Fascinating Details

Driving along 401 today, it’s almost impossible to imagine what the countryside near Brighton, Ontario looked like in 1797 when Empire Loyalists began carving their farms and villages from the intractable wilderness. In her story, Alone: A Winter in the Woods, Felicity Sidnell Reid succeeds admirably in taking us back to that time. John Turner, a young teen, travels with his father and their livestock in the dead of winter to their government grant on the shores of Lake Ontario. They set about clearing trees and erecting a rudimentary log shelter. Then his father leaves, tasking him with guarding their land and protecting their livestock until he returns with the rest of the family. John is left alone there and faces months of loneliness and danger relieved only by the visit of a friendly Chippewa family. The story is salted by excerpts from the diary of a young French woman, a possible love interest, who stays with the family back east in Adolphustown. Many writers fail to mention the matter of faith in their historical stories. In this novel, the visit of the circuit rider, reading the Bible and saying one’s prayers all illustrate the role played by faith in the lives of our pioneers. With its fascinating details of the perils John faces alone and the innovations he must invent to survive, Sidnell Reid’s story reminds me of Robinson Crusoe.

- Eric Wright, author of several thrillers including Riptide and many non-fiction titles