By Lynn Willoughby
Deep River Night ~ Patrick Lane
This entire novel takes place in only forty eight hours. The location – a remote sawmill community north of Kamloops. It is mostly a community of men, where violence, complicity, past allegiances, alcoholism and minding your own business are the norm.
The story appears to be about Art, the alcoholic first-aid man who is still fighting his demons from WWII. But is is also the story of Wang Po, the camp cook who has his own stuffed closet of skeletons – the Japanese invasion of China. Joel is a seventeen year old runaway who was pulled more dead than alive, unable to speak, from an open rail car. How does he fit into this camp of brutal men?
Alice, a young Indigenous girl is sold from the residential school, to work at the small grocery store and each night she is locked into a small shanty with cracks in the walls and a very small window covered with wire. Cliff is a Metis man with a hidden past and is Alice’s only friend as most of the men only leer at her and remind her of her past abuse by the priests and nuns.
This is not an easy read. It is so well written and there is so much emotion I felt I was living there. We know everyone has a past, but this is honestly the most cruel, degenerate uncaring group of men you can imagine.
There are moments of light – generally due to the few women living nearby. Molly is a healer and helps where she can. Isabel is mystical – but practical in ways that matter. Myrna is a somewhat simple farm girl who nevertheless is always full of joy.
I cannot imagine living in such isolation. And perhaps that is what draws this band of broken men, who will never fit into typical society.
This book isn’t fast paced and doesn’t leave you hanging or imagining what will come next. Instead it is …”the subordination of plot to poetry…” But there is some light and decency in the world and that is what we all hold onto.
- – Red Dog Red Dog
……………………and several books of poetry
The Toosey Indian Band, people of Tl’esqox, is situated near Williams Lake, BC. It has a band membership of approximately 305 members.