Distinct, definite, and unmistakably unique settings aren’t normally what draws me to a book. A seriously good story can happen anywhere. Of course there needs to be location description and a few historical facts thrown in, but I like these things handled with a light touch, so that they add substance to the plot but never detract. Nothing irks me more than two pages of pointless description when you’re on the edge of your chair wondering what happens next.
But here’s the exception to my personal book selection rule; a book I picked up because I recognized the author’s name and because I lived where she lived. It was also on a 40% off table at Chapters. Strong incentive indeed, never mind strong setting.
It was strangely thrilling to read the familiar place names in print. Latham Island. The Gold Range (better known as the Strange Range). Rainbow Valley. Frame Lake. It made me remember the weather reports and newscasts on the radio in Dogrib and Slavey. The Berger Inquiry and the MacKenzie Valley gas pipeline controversy. Giant and Con mines. School Draw, Dettah, Back Bay, Mildred Hall (my kids went to that school!) Old Town, Willow Flats. The mish-mash of professionals and misfits from all over the country who end up thrown together for any number of reasons, forming bonds and creating their own life altering adventures. All absolute music to my ears.
Elizabeth Hay was a radio broadcaster who lived in Yellowknife in the early 1970’s, long before we got there. Still, there were so many of her observations that hit home and her take on things was so familiar, that she kept me thinking – yes! – that’s exactly how it was. Exactly.
If you’ve ever seen the midnight sun, or know someone who’s lived north of 60, or just have some kind of burning curiosity about what it’s like to be there, you will appreciate this strong setting and maybe even love this book.