might be true, but, then again, might not. But I dare say, without the body I dwelt in and the hands that came with it, I wouldn't have gotten up to half of what I did in your world, I'd have spent my days doing what you do. Where'd be the fun in that?

The best thing about up here is the view. Now, I'm not so high up that folks look like dirt specks and cars like hard candies travelling the roads. Nor am I so low down that you can reach up and grab a draught of me in your fist. Up here, no one gets to grab on to anybody, or be the boss. No shortage of bossy boots down your way, folks only too certain they know best. So it was when I lived below, in a piece of paradise some called the arse-end of nowhere. I wouldn't make that kind of judgment myself. Mostly I kept to myself; for a long time doing just that was easy. Out in the sticks there are lots of holes to hide down, until someone gets it in their head to haul you out of yours. Next, the whole world is sniffing at your door, which isn't always a bad thing. Like living in the arse-end of nowhere isn't a bad thing, pardon this habit of speech I learned down your way. Habits die hard, even here. Except, here I get away with whatever I want, which is a comfort and a blessing. Comforts and blessings mightn't be so plentiful where you are. Here, for example, a gal can cuss to her heart's content and who is gonna say boo?

And that view! Now I can see backwards, forwards, straight up and down instead of sideways or tilted, I can look at things face on the way, before, I just guessed things up and painted them in pictures. When it suits me, I hover at gull-level where hungry birds cruise the shore for snacks, or at crow-level, where the peckish seek treats spilled by roadsides. Food aside, it's grand up here. I see the fog tug itself like a dress over Digby Neck and the road travelling south to north, pretty much tracing the route that took me from birth to this spot up here. Apart from the coastline's jigs and jags, as the crow flies north to south is a fairly straight line from the ridge where my bones lie to where I grew up.

Those who don't know better call this otherworld "glory." But, looking down at the green of Digby County stretching into Yarmouth County, a patchwork of woods and fields set against the blue of St. Mary's Bay, I'd call this part of your world "glory." If I were the churchy type, which I am not and never was. Though I did enjoy a good gospel song if it was the Carter Family singing it. Some days a good old country song was my lifeline to the world. Each melody crackling over the airwaves got to be a chapter of my life, its sweet notes looped in with the sour ones.

Churchiness aside, I know attention when I see it. Folks flocking to see my paintings, paying big dollars for them. Imagine if they'd paid me back then what they pay now, travelling from all over to see my home. Though that would be pissing in the wind, wouldn't it? For you can't take nothing with you. You land here as naked as when you land where you are. All the money in the world won't change it. Yet I wouldn't have minded being sent off properly. Wearing my ring, I mean, all polished and shiny and on the right finger, and everything right with the world. A badge of honour, say. Maybe if I'd heeded my aunt's Bible talk—not about turning the other cheek to have someone smite it too, but about being wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove—things would've played out different. My husband had serpent-wisdom galore, I was the dovely one. But if I'd got the serpent part down pat, who's to say I mightn't have turned half cur and bitten the hand that fed me?

But, about that wedding band. Marriage means where the one party flags the other party takes up the slack, making the couple one big happy serpent-dove. According to such logic my man and me ought to have been two sides of the same dime tucked in a jar for safekeeping: equals. I let on that we were. Why I did is for me to know and you to find out. Your world will always have folks who take advantage of those with no choice but to let them. Up here, things even out. No one owns a thing, not the earth, sunshine, rain, or fire, and most certainly not the wind.

And in the end, what sweetness it is to enjoy a blue moon, and just paint it in your mind's eye, no need to fumble with a brush! It's easy to love something named for a colour. Though other things about being up here mightn't be to everyone's taste, people don't exactly line up for tickets to get here, do they. If you're the type that's all go go go, the pace is hurry up and wait. As for reunions with loved ones, well, I am still waiting, but I haven't given up hope, no sirree. And there are other things to like about this so-called glory. The insects don't bite, unlike the no-see-ums that plague you every season but winter. And there are cats aplenty, don't let anyone tell you cats aren't allowed, as if up here is your chesterfield. You just can't see or pat them. Their purr might be what you hear when a motorbike goes by or a boat with a make-and-break puts out to sea.

Even better than the view is the moon's company, as steadfast as memories you cannot shake. The moon doesn't care who tramps over her face or journeys to her dark side. Let her keep her secrets, I say. Though she doesn't mind shining her light on ours, and under her shine things buried and thought missing come to light, even things we reckon are gone for good—with an exception. For I have been searching high and low for that ring, the gold band I once put on with pride. When I could still wear a ring. The ring that belonged to me, even if it wasn't always mine. What a shitload of stories it would tell if it could, if anyone laid their fingers on it. Where it got to is a mystery, the way here is a mystery. Then again, where you are might be a mystery too, memories the only things we have that are certain. Bearing a weight all their own, they wax and wane. Like my pal, they hang around, old and full-blown or new and shy, whether they are pictures we paint of ourselves or pitchers of us that others pour out.

If only I could put my finger on when and where I last saw that ring. Thinking of it takes me back to a bright March moon, a night more than fifty years ago now, a night so long ago those men that first walked on her still had three years to go before stepping foot there. The moon pouring down her light is what springs to mind first. Pretty as that March night was back in 1966, I've spent a long time trying to forget it, and to forget about mud and dirt and footsteps and things on and in the ground. Buried things. For, as you will learn soon enough, things buried and unearthed are the undoing of us all.

All around me that night the county slept sound as a bear in winter, so it was in the wee hours beneath that moon. It was one of those cold, clear nights after a thaw, when frost silvers the meanest buds and you think the pussy willows have got a jump on April—until a snowstorm blows in and covers everything.

One step forward, two steps back. That was spring in our neck of the woods, never mind where you found yourself.

To this day, I have no clue what time it was I awoke. My husband had brought me upstairs hours before. From the nearby woods an owl screeched, but that was the only sound. It was either too late or too early for the crows to be up, not just any crows but the ones setting up house in our yard. The lady crow had recently stolen my fancy.

My man got up. His sharp, sudden moves near pitched me from the bed. Wide awake, I listened to him scuttle across the floor and shimmy down through the hatch. The stairs shuddered under his weight. I heard him scuffling about below, heard the rustle of him grabbing his jacket and his boots left warming by the range. The door creaked open and banged shut behind him. His footsteps stirred the gravel out front, slouched along the side of the house before they grew faint. Off to wake the crows and lure my favourite with a crust of bread, set to win her affection? (I do believe Everett envied my friendship with Matilda, never mind she was just a crow.)

I thought with a start he must be off to the almshouse, was after taking the shortcut out back—see how the mind plays tricks in the dead of night? He had not worked over there in three, going on four years by this time, which was roughly the last time I'd seen my friend Olive, the warden's wife, when she finally realized it was no place to raise her boys. With a shiver of relief, I heard the creak of hinges from the shed nearest the house. It was where Ev liked to partake of his TNT cocktail, homebrew in the years before we had money, and then store bought later on.

close this panel
comments powered by Disqus

There are two ways to make a reading list

This way:

  1. Click the "Create a New List" button just above this panel.
  2. Add as many books as you wish using the built-in search on the list edit page.

Or that way:

  1. Go to any book page.
  2. In the right-hand column, click on "Add to List." A drop-down menu will appear.
  3. From the drop-down menu, either add your book to a list you have already created or create a new list.
  4. View and edit your lists anytime on your profile page.
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...