Here on the Coast by Howard White

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Howard White is an institution in British Columbia’s literary and publishing scene. If you’ve read a good BC book printed in the past few decades, odds are quite good White had a hand in its creation. This particular publication is one of White’s own works of nonfiction, an excellent collection I’ve enjoyed while exploring some of the very areas he writes about, in Here on the Coast: Reflections from the Rainbelt. 

If you’re unfamiliar with BC’s Sunshine Coast, please take a moment and find it on a map. It’ll only take a moment. Open a new tab, google maps, Sunshine Coast, BC. It’s part of the province many folks, even in BC, know very little about. Which is what White explains accurately and comically to set the book’s opening tone. Let’s start with the name. Sunshine Coast; situated in one of the province’s rainiest regions, naturally. Reminiscent of those Norse voyagers who sailed west from Iceland and in a clever appeal to attract settlers named the new landmass Greenland, rather than giving it a more climatically accurate moniker, like Icierland. However. BC’s frequently unsunny Sunshine Coast is on the mainland. You take a ferry to get there. Leaving people thinking, quite understandably, it’s an island, which it’s not. One of the main communities is Pender Harbour, which people assume is part of Pender Island, which it’s not. So here we have a confusingly named place with confusingly named communities, populated with unconfused people who can only chuckle as the rest of the world tends to leave them alone. But for those who’d like to experience this special place by way of a few generations of tales, this is an ideal manner in which to discover this forested coastal enclave.

The writing, as you’d expect, is crisp, seamless, and engaging. I haven’t yet spoken with the author but feel as though I know his manner of speech, a cadence that makes you want to listen, or in this case, read. In addition to personal anecdotes, touching moments of memoir, and intriguing local history, White serves up humorous yarns, gossip and second-hand lore I desperately want to be true. In all likelihood, it is. Whether you’re a fan of history, humour, memoir, or great seaside story-telling, Howard White’s Here on the Coast is an exemplary way to experience this oddly inviting yet secluded part of the world.

  • Title: Here on the Coast
  • Author: Howard White
  • Publisher: Harbour Publishing, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781550179248
  • Pages: 205 pp

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, the Gone Viking travelogues, and A Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot (Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.