This novel took my breath away. So beautifully written, incredibly captivating from the start, I quickly found myself immersed in Harry’s journey. This epic novel alternates between time periods, from Harry’s youth and adulthood to years later, when Harry is a patient at a mental hospital. Faced with endless challenges throughout his life, Harry struggles to balance what society expects of him and what he expects of himself.
The publisher’s summary hints at this, but a large portion of Harry’s turmoil revolves around his sexuality. Though he did what he believe society expected (married, fathered a child), he couldn’t banish or repress his sexuality. One can guess, but based on the time period, homosexuality was viewed as a mental illness, people who allowed themselves to “succumb” to these feelings were institutionalized. Though he attempted to resist them, doing so would only deny himself of his true identity. The struggles he faced in doing so were completely heartbreaking.
This is one of those epic novels that demands all your free time, completely captivating both your mind and your soul. Harry’s journey is not only a physical one, but emotional and mental as well. It was heartbreaking to see how he was treated, realizing, horrified, that feelings about homosexuality haven’t evolved that much over time. Society still often treats homosexuals as deviants, unable to have the same rights as heterosexuals.
While Harry’s sexuality is a key aspect of this novel, it isn’t the only theme. The exploration of Canada’s vast land, at this point not yet settled, plays a key role as well. The journey these early settlers took was demanding, many not surviving the isolation or drastic and severe weather conditions. Hardships were a many, burdens weighed quite heavily on Harry’s shoulders.
The inspiration for this novel came from Gale’s own ancestry, a family mystery that plagued Patrick for a large portion of his life. He became obsessed with uncovering the truth. You can read more about it here.
All in all, this is an incredibly tremendous novel that I won’t soon forget. Highly, highly recommended. Jenn’sBookshelves.com