Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Adventures of a Lightkeeper: A Memoir by Barry Porter


Adventures of A Lightkeeper: A Memoir
by Barry Porter is, quite simply, a romantic recounting of the maritime lifestyle of light keeping on the rugged northeast coastline of Newfoundland. Written with passion and great respect for the solitary life such a profession brings, Porter's book opens the door to these beautiful beacons of light and provides an exclusive tour of these lonely behemoths and the mystique for which they have become famous. 

Born to a farming family in Porterville, Newfoundland, Barry Porter was a young welder who started his career in Alberta, as a lot of young Newfoundland trades people do. He interviewed for an offshore welding position on the prized drilling rig the Ocean Ranger but quickly made the decision to leave the offshore life and the welding profession on February 15, 1982 after the tragic sinking of that drill ship. As one would say, the rest was history. Porter applied to be a relief lighthouse keeper with the Canadian Coast Guard and would devote the next 23 years living and working near the sea as lightkeeper in four different locations. 

I observed Mother Nature at her finest and sometimes at her most wicked. Every day, I would walk out on the helicopter pad nearby or onto the rocks, anchor my two feet, and just breathe, taking it all in, standing on the very edge of the cliff, binoculars gripped in hand, with the wild ocean churning below me. Scanning over the turbulent seas, I let the salt air blow over every inch of my skin and my soul. The endless sky, the clouds, the sea conditions, the wind direction and it's strength, the visibility, the colours - my senses were on overload. Most days I could see for endless miles, right to the horizon, where the sky would drop into the sea. It was so beautiful and so peaceful but also wild and dangerous. 

The recounting is a well balanced combination of intricate details and facts combined with beautifully written descriptions and thoughts, allowing the reader to gain a complete and full understanding of the time and place in which the author is describing. Whether it is the light station on historic Exploits Island or Long Point Lighthouse on beautiful Twillingate Island, Porter's life consisted of more than just operating a light and fog horn. Maintenance and upkeep of grounds and buildings were paramount and aiding in search and rescue operations were expected. Not to mention the administrative tasks of maintaining logbooks and weather reports. Readers will come to enjoy the many photos throughout the memoir that chronicle Porter's life as a lightkeeper. However, it was not all work and no play. There were many entertaining CB radio chats and opportunities to meet interesting people like Dr. Jon Lien, Geoff Stirling and Captain Peter Troake. But some of the more poignant memories recounted by Porter were of the intense moments of loneliness. Maintaining traditions like a freshly cut and decorated Christmas tree or a hot home cooked meal as well as frequent communication with home helped to ease the homesickness. It would be remiss of me not to mention Porter's canine companion and lighthouse beagle, Gypsy, who was by Porter's side 24 hours a day through three different lighthouses. This book was a relaxing and easy read, often enjoyed with a fresh hot brew, that opened my eyes to the adventures of remote living.

I was three-quarters through my lengthy shift on Bacalhao Island when I started to count off my days. I would hardly look at a calendar until I was a few days over the halfway mark. That was in my constitution out there. Winter months were always the longest, especially on this remote island. Sometimes, if you were lucky, the Marine Aids Office would send out a couple of technicians to repair the furnace or install a new Lister motor. In that case, the men would usually have to stay at the lighthouse for a few days. To have company and another person to talk to was always a pleasant change. 

Adventures of a Lightkeeper by Barry Porter is a great book that will whisk you away to another life, during another time when lighthouses were manned by adventure seeking, brave young souls who didn't mind being keepers of the light. It is a Flanker Press publication. 

 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

If I Cry I'll Fill the Ocean ~ The Catherine Linehan Young Story as told to Ida Linehan Young

 


A quick Google search of North Harbour, St. Mary's Bay returns colorful images of a quaint Newfoundland community built on the shores of the cold North Atlantic. The single two lane road that hugs the shoreline is dotted by the homes of its 200 or so residents. Fishing stages, boats, and a community church sit reverently in the quietness of this village place. Up on a grassy hill in the seaview graveyard sits a row of five headstones, each telling the sorrowful story of a tragic day in June 1980, when Catherine and Edward Linehan lost five of their 10 children in a horrific house fire. If I Cry I'll Fill The Ocean is the true story of Catherine Linehan as told to her surviving daughter, author Ida Linehan Young. 

They are the absence of light. Like shadows bruising where the sun cannot see, though the picture is bright on the canvas. Every second, every minute, every hour has that shadow. It moves and darkens and lightens but is there. The absence of five lives that she bore while the weight of motherhood remains, the weight of love for what is missing. 

Written as a tribute to her mother's resilience as well as to acknowledge the unfathomable loss that her mother has endured, Ida Linehan Young portrays the life of a woman who has "traversed the uncharted swamps of grief".  The "vignettes" are masterfully penned and presented in three distinct parts; The Before Compartment, The Chasm, and The After Compartment. Such thoughtful and well planned organization highlights the compartmentalized life her mother has been left to endure, evoking a depth of sadness within the reader that is difficult to contain. Told in her own mother's words, Linehan Young does an excellent job at portraying Catherine's "layered life" since the tragedy 40 years previously;  happy and smiling on the outside but stricken with the loneliness of grief and the personal daily struggle of an event where the calendar is forever turned to June 19, 1980. Surrounded by a wonderfully supportive community, family and friends Catherine is left to navigate an unimaginable void and the memories of what could have been. The strength and courage of Catherine to push through each day despite the complex challenges of daily living are pitiful but instead the reader is left inspired and hopeful that she will eventually catch a break.  Readers will laugh and will cry but will certainly feel great admiration and a deep respect for Catherine. As Linehan Young intended, this story does provide a sense of peace, hope and gratitude especially to those who, like Catherine, are left to bare "the weight of emptiness" and "suffocating absence". In some strange way, the Linehan story has an undeniable therapeutic quality that makes one feel as if any hardship can be tackled and overcome.

If I Cry I'll Fill the Ocean is Ida Linehan Young's sixth novel. Though this true story is a departure from her previous four novels of historical fiction, this story is very much a personal journey of discovery for the author. Having suffered her own trauma as a survivor of the fire as chronicled in No Turning Back: Surviving the Linehan Family Tragedy (2014), this is Catherine's story; a novel that ends the speculation of one woman's suffering and is an honourable tribute written by a daughter in an attempt to piece together and make sense of such an extraordinary mother. If I Cry I'll Fill the Ocean is a Flanker Press publication. Please check out other books by Ida Linehan Young by visiting the Flanker Press website.

She is not Queen Elizabeth, nor Joan of Arc, nor Amelia Earhart, nor will she be recorded in the annals of history. She is Catherine (Power) Linehan from North Harbour, St. Mary's Bay, and an inspiration to many whom she's encountered over the years. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Good Thief ~ A Novel by Leo Furey


Soon-to-be eighteen year old Sonny McCluskey is like any other teenager living in Newfoundland in the late 1960's; a trade school student, working part time at the family auto shop,  hanging with his friends while nurturing a little love interest on the side. Except, unlike most teenage boys, Sonny has Charlie (a.k.a. Dad)! An eccentric, but ailing modern day Robin Hood hell bent on taking his own life with the aid of his own flesh and blood, Sonny. If that wasn't bad enough Sonny is left with the task of having to run the burgeoning business of maintaining the auto shop while promising to continue Charlie's secret, albeit illegal, generosity of caring for the less fortunate. Never in a million years did Sonny think that upholding the family tradition would cause him to second guess his morality, lead him to uncovering family secrets, and expose hard to swallow truths about the family he loved and cherished. The Good Thief  by Leo Furey is a well executed modern day novel demonstrating the ensuing chaos when good and evil come face to face. 

In the living room, I look at his bookshelf, sit in his chair, and think about the future. Can I carry on the family tradition? Part of me knows it's a good thing, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. A noble calling. It's right to sock it to the heartless rich, as Crenshaw says. Another part knows it's wrong, criminal activity. Do I really want to do what Charlie did all his life? Counterfeiting? Could I look myself in the mirror? I want to be the son Charlie raised me to be. Promise me  you'll care for the less fortunate, son. I want to be loyal. But I want what's right for me, my own garage, and if I work hard, I'll have enough money to look after myself and others.


The Good Thief is best selling author Leo Furey's second novel. Set in the rural seaside community of Portugal Cove, Furey's storytelling is well paced, suspenseful and inundated with unexpected curveballs. The characters are oddly interesting and I enjoyed how the author utilized the backstory of each character to develop the events of the story. Rich with dialogue, readers will enjoy the sixties vibe complete with teenage passion, mind altering substances, and a little rock and roll. Readers will sympathize with the moral dilemma Sonny constantly seems to find himself facing and, like myself, will likely be caught off guard by the surprise ending.  Whatever happened to Sonny McCluskey? I guess we will have to wait and see. 

The Good Thief by Leo Furey is the full meal deal. A little romance mixed with risk, greed, and criminality combine to create a suspenseful story of one teen's struggle to escape the shadow of his eccentric father. The Good Thief is a Flanker Press publication.  


 

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Sweater by Emily Hepditch

I remember distinctly my very favourite nightdress. It was pink and ohhh so soft with short ruffled sleeves and a pretty bow at the rounded neckline.  When I wore them, 7 year old Me imagined being a princess in some fairy tale land. If I could have, I would have worn those pyjamas every single night but they did need to be washed from time to time and on those nights I was left to don the "other ones" that sat pristinely folded in my top drawer; the ones with the long flannel sleeves and the too tight cuffs, the elastic waistband that pinched my sides and made me feel too hot while I tried desperately to dream away the night under my favourite blanket. And then, when my daughter came along and refused to wear anything with collars or long sleeves, I understood completely! Yep, we all have those pieces of clothing that we love to wear and others that eventually make it to the donation bag.  These were the thoughts that came flooding back when I first read my copy of Sweater written and illustrated by award winning author Emily Hepditch. 

Sweater is the delightful story of a school aged boy named Alexander who has been gifted a home knit sweater by his loving Grandma. Alexander isn't entirely pleased with this new present and has second thoughts when his parents think it would be a great idea to wear this thoughtful gift to school for picture day.  As expected, his day at school with his new sweater does not go well and just when he thinks he needs to tell his Nan that the sweater is too itchy, too big and too warm, the unexpected happens and Alexander realizes that this gift of love truly does have some unintended benefits.  

Author of two best selling novels The Woman In The Attic and Alone On The Trail, Sweater is Emily Hepditch's first children's illustrated book. This fictional story intended mostly for children aged 3-7 is simply written with an engaging storyline.  Emergent readers (and their parents!) will easily identify with and relate to the character Alexander and will understand the conundrum in which he finds himself. Afterall, who hasn't been the recipient of a well-intentioned homemade gift that doesn't seem to fit just right?  Hepditch does an excellent job at having the illustrations and text work together to tell the story. The pictures are well placed and allow young readers to contextualize the story by giving visual cues to the words on the page. The illustrations are colorful and simple and the pages are presented in a clean and clutter free manner,  clearly depicting the emotions of the character and the well paced story. As a new illustrator of children's picture books, I was impressed with Hepditch's work and felt the style was well suited to the story. I particularly liked the intricate sensory details of the gable knit sweater and the "warm woolly mittens" and blanket. 

Sweater is a timeless story to be enjoyed by both children and their caregivers. It is a reminder that those "soft" presents we often receive (and sometimes dread) are extensions of the special people in our lives who give them. Hats off to Emily Hepditch and her first foray into the world of Children's Literature...a talented young writer AND illustrator! Sweater is a Flanker Press publication.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Land Of Many Shores ~ Edited by Ainsley Hawthorn

 


We are all familiar with the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism ads that flash across our television screens every Spring;  loaves of Nan's homemade bread cooling on the kitchen table while, just outside the window, colorful quilts dance in the warm breeze against a backdrop of the cool Atlantic Ocean slapping happily against million year old granite. The sun is shining, the grass is a brilliant hue of green and Skipper up the road is on the front bridge tapping his toe to the fiddle. A 40 minute drive "up the shore" or "past the overpass" will confirm that our Irish and English ancestry is still very much alive as evidenced in our dialect, friendliness, and Friday night kitchen parties. This is what we are famous for. This life is what tourists pay to experience. But Newfoundland and Labrador is so much more than just cod fish, colorful houses, and George Street. Land of Many Shores edited by Ainsley Hawthorn and published by Breakwater Books is a personal glimpse into the lives of other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; citizens whose identities and viewpoints have been misconstrued, neglected or underrepresented. It is a true celebration of the diverse population that inhabits our land. 

Land of Many Shores is an anthology of poetry, essays and short narratives written by 24 authors who call, or have called, Newfoundland and Labrador home.  Through their own words they paint a portrait of their lived experience as Indigenous people and as people living with physical or mental disabilities. Their stories examine the importance and need for community and culture as marginalized and underrepresented peoples.  As workers in the sex industry and as members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community these authors explore the heartbreak of being misunderstood and the resilience required to survive. Yet other authors offer praise for the character that the Newfoundland people have become famous for but lament feeling left out of the "proverbial wolf pack". The narratives are wonderfully written, offering unique perspectives while at the same time broaching the elephant in the room; who do we want to become?

Newfoundland taught me to be proud of who I am and where I come from. Not to feel the need to assimilate to others and maintain the status quo. It also showed me that by being myself, I could create the best connections with people. Connections based on authenticity and sincerity, instead of the fear and ignorance that can prevail when people see each other as anonymous members of large groups instead of individuals. 

                                       From Salaam B'y ~ A Story of a Muslim Newfoundlander

                                                                                                              by Aatif Baskanderi 

Land of Many Shores ~ Perspectives From A Diverse Newfoundland and Labrador is a deeply personal and thought provoking read. Each story provided a source of reflection and caused me to question my own lived experience as a Newfoundlander. Throughout the anthology I found myself constantly questioning my own thoughts and belief systems about the Newfoundland culture, those of the community that I identify with and those of the larger populace. Some of the stories baffled me, others touched me deeply, and others saddened and angered me. I have come to realize that "our" traditional story as the ancestors of Irish and English settlers is important and we must celebrate and hang on to that history but our story continues to be written...it is not stuck in time. 

Some of us play the accordion, step dance, and eat Jiggs' Dinner. Others play the qilaut, dance salsa, or eat shawarma. Some of us roll down Broadway in our wheelchairs instead of strolling on foot. Some of us go to work in the sex trade instead of in an office in Atlantic Place. All of these experiences make us who we are as a people. To dismiss them is to erase the richness of our culture, to discount our collective wisdom, and to alienate members of our own communities. To dismiss these experiences is to impoverish ourselves.

                                               From Mapping A Diverse Newfoundland and Labrador 

                                                                                                            by Ainsley Hawthorn

Land of Many Shores: Perspectives From a Diverse Newfoundland and Labrador is a Breakwater Books publication. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Angels Crying ~ A True Story of Secrecy and Tragedy by Tom Moore

 

Angels Crying by Tom Moore is the heart wrenching true story of Tammy King, a bright and beautiful child, born in St. John's, Newfoundland on November 9, 1972.  Tammy, along with her siblings,  were brought into a world of poverty and alcoholism to parents who both had a family history of substance abuse, addiction and unemployment. Unable to  properly care for the children they brought into the world, the foster care system stepped in to protect them; to give them a life that their natural born parents simply could not provide. For a time the children thrived in their new homes supported by loving individuals, until 1986, when Tammy and her younger sister were moved to a new home; a home afflicted by generations of lewd and wanton behaviour that was shrouded in secrecy disguised as love and concern. How did Tammy, society's most precious resource, come to view her life as hopeless and decide that it was just not worth living anymore?  Angel's Crying by Tom Moore is an expertly researched narrative that exposes the inadequacies of society's polite assumptions and lifts the veil of silence on how a nation treats its most vulnerable and disadvantaged members.

The three little girls stared in awe as the stewardess explained the safety regulations in English and then in French. The motors were roaring and the plane soon started down the Torbay runway at unbelievable speed. It was their first plane ride and the first time away from St. John's.

The lady in the seat beside them was a social worker, a stranger to the three small travellers. They zoomed down the runway faster than thought, faster than hope, faster than love. They hurtled away from the mother and father they loved in spite of everything. ... 

They were on their way to their new home in Deer Lake, on the western side of the island. 

 

Self published in 1994, Angel's Crying is Moore's second national bestseller.  Based upon 3 years of well-documented research garnered from Royal Commission files, court transcripts and personal interviews, the author presents the true story of a student who once sat in his classroom. Driven by a desire to uncover the truth and dispel the rumors that were circulating throughout the small bay community during the fall of 1988,  Moore notes that "no one seemed to be pursuing the obvious questions about her death. The silence was deafening." In the Preface to the 2nd edition, Moore states that "the story had to be told and the ogre of secrecy challenged."  As a result, the author does an excellent job of conveying not only Tammy's narrative, but also the stories of those who had been placed in the same foster home before her.  In an attempt to understand the role that the criminal justice system and the social welfare system played in its failure to protect these young girls, Moore pens a gripping and oftentimes disturbing tale that was difficult to put down.  In so doing he presents a strong and highly detailed condemnation of all levels of Newfoundland government and the RCMP and highlights a system plagued by human frailties and the desire of most people to remain comfortable within their dome of silence.  It is this silence and the misery that it ultimately inflicts upon the young victims of sexual abuse that this book is written. 

Angels Crying ~ A True Story of Secrecy and Tragedy by Tom Moore is a must read. As an educator, I applaud Moore's sensitive approach and skill in his valiant attempt to slay the ogre of silence and bring justice to the victims of sexual abuse! Well done, sir! Copies of this novel can be obtained from Flanker Press

Sunday, December 19, 2021

When The Dead Are Razed by Samuel Martin


Feisty hipster Teffy Byrne is not one to take a back seat to anyone. Part owner of an independent newspaper and always on the lookout for a story, Teffy is about to become involved in a sinister plot in an attempt to protect her boyfriend Ger from his former drug boss, Troy Hopper.  Teffy will stop at nothing even if it means becoming a drug mule for the newly released convict; a transaction that quickly gets out of hand when Teffy finds herself stranded on a remote Newfoundland island with a pound of Troy's heroin hidden inside a dead woman's urn. On top of all this, the stolen coded journal in her possession that once belonged to Ger's old flame from his former life, contains information that could blow everything wide open, exposing sensitive information about the illicit drug and sex trade that exists within the nooks and crannies of the island province of Newfoundland.  When The Dead Are Razed by Samuel Martin is a harrowing North Atlantic noir that explores the dark underworld of ordinary people living a not so ordinary life. 

She dives into the rain and finds her way to Ellie Strickland's gallery.  Pushes the door open easily - no alarm, thank God - and digs the gum wrapper out of the striker plate and pockets it.  The door clicks shut behind her and she heads up the stairs to the gallery, avoiding the clank and grind of the rickety lift.  She steps into the gallery, the only sounds her ragged breath and rain slashed against glass.  Shadows blue the fishbowl room, cast from the faint glow of unseen harbour lights out the rain-pelted windows.  The whale's tail seems to flick in the strange light and the whole room tilts nauseously toward her, making the humpback look as if it's diving deep from outside the storm, its maw wide to swallow her whole. 

Just pick up the package, she tells herself, gulping against the sudden urge to vomit.  Call the cops on the way back across the island. Say Troy blackmailed you into playing delivery girl and abducted your boyfriend to force you

Yeah right, she thinks.  

When The Dead Are Razed is Samuel Martin's third novel, following This Ramshackle Tabernacle (2010) and A Blessed Snarl (2012).  Hailing from the mainland province of Ontario, Martin moved to the east coast in 2008 to begin studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  It was during this time that he fell in love with his new island home and embarked upon this latest novel as "a love letter to a place" he terribly missed before leaving to teach in Iowa in 2012.  Readers will be mesmerized by multiple plotlines and will be propelled mercilessly through the harrowing and sometimes jarring details of Martin's vivid and unrelenting prose.  A suspenseful read, I occasionally got lost in the fast paced action of the many ordinary characters and the things that happened to them.  Martin's crime thriller does an excellent job at highlighting the many complex reasons for the crimes these regular people commit.  In this narrative, love is the bright light that eventually triumphs over evil, but at what cost? The formidable protagonist Teffy Byrne's strong desire to protect Ger from harm and avenge the death of his ex-girlfriend is what propels the narrative.  Readers will find themselves immersed in Teffy's world of poor decision-making and at times, utter mayhem, shaking their heads but wanting more.

She jolts awake yelling and whips the covers against the wall.  A second ago, Jake had been riding her like an old hag, prying down on that scraper's bar.  Choking her. 

Spitting in her face. 

Then the sleep paralysis broke. And now it's just her in the room. Christ on the wall there, holding out his Sacred Heart.  The house quiet but for the wind knocking the window frames.  That breath on her face.  Ger's breath.  She listens.  A roundabout wind by the sounds of it. How did Fin say it? Anything can happen in a roundabout wind.  

Out the toilet-side window, she sees Ellie's car in the drive still and Daryll's goats grazing freely beside the house.  Still not a sound.  So she zips up and thinks it's now or never to make that switch and call Troy.  Find out where she can drop this shit, then get a hold of Ger. 

 

When The Dead Are Razed by Samuel Martin is an explosive, well written novel.  Readers will tread lightly with one eye covered as they are thrust into the violent underbelly of the criminal side of Canada's friendliest province. This novel is published by Slant Books.