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Whether one hails from sprawling, arid prairies, the crisp, cold north, or bustling, concrete cities, most would agree that an idyllic island life is a dream worth chasing. Compelled by the promise of a peaceful oceanic retreat, people from all over the world and from walks of life have been drawn to the lush, green islands scattered like so many emeralds along the shimmering west coast of British Columbia.
In the midst of such an oasis, Pat Carney, an accomplished former senator and cabinet minister, has carefully crafted an evocative, whimsical, and surprisingly tender collection of short stories that call to mind beloved storytellers such as Stuart McLean and Garrison Keillor. Based on experience nurtured over decades of living on one of the many Gulf Islands, Carney bestows upon the reader her unique insights into the quirks that island life famously cultivates. At the same time, we are quietly drawn in on deeper levels with stories of heartfelt substance delivered with humour and warmth balanced with clarity and observation.
An examination of the nuances of both the charm and absurdity of living in remote coastal communities, we are introduced to characters that impart a sense of recognition: an imperious church warden asserting his authority; recently retired off-islanders looking for a sense of purpose and belonging in their new communities; independent, unconventional women who live without apology, despite the judgment and preconceived notions of others who are comfortably and conservatively set in their ways; the baffling logic—or complete lack thereof—of those who abandon responsibility for the pets in their care, and how their thoughtless choices impact an entire community on a long-term basis; a woman desperately reaching out for consolation from a stranger as she struggles with the searing pain of marital betrayal.
Revealing both the joy and pain of island living, we see with an unsentimental eye the contrast between exquisite peace and unnerving isolation, the invigoration of fleeing the big city and the inconvenience such distance brings, and the insecurity of technological dependence when such amenities are not consistently guaranteed.
A celebration of nature—both human and environmental—On Island delivers with eloquent yet succinct language relatable, character-driven vignettes that will speak to the hearts of readers about what it means to make a home in our country, our communities, and within ourselves.
Pat Carney served as a Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons from 1980 to 1988. Prior to her appointment, she was a writer for both the Vancouver Province and the Vancouver Sun. She is the author of the bestselling memoir Trade Secrets.