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MacLeod, Alistair.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1986. 189pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 0-7710-5566-8. (McClelland and Stewart Signature series). CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by E. Robson

Volume 14 Number 5
1986 September

It has been ten years since Alistair MacLeod published his first collection of short stories, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (McClelland and Stewart, 1981). This new collection has been gathered from literary publications over the last few years and proves to be a rare and poignant view of life in the Mari-times. MacLeod, born in Saskatchewan, moved to his family farm in Cape Breton, from where his childhood memories provide the material for these seven stories. Presently he is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Windsor.

The first story, "The Closing Down of Summer," graphically shows the alienation of a Nova Scotia miner as he recalls the deaths and hardships in the mines. The miner reflects," ... I would like somehow to show and tell the nature of my work and perhaps some of my entombed feelings to those that I would love, if they would care to listen." MacLeod appears to have done just that with the writing of these stories.

"Winter Dog," triggered by a snowfall in Ontario, brings back the memories of a collie dog who saved a boy's life on the ice floes off Nova Scotia. The title story is the haunting legend of a gray dog gone wild. "To Every Thing There is a Season" and "Second Spring" depict the hopes and disappointments of a Cape Breton farm boy. The final story, "Vision," a story of two feuding lobster fishing families, relates the literal and symbolic blindness of their heritage.

All the stories reflect the Gaelic heritage of Cape Breton, which has been shaped by its past, its culture, and its landscape. The characters suffer many hardships and carry the burdens of their experiences and those of their ancestors. Each story is a masterpiece of style and descriptive writing that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Having read all seven stories the reader cannot help but understand the Maritimes a little better. This collection will be best appreciated by senior students and its curriculum uses are unlimited. Readers will look forward to more from this exciting Canadian author.

E. Robson, Winston Churchill C.I., Scarborough, Ont.
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