Book Review by Kip Hansen — 1 December 2020
Here’s the leader from Dr. Crockford:
Eighty-six year old Duff Gillies didn’t want to die without telling the story of what he’d witnessed during the great sea ice tsunami that devastated Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia back in 2026. That was the winter he’d agreed to take young Izzy Walker on as his student aboard the Ice Queen and the year polar bears invaded the Gulf of St. Lawrence for the first time. After an unsettling polar bear encounter out on the ice, Duff thought he’d seen everything but then three ice-covered waves turned his quiet maritime existence upside down. Called on to help a good friend rescue his brother, he and Izzy witnessed first-hand the devastating toll the tsunami had taken. But Duff had an experience no one else did and it came to haunt him. This fictional first-person account of the greatest tsunami disaster ever to hit a North American shore is a story you won’t want to miss. It’s a short novel that will leave you astonished at the destructive power a tsunami can muster when it teams up with thick sea ice cover.” – source
This is a terrific little book – short enough at 159 pages to read in a single bout of insomnia or to pass a pleasant afternoon or long evening on a cold rainy winter day (which is exactly what I did the minute I received my advance review copy).
The story takes place in a part of the world I have never visited but had no trouble visualizing from Crockford’s almost cinematic prose:
This map, included in the book, will help those unfamiliar with the area to find their way around. Those familiar with the sea will see at once the possibilities presented by the geography of the Cabot Strait, which runs between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia – our protagonists live on the northeastern-facing shores of Cape Breton Island, at Neil’s Harbour, on the Sydney Bight. As the book quip has already revealed, an earthquake takes place just off the southwest shore of Newfoundland, marked “Epicenter”.
I always find that maps help me understand a story that takes place across a wider area. I offer this rendering of the geography – the nautical chart of North/South Harbours with a detail of Dingwall Harbour. When you read the book, you can use this one for detailed reference:
Dingwall Harbour is under ½ mile long – and sees a lot of the action. Neil’s Harbour, Duff’s home port, is just south of the point at the bottom right of the chart above.
I know we have geologists and geographers reading here, I’ll let them explain in the comments the consequences to be expected from the quake – and the resulting tsunami — and geography. Having spent about one-half of my adult life living aboard ships and boats on the seas, I can personally attest to the authenticity of nautical details of the book.
Full of fascinating detail of the seal hunting life in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, hunting on the shifting and ever-changing ice, the book is insightful and will expand the readers’ breadth of experience. And it exposes the inner-life and thoughts of an old man of the sea coming to grips with forces of nature that can humble even a man of unending confidence.
After introducing the story as the re-collections of an old man trapped by the nursing home restrictions implemented after the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 which limit visitors to once a month – we read what Duff Gillies records on tape for his grandson to transcribe — his never-before-told story of his personal experiences during the Cape Breton Island Ice Tsunami of 2026 (five years in our future),
Regardless of your interests, you’ll find this book a rewarding and fulfilling read. You will not be disappointed.
Boats, adventure, the sea in winter….and, did I mention Polar Bears? Yes, there are polar bears ready and willing for action. Who could possibly ask for more?
I read a lot. I write some. And I recommend this book to anyone looking for that ever-so-rare commodity — a just plain Good Read.
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