Sea Winter Salmon: Chronicles of the St. John River

Mari Hill Harpur. Linda Leith Publishing (LitDistCo, North American dist.), $29.95 trade paper (170p) ISBN 978-1-927535-68-4
This beautifully illustrated, if somewhat disjointed, narrative is part natural history, part family history, and part memoir. Author and photographer Harpur tells the story of the St. John River in eastern Canada by highlighting the lives of its people and fish. Glaciers carved the river out of the Canadian Shield during the last ice age, and generations of Atlantic wild salmon migrate to it after spending years at sea. Over time, the salmon have provided both sport and sustenance to the river's human inhabitants. One such inhabitant was James J. Hill, Harpur's great-grandfather, who in 1900 purchased 15 miles along the river from the Quebec government and set up the Hill Log Camp. In six chapters, Harpur details five generations of her family's stewardship of the river and its salmon. "The camp had lasted into the new millennium," she writes, "and we possessed the means and desire to protect and prepare our river for future [salmon] generations." Harpur illustrates her book with historic photographs galore, but her attempt to constantly weave family history with natural history results in a somewhat unfocused read. Nonetheless, conservationists and history enthusiasts will find much to appreciate in this wonderfully presented memoir. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 03/01/2015
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