This little novel was a finalist in the 2015 Canada Reads competition. It is unusual, it is heart breaking, it is very Canadian.
A trio of elderly men are living out the remainder of their lives cut off from the outside world. They each have their own cabin in a remote forest location. All have left their past behind and we are not ever sure if they are even using their real names.
When a photojournalist arrives with an interest in one of the men, a survivor of the forest fires of the early 1900s, each man’s story begins to reveal itself.
The prose is beautiful and this slim novel is a lovely piece of Canadiana. It is about rejuvenation after living your life in the beautiful wilderness that is northern Canada. For historical buffs there is the information on the Great Fires, for romantics, there is a gentle love story, for those interested in current events, there are Bruno and Stevie who have their “plantation” of marijuana growing near the men. The dogs and the cat are part of this rich story. And while it deals a lot with aging and dying, it makes us mindful to look forward to the beautiful moments that occur throughout life – sunsets, a good dog, the comfort of an outdoor fire, friendship.
There is a lot of wisdom in this novel as it deals with aging, dying and living life on your own terms. Saucier deals with some very difficult subjects – living with mental health challenges, the right to control one’s own death, love and family. But most of all, living one’s own life. “They had a good laugh at having grown so old, forgotten by everyone, free agents. They felt as if they had erased their tracks.”
Twenty One Cardinals
House of Sighs
The Matheson Fire of July 1919 was huge – at times the front measured 64 kms. In all, approximately 490,000 acres were burned.