The Woods: A Year on Protection Island

Amber McMillan. Nightwood (Midpoint, U.S. dist., Harbour, Canadian dist.), $19.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-88971-329-1
McMillan’s (We Can’t Ever Do This Again) memoir of a year spent on Protection Island, on the west coast of British Columbia, is written as a collection of absurdities encountered while escaping to the wilds, but the story is largely banal. The premise is straightforward: McMillan and family flee their Torontonian urban struggle for the imagined quiescence of a small island in the Georgia Strait, only to find a community that’s often hostile to outsiders. Their neighbors are portrayed as oddballs and practiced isolationists, typified by archivists with attitude and local history buffs whose obsessions are distinctly macabre. Protection Island is no more odd than many small communities, where reserved hostility and slow-to-surface generosity are the norm. McMillan is a talented poet, but though the book aims for raw honesty and mordant wit, it achieves neither. In many ways, it feels like a long essay that’s filling space. It’s strongest when it directly observes that McMillan’s journey was more about self-discovery, but unfortunately that only happens in the afterword. An essay would have been a much more effective rendering than this overstuffed book. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2017
Release date: 10/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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