Thursday 25 March 2021


By Michael Christie


It’s 1974 and Willow Greenwood is living in her Westfalia, travelling to various logging camps with her son, Liam, in tow.  Willow’s intent is to sabotage logging operations and generally interfere with the industry that is destroying B.C.’s vast and beautiful forests.  In fact, she has devoted her life to this endeavour.

Unexpectedly, Willow is the daughter of Harris Greenwood, a rich lumber magnate who lives in a mansion in Shaughnessy.  As we delve into Willow’s history, Michael Christie takes us on an elaborate journey across Canada and right through the 20th century.

Willow’s roots (pun intended) go back to a maple farm in New Brunswick where, in 1934, she is found as a newborn who’s been left to die in a tree.  Everett Greenwood, a drifter (and Harris’s brother), temporarily adopts her and sets out to find her a good home.  He and Willow jump on freight trains and find food wherever they can.  But as they journey through the forests of Quebec (where Willow is almost adopted by a grieving young couple) and the dust bowl of Saskatchewan (where Everett finds temporary work) towards B.C., Everett becomes progressively more attached to Willow and does not want to give her up.

Everett’s story is utterly compelling.  Throughout his journey, we meet a series of other characters, each with stories of their own.  Michael Christie takes readers back to 1908, when Everett and Harris were boys, then fast forwards all the way to 2038 when Jake Greenwood, Willow’s granddaughter, is a forest guide on Greenwood Island, one of the last stands of old growth forest left in the world.

I absolutely loved this epic family tale!  Although not always entirely believable (how do you jump onto a moving train with a baby strapped to you anyway?) I could not put this book down.  Michael Christie has a way of weaving an elaborate and intricate tale that combines multiple layers, threads, characters and time periods. 

He also delves into the fascinating science of trees and likens the inner workings of the forest to that of a family.  Jake Greenwood knows “[t]hat even the impenetrable mysteries of time and family and death can be solved, if only they are viewed through the green-tinted lens of this one gloriously complex organism.”

Highly recommended!



Friday 12 March 2021

Anxious People


By Fredrik Backman  

Is it possible for a book to be at once heart-wrenching yet heart-warming, improbable yet realistic, farcical yet deeply, utterly human? If so, Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People has done just that. Anxious People follows a group of people who, while attending an apartment open house, find themselves held hostage by an unlikely bank robber.  Don't worry, they make it out – and this is not a spoiler, as this is where the story begins. 

Though what happens within the apartment walls is the plot’s focal point, the book is not about being held captive: at least, not literally. Instead, this is a story about each person that finds themselves there on that day, and indeed, the secrets keeping them trapped within themselves. We meet a couple considering the apartment as their next project – just another distraction from a marriage that is falling apart. We meet a second couple looking for the perfect home in which to raise their first child, though neither seems ready for either home ownership or parenthood. We meet an elderly woman who claims to be viewing the apartment for her daughter, though the truth appears to be far more solemn, and a bank director seeking the perfect place to die. Finally, we meet the bank robber, who epitomizes being in the wrong place at wrong time – not only in the apartment, but, ultimately, beyond. 

This book is spell-binding, perhaps because there is something within each character that is so relatable. Though I found myself laughing aloud throughout (there are certainly points of sheer ridiculousness), this is a story about loss: of that which we let go of willingly, and that which we cannot control. This is a story about aspects of life that we allow to define us, as letting them go may mean redefining who we are. Above all, though, this is a story of hope. Backman expresses, yes, how we sometimes find ourselves facing someone who reflects to us what we most fear about ourselves. Anxious People suggests that sometimes our biggest fear is staring us right in the face and all we need to do is look up. But when we do look up, and we see someone who understands, that can be exactly what we need to begin moving forward. If you are looking for both a hearty belly laugh and a mirror of your own humanness, Anxious People could be your stellar next read.