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Let The Stories Roll
Within chapters, Macfarlane leaps between generations, decades, and continents, but somehow he binds it together. As a writer, I want to study how he does it. As a reader, I find it wonderfully moving. Raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Macfarlane grew up bemused and enchanted by the stories of his mother`s Newfoundland relatives, the estimable Goodyears of Grand Falls. They "set their stories going and then let them roll:` Macfarlane does the same, not with reckless ease but with meticulous research and craft. At every chance, he amplifies the significance of family legends, trivia, and tragedies by relating them to history. The young man peddling Universal Lung Healer to outport families ravaged by tuberculosis was a student preacher named E. J. Pratt. The pulp-mill town to which Louisa Goodyear dragged her outport family to escape poverty and TB was founded by a British press baron who needed a source of newsprint safe from the squabbles of Europe. The teamster savvy that Stan Goodyear acquired driving freight to the pulp mill serves him well dragging wagonloads of food and bullets through the mud neat Passchendale. The First World War reverberates through this book, supplying its most luminous and powerful moments. Twothirds of the Newfoundlanders who volunteered were killed or wounded. Three of Louisa Goodyear`s six sons die. Ray is ripped open by shrapnel. Stan is splattered by a German shell. Hedley is shot in the head at night by a sniper aiming at the flicker of a smoker`s match. Their memory haunts Louisa`s only daughter, Kate. A spirited, resourceful, private woman, she figures in some of Macfarlane`s most vivid passages. For 70 years she is periodically ambushed by grief: It was much against her will that some word or phrase or name could release the catch of her most precious memories, and bring them tumbling down. This sudden avalanche of sadness ...ended its descent in the same inconsolable hollow where the news had first settled years earlier ...."Oh dear;` shed say, and in a moment, straightening herself and squaring her slender shoulders, she`d sniffle her mourning back up to where she felt it belonged, lock it away and, with an apologetic smile, continue with whatever story she`d been telling. Here is a book to dispel any notion that non-fiction is somehow not quite literature.

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