A Canoer of Shorelines by Anne M. Smith-Nochasak

Meadows Beach, Kejimkujik National Park (That’s me in the middle.)

Nova Scotia authors seem to be writing books just for me these days. Not long ago, I wrote about a book that was set near my favourite beach. A Canoer of Shorelines is set in or near by most favourite lake and Park (Kejimkujik National Park). My parents took me camping there the summer I was born and I haven’t missed a year since.

Anne Smith-Nochasak lives in rural Nova Scotia, but has lived many years in far-away places. The more I learn about her, the more I discover how her experiences have influenced her work.

Julie and her family have been coming to Keji for many years. Along the way, they pass the familiar scenery on the road to Keji, year after year. There is one farm house in particular–Meadowbrook Acres–that “has stood on the bend above the river through all the summers of Julie’s childhood. You look along the broad fields, up the clean line of sturdy maples, and there on the turn is the long white house with neat corners, sagging woodhouse and woodpile trickling down to the great red barn.” Now Julie is thirty-two and has decided to recapture the time when she was happy.

She is adrift somewhere, trying to find the turning point in her life yet again, trying to piece together her life into a whole before all her years are used up. Her line floats at first, but always, always, it snags in the rocks and is broken.

Julie is moving home from up North where she has been living and teaching. Despite her anxieties about living in this big, old house alone, with all the maintenance it requires–and the fact that she has not yet found a job in the small community–she moves in with a determination to take it all on.

She vows to sub in the deepest corners of hell, should they be offered, to meet those oil bills.

A Canoer of Shorelines explores the character of Julie–her past, her present, her fears, and her dreams–as well as other characters connected to her. The most significant of these other characters is Rachel, a woman who grew up at Meadowbrook Acres. Her story is told mostly through Journal entries as she attempts to understand herself. Julie gets wrapped up in Rachel’s story and the history of the house she now lives in. As she slowly becomes part of the community, she wonders what she’s doing there and what path she’s supposed to take next.

She stretches, chaff-itchy and satisfied. She rubs the dust and chaff from the body of the machine, and splashes in the upstairs tub. Farmers then did not have refreshing showers at the end of a long day in the hayfields; they splashed in a basin and were renewed. She feels an affinity for all the farm labourers who have gone before her. She dusts off the empty gas cans and sets out for the nearby community. She needs gas, and oil, and pizza. Probably pizza is not on the farm heritage list, but she must also live in the present.

Musko–a big, black dog–is an important character. His home was on the northern Reserve, but he chose to live with Julie. She loses him for a time, but Musko finds his way back to her. He’s a great comfort to Julie and her family. As Smith-Nochasak puts it in one of her blog posts, dogs are sent “to seek out the broken among the humans, and lead them to find their hearts.”

While Julie dreams the future, Musko guards the present.

For me, nature is one of the most enjoyable parts of the book: the woods out behind Meadowbrook Acres where Musko likes to roam, Rachel’s quiet cabin on the lake, and the Park where they go to canoe the shorelines. If I can’t physically be there myself, the next best thing is to read about it!

I think that the Park is still lonely, crowded with happy visitors that do not know her. She spreads her hemlock boughs over them all. Is it benediction or mourning? I cannot tell.

The lake ripples and puckers in the occasional gust, and flattens to slick oil, colours spilling on the water, blues and coppers and silvers. Julie dips her paddle and the water bubbles against it. She lifts her paddle and the droplets flick, spreading ripples that flatten and fade.

Further Reading:

Review at The Miramichi Reader: “Written from two perspectives, the first-person journals of Rachel and the third-person story of Julie, Canoer drew me in as so few novels do these days.”

Review at Readers’ Favorite:A Canoer of Shorelines manages to be at once a quiet reflection on the trials of life and an exciting story of self-discovery. I’d happily recommend this book to anyone.”

The Story Behind the Story at The Scribbler: “The characters are fictional, but they are inspired by flashes of memory and feeling; through them, I have tried to affirm and bless the people of home.

21 thoughts on “A Canoer of Shorelines by Anne M. Smith-Nochasak

  1. whatmeread says:

    Cute picture of you! You keep inspiring me to read more books set in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island. So far, it’s mostly been Newfoundland.

  2. Anne Smith-Nochasak says:

    I am overwhelmed to discover your review this morning. Naomi, you have seen into the heart of Canoer, and made it beautiful.
    The photos from your own Keji (Kedge to the Martin generation) times are delightful. Kejimkujik itself is magical, as its people know well. Thank you for looking deep into Julie’s story, and for writing this moving review.

    • Naomi says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Anne! I am so glad it was finally ready to post… Sometimes these things can take me a while.

      I wanted to share ALL my photos, but had to restrain myself – there might have been more pictures than words!

      Thanks again for sending me your book!

      • Anne Smith-Nochasak says:

        You are very welcome. I am delighted that you read it. I am glad the book came to you; your Kejimkujik connection is special, and you really understand Musko. And I do not think there can ever be too many photos of Keji.😊

    • Anne Smith-Nochasak says:

      Thank you. These are places that draw us, and once we experience them, they are forever with us. Reading Naomi’s words, and realizing her connection with Kejimkujik, has been special.

  3. annelogan17 says:

    I can relate to her anxieties about living in an old house in the middle of nowhere – it’s why I live in the city! LOL

    I love that there’s a beach you return to every single year, what wonderful memories you must make there!

    • Naomi says:

      That’s one of the things cats are for – when you hear a spooky noise in your house ta night, you can just tell yourself it’s the cat! lol

  4. wadholloway says:

    I have places I go back to. For all my travel (within Australia) I’m never too long from home. But every year! And my daughter and her husband and kids (aged 1 to 18) all canoe – in Perth WA and all the little rivers to the south. The best I’ve managed is as her support crew for a long distance kayak race.

    I’m slowly making my way right now through Seven Fallen Feathers which is a very water/lake based book. I really need a map in front of me as I listen (and I do have the “wives'” Erdrich ready to go for June).

    • Naomi says:

      It helps that I’ve always lived in Nova Scotia, and, therefore, not too for away from the Park. I’ve been so fortunate. 🙂

      Seven Fallen Feathers can feel like a hard read at times, but I was so happy to have read it. Hopefully, you’ll feel the same.
      And looking forward to hear what you have to say about The Sentence!

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