One of the reasons I found the book so intriguing, was the setting: Lake Superior, in Canada. Because I have spent my life in Africa, mostly in dry, arid regions, the details of island life in a vast lake, are novel to me. Sure, there are the Great Lakes in East Africa – Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika , plus Lake Nyassa in the country of my birth, none of which I have seen. But the watery world of Lake Superior in the northern hemisphere is as foreign to me as Mars.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the wildlife of the islands . Bears, foxes, rabbits, wolves; all play a part in the story. Then there’s the plants which supply food and medicine, especially if your Mother is an Indian woman and wise in the ways of the wilderness. The outdoors provided twins Elizabeth and Emily with a carefree childhood, roaming the woods foraging for seasonal berries, playing, dreaming; boating and fishing.
As for the plot: the story follows very familiar themes such as identity, family history and secrets. There’s a whacking big coincidence in the tale, which strained my credulity, but because I was so enchanted by the natural background, I carried on reading and enjoyed the book. The setting plays such a big role it redeems what might otherwise be a very familiar family drama.
Lake Superior plays a vital role in the story. To say any more would be a spoiler. We read about the commercial shipping, and of course, about the lighthouse that the family tend devotedly for so many years – all of them: Dad, Mum and kids. And not to overlook the very changeable moods of the Lake, influenced by the weather which served up gales, storms, blizzards, snowstorms. I had no idea that such a huge body of water could be frozen over large areas in winter, permitting access by snowshoes to nearby islands – a startling idea to an African!
This is Jean E Pendizwol’s debut adult novel. Previously she’s written for children, where she’s mastered a valuable lesson: kids want a really good story. They won’t bother with anything else. And Ms P has given us just that: a really good story.