The Great Deportation or Le Grand Dérangement, of the Acadian peoples, began in 1755 in the area now called the Bay of Fundy. Homes and farms were burned, and many of the 14,000 inhabitants of Acadia were herded aboard British ships and sent off to the Thirteen Colonies. The following two novels, both suitable for mature young readers on up, focus on this time of upheaval and the separation of families. Of course, it wasn’t only Acadians that were hunted by the British, the Miq’maw peoples, who were friendly to the Acadians also suffered and they figure prominently in these two novels as well.
The Lookout Tree by Diane Carmel Léger
The Lookout Tree is a translation of La butte à Pétard, a Hackmatack Award-winning young reader’s novel, published by Nimbus in English. At a little over one hundred pages, it is full of adventure and excitement enough to hold a middle-grade reader’s interest and is full of Acadian words and expressions (there is a glossary at the back). The story is centred around the separation of Fidèle and Prémélia, brother and sister from their father and mother during the invasion of British troops upon their village. Jacques, their father sends them into the woods with Pétard, their grandfather and Rosalie, a widow. Kitpou, a Mi’kmaw man, guides them to safety, where they keep camps for many years before the war is over. It is a hard existence, but better than being in a prison, or in a crowded, filthy ship’s hold, Rosalie comments.
This novel was different from other accounts I’ve read in that the Acadians concerned never actually leave Acadia, but manage to exist within sight of their former village, undetected by the British. It has a nice balance of humour, hard times and family connectedness to make for an enjoyable and informative read for all ages.
The Banished by Alex MacLean
A self-published book by a Nova Scotian writer, Alex MacLean, The Banished is a historical fiction book that, even if you are familiar with the events of 1755, will entertain you. This one is based on the legend of an Acadian deportation ship mutiny and the attempts by the Acadians to get back home without being recaptured. Once again, a family is separated, husband from wife. Isaac Doiron is put aboard a deportation ship, and his wife Emeline and Simon have escaped to the woods as Isaac instructed them. Lost in the fog, Simon gets separated from his mother and is captured and deported, but on a different ship than Isaac. Emeline meanwhile, is conducted to safety after a Mi’kmaw man, Nakuset comes across her. He takes her to his village where there are other Acadians who have fled into the woods. The story alternates between Isaac on the deportation ship, and Emeline, surviving in the wilderness and worrying about her family, not knowing what has become of them.
The Banished is a very well-written and, for a self-published book, well-produced and edited. A great adventure story that goes from Acadia to Boston and back. At 400+ pages, it’s a longer read, but the content is suitable for a young adult. on up. A Miramichi Reader “Pick”! (“Picks” are awarded to exceptional self-published and internationally written and/or published books)
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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.