Alexander MacDonald narrates his family’s mythic past, recounting the stories of his people: loggers, miners, drinkers, adventurers; men forever in exile, forever linked to their clan. There is the legendary patriarch who left the Highlands in 1779 and resettled in ‘the land of trees’ where is descendants became a separate Nova Scotia clan. There is the team of brothers and cousins, expert miners in demand around the world for their skills. And there is Alexander and his twin sister, who have left Cape Breton and prospered, yet are tied to the past.
Reviewed by Jonathan Law in Slightly Foxed Issue 61.
The novel’s narrator is another of MacLeod’s exiles – Alexander MacDonald, a wealthy orthodontist now living in Ontario but who is haunted by his youth on Cape Breton. His story unfolds in three broad time-phases: the present, where Alexander fixes the teeth of the rich while also trying to care for his older brother Calum, an alcoholic wreck; the remembered past, in which we gradually learn of the events that brought Calum to this pass; and the ancestral past, the tragic history that drove their great-great-great-grandfather across the ocean with his wife, children, dog and violin. ‘Always look after your own blood’ Alexander is taught as a boy, and it is a lesson that he is never permitted to forget . . .
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 61, Spring 2019