Looking back on all the books I reviewed in 2018, there were plenty of good ones that came out of New Brunswick.
Before I get to highlighting just a few of them, I would like to mention how unhappy I was at the hearing of the passing of Raymond Fraser in 2018. He will leave a definite void in the East Coast writing scene, but he leaves behind a legacy of enjoyable reading and poetry as well. My tribute to Ray can be found here. Perhaps one of his best novels was published by Pottersfield Books in 2018, just a few months before his death. My review of Through Sunlight and Shadows can be found here.
Another Miramichi-area writer, Wayne Curtis, published a book of memoirs, Fishing the High Country: A Memoir of the River. I especially enjoyed his thoughts on getting older, not being able to do what he used to do, such as going on expeditions to hard-to-access places: “Now that I am old and looking for God, the memories of those early expeditions bring me to a youthful state of mind that is somewhere between perfection and divinity.” Mr. Curtis’ life has certainly been one of many achievements. Most recently, he was awarded the Order of New Brunswick in 2014 and the Senate of Canada Sesquicentennial Medal in 2018 which are: “awarded to Canadians or permanent residents actively involved in their communities who, through generosity, dedication, volunteerism and hard work, make their hometowns, communities, regions, provinces or territories a better place to live.” And that certainly describes Miramichi’s own Wayne Curtis.
Sticking with fishing and the Miramichi, we have Miramichi author Doug Underhill’s recent book Bryant Freeman: All Things Fishing from Nimbus Publishing. Both parties have truly done the Atlantic salmon sportfishing industry a service by bringing the story of Bryant Freeman to bookshelves. A quiet, unassuming man, Mr. Freeman is well-known and loved by many who fish the Miramichi River and its tributaries. He is also well-known for his Riverview, New Brunswick fly-tying shop Eskape Anglers where, among other things, he sells his famous “Carter’s Bug” salmon fly.
Recently, the First World War or the “Great War” has seen a resurgence of interest since 2018 marked 100 years since hostilities ended. A notable book was published by New Brunswick’s own Goose Lane Editions entitled A Family of Brothers: Soldiers of the 26th New Brunswick Battalion in the Great War by J. Brent Wilson. With many historic black & white photographs, an Appendix and a Bibliography, A Family of Brothers will serve the purpose of informing future generations of the futility of war and at the same time, memorializing those that have made the greatest sacrifice. A book worthy of being on the 2019 longlist for a “The Very Best!” Book Award for Non-Fiction.
Another Miramichi native, Chuck Bowie, released installment number four in his “Donovan Thief for Hire” Series, entitled The Body on the Underwater Road. Previous installments of the series had Sean Donovan travelling the globe, and the Underwater Road is an exception in that 95% of the story is in Canada, with the remainder in New York state and Maine, so a certain exotic feel is missing here. Nevertheless, Mr. Bowie is a good ambassador for New Brunswick (particularly the St. Andrews area) and Ontario’s wine regions. And a good writer!
In the non-fiction, reference category we have a 300+ page book that has been beautifully produced by Goose Lane Editions. The paper stock is thick and sturdy (great for the backpack) and the photos are all in colour. Hiking Trails of New Brunswick has motivated me to “get out there” a little bit more and see the beauty of this province from its mountains to the coasts.
Speaking of beautifully produced books, the book on the life of Tappan Adney And the Heritage of the St.John River Valley is among the best, and it is published by a small New Brunswick press, Chapel Street Editions of Woodstock. This well-written book by Keith Helmuth broadly covers the story of Tappan Adney, who not only loved New Brunswick but also was a friend and defender of the Wolatoqiyik peoples and any violations of their treaty rights. Tappan Adney is also considered as “The Man Who Saved the Birchbark Canoe” for he not only detailed their construction for posterity, but he built many canoe models, the bulk of which are owned and displayed at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia.
Other notable New Brunswick-related posts from the past year:
- An interview with Rachel Bryant, author of 2017’s amazing book The Homing Place: Indigenous and Settler Literary Legacies of the Atlantic,
- An interview with Dana Horrocks, Director of the Newcastle Public Library,
- Allan Hudson’s Wall of War, a Drake Alexander Adventure that really entertains,
- Hope Restored by Robert A. Moran, a real find, and a true story.
- I was also interviewed by Allan Hudson for his South Branch Scribbler blog. You can read all about me hereabouts.
Twenty-eighteen certainly was a plentiful year for good books and New Brunswick was well represented by its many writers, whether they were first-time authors or more familiar ones, they all did the “picture province” proud in 2018.
Finally, for a solid, concise list of Atlantic Canada’s Best Reads of 2018 (with reviews), see this post over at the Consumed by Ink blog.
James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.