“A Canoer of Shorelines” by Anne M. Smith-Nochasak

This is the kind of book that makes the reader think. Not only about the story it tells on its pages, but also about your own experiences. “She will not lament what the years have taken, but embrace what they still hold.” While reading “A Canoer of Shorelines” by Anne M. Smith-Nochasak I was thinking about my childhood and the people who surrounded me. It feels like another life since those people and places are no more.

Still, those who made an impact on our lives, as well as places we connected emotionally with, never truly disappear. They remain in our memories. Places of our childhood and youth, books our parents read to us always remain special for us. And this tether to the past makes life worth living. Some say memories are a burden. But in truth, they sustain you at times when it seems that you’ll fall and won’t be able to rise again.

There is a theory that the past, the present, and the future exist at the same time. I like the idea that nothing in life gets lost. It gives hope and also meaning to our existence.

It’s a different thing, that some things we let go of gladly. The things that don’t let us enjoy life. But there are also things that we want to keep in our hearts forever. These are the bricks of our souls. If they drop out of the wall, we won’t be whole.

Both Julie Martin and Rachel Hardy aren’t whole. And they both believe that an old farm Meadowbrook Acres will make them such.

For Rachel, the farm is her legacy, the place where she grew up, listening to the family legends about Grandma Mary, who cut her teeth on Spanish doubloons. Meadowbrook Acres pulls her in and pushes her away, for many years in equal measure until the struggle becomes too tough and Rachel leaves everything and everyone behind. She disappears – or maybe it only seems that way – and it opens a window of opportunity for Julie.

Julie doesn’t disappear from her family and friends’ radar, but she is lost. The life of the teacher in the Reserves that she’s chosen for herself brought bitter disappointments. “Happiness is not made. It is recognized and embraced.” Julie needs time – and Meadowbrook Acres? – to recognise her happiness. But can she ever embrace it?

I loved the way the author interweaved the present and the past of two women. Rachel’s memories of her extended family evoked images from my own past. I too grew up surrounded by aunts and uncles. They came to us and stayed for months. We regularly visited them, and my parents left me at their places for weeks. I still feel the warmth I was constantly cocooned in.

It is fascinating how certain things are the same despite time and distance. “There are untold stories that these aunts could have told. In those times, untold stories were kept untold.” Indeed, my aunts had such stories too, and they have remained untold.

Julie comes to Meadowbrook Acres to find answers to her questions. Instead, the old house presents her with new ones. The old house haunts her and puzzles her with things her rational mind refuses to accept. The house where Grandma Mary presided over the family, cursing the role that should have belonged to a man but at the same time, revelling in her power. Meadowbrook Acres tortures her with dreams, which with time, become almost indiscernible from reality. Although only a tenant, Julie learns the truth many landowners know: “People with land do not always have money. They have land and they can break their hearts on that land, but that is not the same thing as having money.”

Will both Julie and Rachel realise that “The spark and anticipation of a future unlived cannot be recaptured”? Will they stop living in the past and thinking that happiness awaits them in the future and embrace their present?

This deeply poetic book pulled me in and still hasn’t let go. I’m looking forward to reading the author’s second novel “The Ice Widow”.

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