HOUSEBOAT CHRONICLES: Notes from a Life in Shield Country

Jake Mac Donald, Author . Lyons $22.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59228-553-2

In this spare, unassuming yet affecting memoir, MacDonald describes his lifelong fascination and flirtation with life in the central Canadian wilderness, an area known as "the Shield." MacDonald discovered the region as a boy at his family's summer cottage north of Winnipeg, and he later dropped out of graduate school just shy of a master's in English, packed a beat-up van and wound up at a remote fishing town that would serve as a periodic base for years to come. He infuses his lyrical descriptions with overviews of the Shield's social and natural history, and it's evident that the wide-eyed connection to the place he first felt when he was younger has hardly dissipated. While MacDonald's reverence is profound and genuine, it's not overstated. Instead, MacDonald keeps his imagery vibrant without overdoing it, describing 50-pound trout, for instance, as "ancient brutes with hooked jaws, battered heads, and the blank, stone gaze of a pagan idol." Likewise, he outlines the array of characters with whom he comes into contact without romanticizing them, from the locals with their names on the barstools to the ex-con who showed up one day and started helping him build his houseboat for lack of anything better to do. This is a tranquil, pleasant reflection on the austere beauty of nature, and on life's many different paths. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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