Category Archives: family

The Light Keeper’s Daughter by Jean E. Pendziwol

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You can’t beat a local story by a local author and this novel excels in all departments. I literally could not put this book down as it drew me into the story of the lighthouse keeper on Porphyry Island and his two daughters Elizabeth and Emily. It is not possible to say much about the plot without giving away too many spoilers, but suffice it to say that there are enough twists and turns to keep you fully engaged right up to the last page.

The story is also told by another key character, Morgan, whose urban life in Thunder Bay is intimately connected (but unknown to her) with the light keepers daughters. I have noted that while English literature is shaped by history, Canadian literature is dominated by the natural environment, and the point is well proven in this novel. The real star of the show is the landscape, dominated by Porphyry Island, which is almost magical in its appeal. Silver Islet, the Sleeping Giant and Lake Superior also feature strongly.

Jean E. Pendziwol pulls you into her compelling narrative which contrasts the slow pace of an idyllic life growing up on Porphyry Island, to the fast pace and perils of modern city life. Porphyry was the second lighthouse constructed on the Canadian side of Lake Superior, and first lit the waters near Black Bay in 1873. Andrew Dick, the keeper on Porphyry Island from 1880 to 1910, left behind several personal journals that recorded his time at the light with his Indigenous wife Caroline and their ten children. These journals were the inspiration for The Lightkeeper’s Daughters which is a testament to the Canadian men and women who served as Great Lakes lighthouse keepers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

John Pateman is CEO/Chief Librarian at the Thunder Bay Public Library.

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Mount! by Jilly Cooper

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I was thrilled to spot a new book by one of my favourite authors on display at the Brodie Library a few months ago, and it didn’t disappoint. Jilly Cooper is popular British writer who has a passion for horses, and a knack for relationships. Her newest book, Mount! focusses on Rupert Campbell-Black’s horse racing empire.  Rupert was introduced in Cooper’s first book, Riders, as a fun-loving young playboy who goes on to win an Olympic gold medal in show jumping. Nine books later he hasn’t changed much. Mount! begins with a descriptive list of both human and animal characters, which I skipped over at first, but did find handy to refer to when reading. Rupert doesn’t like to lose, and runs his racing and breeding stables with a firm hand. His staff of grooms and trainers live on his estate and for the most part get along as they are all horse lovers.

Ambition, loyalty and Rupert’s laser-focus on winning take their toll however, and this is where Cooper’s skilled writing about relationships shines. The story starts with a flash back to Rupert’s great (x 6) grandfather’s ill-fated horse race through a spooky wood.  This plants many seeds for the rest of the book, including rivalry, revenge and family ties. Cooper brings in characters from her other books, but I don’t think you need to have read them to enjoy Mount! International intrigue is woven into the story as Rupert travels to expand his business. Mount! is a big juicy story which takes readers within the high-stakes world of horse racing.

 

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

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cover of Swimming LessonsSwimming Lessons is the second novel by English author Claire Fuller. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of the book to review for our readers.

Swimming Lessons is a story within a story about a passionate but troubled marriage and its aftermath. Ingrid Coleman wrote letters to her husband, Gil, and hid them in his collection of books before disappearing, presumed drowned. In the present day, Gil sees a woman who looks like his wife and has an accident attempting to chase after her. His two adult daughters, Flora and Nan, return home to care for him. Flora, who never believed her mother was dead, desperately wants to know what happened to Ingrid; she doesn’t realize that the answers to so many of her questions lie hidden within the books around her.  

I loved Fuller’s descriptive passages, especially the ones detailing the world as Flora sees it (for example, “cigarettes the colour of wet bark” on pg 261). I found Ingrid’s letters to be absolutely fascinating, making Ingrid very alive and present throughout Swimming Lessons, even though she wasn’t physically there. Her letters overshadowed the present-day story about Flora, Nan and Gil for much of the book. But I also loved how the letters gradually became connected to the present more and more as the book progressed.

Swimming Lessons was a fantastic read that was extremely hard to put down. The book is expected to be published in early February – keep an eye out for it in our catalogue! We’ll also have an interview with Ms. Fuller here on this blog on February 1st, so stay tuned for that!

If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene

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Picture this scene; a beautiful spring day in the city of Manhattan, a man is walking down the street when suddenly he sees the woman he fell in love with 21 years ago only to watch her quickly run away from him after they make eye contact. I don’t read a lot of romance novels but Thomas Christopher Greene’s novel If I Forget You grabbed me with this romantic scene in the first chapter.  Why did the girl run away from him? What happened between these two lovers that caused them to separate? Will they get back together in the end?

If I Forget You is the story of Henry Gold and Margot Fuller who fell in love during their college years.  But due to circumstances beyond their control and conflicting family status, Margot is the daughter of a wealthy family and Henry the son of a poor working class family, they are forced to separate.

Alternating between the years 2012 and 1991, the story is told from the perspective of both characters, a writing style that many authors have embraced lately. I enjoy this type of writing style because I find it keeps the story interesting. Switching between different eras and character voices allows the story to build at a slower pace as the reader learns more about the lives of Henry and Margot in the past and present.

Greene’s novel, as well as his characters, is not complex. It’s a simple, sweet love story beautifully written in lyrical prose. Therefore, if you are looking for something quick and light to read during your summer vacation, then pick up a copy of Greene’s novel If I Forget You.

 

Lindsey Long

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

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Tolstoy once said “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” and this would accurately describe the background behind the novel, The Vacationers.  The Post family, Jim and wife Franny, as well as teen daughter Sylvia are heading to Mallorca for a two week holiday, which acts on the surface as the last family vacation before Sylvia heads off to college. The family is to be joined by their son Bobby and his much older girlfriend, Carmen, as well as Franny’s closest friend Charles and his new husband, Lawrence.  On the surface, everything looks ideal but things are not as they seem.

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Jim and Franny’s marriage is in a shambles due to his recent affair at work; their golden boy, son Bobby is deeply in debt and needs financial help, Sylvia is determined to lose her virginity and Charles and Lawrence are waiting to hear about a longed for adoption.  It is the underlying tensions that make the novel more real and add both pathos and humour.  Each of the characters is at a crossroads and the enforced quarters of the little holiday act to remind them of the both the joys and aggravations of family.

The characters in the story are refreshingly honest (though not necessarily to each other) and also conflicted about getting what they want while maintaining the status quo in the family.  After reading the novel, I checked out a number of the reviews and was surprised to find that the book had a polarizing effect, between those who loved and  those who loathed it. I for one was happy to spend time with the Posts and look forward to Emma Straub’s next book.

 

We’re All in This Together by Amy Jones

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Most of us have watched a viral video online.  But what happens if that video involves someone from your family?  And you first hear about it on the news?

That’s what happens to Finn Parker in Amy Jones’ debut novel We’re All In This Together.  Finn sees a video of a woman go over Kakabeka Falls in a barrel and survive.  That woman just happens to be her mother, Kate.  Finn finds herself pulled back to a life, a town, and the family which she had abandoned.  Her twin sister, Nicki, doesn’t want her back in Thunder Bay.  Their dad, Walter, is mostly absent, out on Lake Superior rather than facing his family.  Their adopted brother, Shawn, is trying to hold the Parkers together while his wife, Katriina, is slowly falling apart on the sidelines.   And Nicki’s teenage daughter, London, is more concerned with meeting the marine biologist she has a crush on than having anything to do with her stupid family.

We’re All In This Together is written from multiple viewpoints, which lets you see the same events through often drastically different perspectives.  This was most evident between Finn and Nicki, who are identical in looks but totally different on the inside.  These viewpoints reinforce how real the Parker family is.  Sure they are dysfunctional in their way, but what family isn’t?  The story, while sometimes a bit crazy, will keep you reading.  We’re All In This Together gives hope for how even a splintered family can come back together in a time of great need.

We’re All In This Together is The Thunder Bay Public Library’s first One Book: One Community book.  For more information and to get involved in our fall events for this book, please visit tbpl.ca/onebook.

 

Shauna Kosoris is a member of the Thunder Bay Public Library staff.

Book of Speculation by Ericka Swyler

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This book was picked up and read on a whim based entirely on the title and cover art. Yes, I judged a book by its cover and am very glad that I did. It takes a wild combination of libraries, books, mermaids, and carnivals and twists it all into an intriguing tale. With a mysterious book at its centre, this story is told around the experiences of two young men – Simon, a librarian struggling to keep his life, work and home all standing at the same time and Amos, a wild boy turned tarot reader and a complicated love life. The story is told from a mixed perspective: the present day as Simon looks back through the previously unknown saga of his family line and in the past during Amos’ youthful struggle with a less than full understanding of who he is or will become.

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The Book of Speculation is the first novel from Erika Swyler (author, illustrator, and self declared appreciator of bunnies). According to her website, she has a follow-up to this story in the works. Swyler’s work is reminiscent of The Night Circus, just with less magic and more quirkiness. The Book of Speculation will make a great addition to your summer reading list, especially for anyone who secretly dreamt of becoming a mermaid when they grew up. And don’t forget the value in serendipitous discovery among the shelves and displays at the public library!