By Sandra Joyce
Reviewed by Jon Muldoon
In Belonging, Sandra Joyce has created a heart-rending piece of biographical, historical fiction, inspired by the lives of her mother, a nurse during the Second World War, and her father, a Canadian soldier who came to Canada via Scotland as one of more than 100,000 ‘Home Children.’
For more than 60 years, orphaned, abandoned, and poor children were sent to Canada and other British colonies, where they often worked as cheap labour for settlers, becoming a sort of indentured servant.
Joyce’s father was one such soul, and his story, which inspired both her first book, The Street Arab, and Belonging, the sequel, is not entirely a happy story. (Reading the first book is not necessary to appreciate the sequel.)
It is powerful in its own way, told through the love and life story of two immigrants in Canada during the Second World War and the years following.
Robbie James led an unhappy childhood as a Home Child, separated from his brother, who worked on another farm, and his sister, who remained in Scotland.
After coming of age and making his way to Toronto, he meets Annie, a nurse at the hospital where he works. Romance blossoms, but when war breaks out, Robbie signs up and is sent overseas to serve the thankless and dangerous task of stretcher-bearer.
Meanwhile, Annie sails back to her native England to do her part. Robbie and Annie meet briefly in London, but the timing is off, and the two are quickly separated, both spending the next span of their lives dealing with a sense of regret.
The book begins with a scene from current times, so readers know to expect an eventual reunion, but it’s not a Hollywood script, and though the couple finds happiness, there is still sadness as well.
More than anything else, Belonging seems like a quest for understanding and acceptance; understanding why people make the decisions they make, and accepting that a person’s feelings and motivations may not always be reflected by the way they interact with those they love.
The attention to period detail in Belonging serves the story well, adding to the feeling of being there during the various time periods covered. Robbie and Annie live through infamous snowstorms and Hurricane Hazel, and descriptions of working conditions for nurses in the 1930s and 1940s serve as vivid reminders of how times have changed.
Though the story of Belonging is ambiguous in its conclusion, there’s an undeniable thread of hope running throughout the narrative, driving the story along. Despite the lack of a storybook ending, Belonging’s story is typical of many of Canada’s ‘Home Children,’ and a journey worth taking.
Sex, Lies and Negotiation Techniques
By Tim Paulsen
Reviewed by Jon Muldoon
The title of Sex, Lies and Negotiation Techniques does not lie – the book, by public speaker Tim Paulsen, covers all three of those bases, in that order, though not with equal importance.
Like many good salesmen, Paulsen uses sex to lure in readers, though to this reviewer, this short section is mostly good for a couple laughs before working into the meat of the book. There are anecdotes shared to illustrate points, some amusing, others poignant (and a few, truth be told, that seem a bit dated – although to be fair your reviewer was born around the same time Meatloaf released Bat Out of Hell).
When he moves on to the section on lying, Paulsen starts to come into his own, and the pages pass quickly, as the writing flows like a good public presentation. Tips on how to recognize a lie somehow morph into tips on how to beat a lie detector test – probably useful advice for the business crowd Paulsen often speaks to.
The negotiation section is probably the most practically applicable third of Sex, Lies and Negotiation Techniques. There is advice on everything from body language to mental preparation, from phrasing final offers to dealing with ruthless people.
Paulsen is the first to admit his book isn’t intended to be an in-depth analysis of any of his three chosen topics.
However, most readers, even those who might not consider themselves part of the ‘business’ crowd, will certainly pick up at least a few useful tips and pointers along the way, will have a laugh or two, and may even learn something along the way.
Patriotes, Reformers, Rebels and Raiders: Tracing your ancestors through the ‘troublous’ times in Upper and Lower Canada 1820-1851
By Kenneth G. Cox
Reviewed by Andrew Hudson
Ken Cox sees family history every day he wakes up in the Osborne Avenue house that his great-grandfather, a Grand Trunk Railroad engineer, bought some 114 years ago.
A former history teacher and school principal, Cox had already planned on digging further into his family history when, a few months before he retired, an envelope arrived from a lost cousin hoping his house was still in the family.
Inside were notes she had already found on their shared ancestry.
That got Cox started on his first family history project, in which he mainly traced his family history back though the First and Second World War, the Boer War, the Red River Rebellion and earlier conflicts.
Cox then published his first guide, A Call to the Colours: Tracing your Canadian Military Ancestors, to help any Canadians interested in doing similar research.
Now Cox has gone further back, tracing the history of his wife’s family, the Turcottes, whose Quebec roots go back to the early 17th century.
Digging through church records, land titles, and other documents much less detailed than the military records he had worked with before, Cox found the story of two very different Turcottes.
There was Louis, who was sentenced to hang for his role in Quebec’s 1837 Rebellion, but found himself shipped to Australia instead.
On the other hand was Jean Baptiste, who remained loyal to the Crown, and settled on Wolfe Island near Kingston after applying for land grant for his service against the American threat in the War of 1812.
In this guidebook, Cox details the Rebellion of 1837-38 records that helped him piece together their stories, along with a list describing many of the players in that ‘troublous’ time.
By Ken Reid
Reviewed by Andrew Hudson
Growing up across from the rink in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Ken Reid got his first pack of hockey cards at age six and never quit collecting. By the time the card craze peaked in the early 1990s, Reid and his brother had enough cards to deal doubles in Halifax, armed with business cards printed by their mom.
Now a sports anchor on Sportsnet Connected, Reid’s card collection totals 40,000.
Hockey Card Stories is based on interviews Reid did with the players and one coach, Don Cherry, pictured on 59 of them.
With chapters that range from rookie cards to airbrushing, Hall of Famers to one-card-wonders, the book is a fun read.
Kelly Hrudey talks about the magnificent perm he wore on his 1980s card, and Don Cherry is still slightly unnerved by the card markers who decided to paint his tie red during his first year with the Bruins.
Former St. Louis Blues goalie Ed Staniowski recalls how just after turning 20 he was walking out to his new sports car with a date when a boy asked him to sign a card, then told him that he had eight or nine more.
Staniowski asked the boy if he was one of his favourites.
“No, actually,” said the kid. “I can’t trade them for s***.”
Besides the laughs, Hockey Card Stories gives a glimpse of pro hockey in the years when it was moving toward big-league money.
Pictured on his 1978-79 card with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bob Paradise tells Reid how he spent two years teaching Grade 9 and 10 English before thinking seriously about leaving teaching and the minors for the NHL.
As Reid writes, today the story of an ex-high school teacher making the Penguins roster would be front-page news. Back then, as Paradise said, “It was no big deal.”
Along with a great sampling of fu manchu moustaches and 80s hockey pants, Hockey Card Stories is a book where all the cards, all-stars and ‘commons’, all have a story to tell.
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