Seven Fallen Feathers

I am struggling with what to say about Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death And Hard Truths In A Northern City by Tanya Talaga. It is a raw, deeply moving and horrifying look at how our Indigenous youth continue to be treated in this country, specifically in Thunder Bay in this instance. It takes us through the stories of seven teenagers who came to their deaths living in a city far from home, because education at home was not an option for them. Forced to live in boarding houses with strangers, they were overwhelmed by urban life and while there were many conscientious and heartfelt attempts by kind-hearted souls to try to ease the blow of assimilating, the truth of the matter is that these kids were separated from family and friends during a very difficult transitional period.

It is the story of the families left behind without answers to why their children perished. It is the story of racism and neglect in a 21st century Canadian community. The cover of the book was painted by the father of one of the victims, Christian Morrisseau, son of renowned painter Norval Morrisseau. It is a stunningly beautiful depiction of the fragility of life and the incredible strength of the human spirit.

How is it that in 2018, a large segment of our population continues to be treated as ‘savages’ with no access to clean water, health services and educational opportunities for their youth? What aspect of colonialism is still so embedded into our national psyche that we are not pounding on the doors of every single Member of Parliament to demand action immediately? It is inconceivable that children still need to be flown to ‘residential’ schools hours away from their families and communities. We have the money to bail out Bombardier but we can’t erect schools, water purification systems or hospitals for our Indigenous communities. We pay huge amounts of money to ineffective and inefficient political policies and procedures but don’t have the financial resources to live up to the false promises that have been made over and over and over again.

This book should be essential reading for anyone holding or aspiring to hold political office in this country. This book should be part of the curriculum in every high school across Canada. And, it should be mandatory reading for any and all people involved in our legal, policing and judicial systems.

-Nancy C.

What a Great Read!

What a great read! One wouldn’t think so given The Prisoner and the Chaplain by Michelle Berry is about a man who is down to his last twelve hours on earth before his execution for a heinous crime.  The chaplain who is to accompany the prisoner during this final stage of his life is a substitute for the regular chaplain who has been known to the prisoner, Larry, during his 10 years on death row. The chaplain, Jim, has tried to get up to speed about Larry’s life and crimes but knows that he is entering into a situation for which he is not prepared.

Being opposed to the death penalty, Jim struggles as he listens to Larry begin to unpack the story of his life, a childhood that was atypical in that his mother ran off with his older brother when he was just seven years old. Having been left with an older sister and an alcoholic, emotionally abusive father, Larry learns to navigate his way through his lonely life the best way he knows how. Without a mentor to keep him on the straight and narrow, Larry turns to petty crime and discovers that this is something at which he can and does excel.

Larry’s recounting of the story of his life triggers within Jim the anguish of his own personal failings brought on by challenges he faced as a child. Those same failings are what have directed him to the chaplaincy and he is torn by the conflicting emotions that Larry’s story has awakened within him.

The final hours creep by as both men are consumed in the devastation of their personal journeys and yet, in spite of the differences in their circumstances, they develop a mutual trust and bond that will endure, at least for Jim, well beyond the final act of cruelty.

To me, this story reinforces why the death penalty should not be the retribution of a civilized people.

— Nancy C.

Note: author Michelle Berry is the owner of an independent bookstore, Hunter Street Books, in Peterborough, Ontario


This is your holiday read

I just read the best book. It’s called Roost and it’s written by Ali Bryan who is Canadian. It came out in 2013 and is her first novel. I can’t wait for her next which is called “The Figgs” and comes out May 2018.

Bryan’s novel is the first person story of single mother Claudia who lives in Halifax and works full-time. She shops at Canadian Tire and Joe Fresh, often thinking back to happier days when she didn’t buy her clothes in a grocery store. Claudia lives with her two toddlers, Wes and Joan who are hilarious and so well written they dance off the page. This entire book is so funny I laughed out loud during the whole thing and it’s also so, so smart. I had the treat to go to Toronto to visit my Aunt a week ago and started reading it on the early morning train and I was laughing before 7am in the No-Talk zone! Don’t tell!

Claudia is separated from her husband Glen but still relies on him heavily to help out with household maintenance like finally removing the ugly rooster border in her kitchen. She knows she needs to let go, but not yet. Every time he comes over to help or take the children for his weekend, she notices something new about him; a new car or pair of pants. He gets a new dog and a fancy apartment and takes up painting when Claudia barely has time most days for a shower. Even the kids behave better around him. These details take Glen further and further away from Claudia while she feels like she can barely keep her head above water.

Things get worse when her mother dies; no spoiler here, it’s how the book begins. She and her brother Dan and his wife must find time to grieve while caring for their father who is not doing well on his own. It’s just all too much. Dan’s life is perfect and completely opposite from Claudia’s, until he shows what a jerk he is when his wife begins to suffer from postpartum depression and he can’t understand or help her. There are so many poignant parts that are lovely and make your heart do that happy/sad heavy flippy thing (I know you know what I mean).

It is a story everyone can relate to; family squabbles, overtired children during the holidays, running around but never feeling you’re doing well enough. It’s about having a hard time when things have to change and you don’t want them to. It’s about those lovely and chaotic moments with you kids. It is a short book, just under 300 pages and I’d say perfect for reading over the holidays, one night when you can sneak away from the craziness and take a bath. It is a glimpse into the lives of this family. There are no surprises or lessons learned, just about good people doing their best.

-Sarah C.

For the love of the game

The first time we step into the arena each season I say “I love the smell of the ice” and I really do.  I think that it smells clean and familiar and it reminds me of the happiness we have every year as our daughters play hockey. I know that some families have mixed feelings about their seasons but ours have been filled with rewards, despite the early mornings, incredibly cold temperatures, the absolutely horrible drives (on snowy roads) to arenas that seem to be deliberately hidden as you drive to the small town you are trying to find, and occasional bad behaviour in the stands and on the ice.  So, when a new book comes out that features the sport of hockey I find those hard to resist because reading about this sport just feels cozy to me even though it is a sport based on me constantly sitting or standing in a cold arena. I do skip over some of the more complicated statistics (so, I skip over all of the statistics) and focus on the story behind each book but they always provide entertaining reading, especially during the colder months.

Earlier this year we received copies of a wonderful biography of David William Bauer, known to people in Waterloo as Father David Bauer, the Basilian priest and teacher, but for so many in the hockey world he is a respected coach and hockey innovator. When I first met my husband and got to know the K-W area I would drive along Father David Bauer Drive and was fascinated to learn the story of this incredible man, born in Kitchener in 1925 to a family of eleven children, who started his hockey career as a little skater on a backyard rink. Finally, in this book written by hockey fan Greg Oliver, we have a complete history of the origins of Father David’s passion for the game and his strategy for turning his students into good people and good hockey players. It’s a chance to take a trip down memory lane – into the old arenas and traditions of the past – while you see how the first national hockey team was built.  This is a treat of a book with so many delightful mentions of streets, people and businesses in the area.  It’s worth reading twice, once for the hockey stories and once to learn more about our region.

Another hockey book published this year will take you from Jamaica to northern Ontario, then to Toronto… and then to so many hockey arenas you will lose track.  It’s written by Karl Subban, father of P. K, Malcolm and Jordan. At the moment that I am typing these words he has sons playing with the Nashville Predators, the Vegas Golden Knights and one signed and drafted by the Vancouver Canucks (but currently playing with their AHL affiliate – the Comets). With three hockey players in the family you would expect many of his examples to centre around the sport, and they do, but Karl Subban also shares wonderful memories of coming to Canada as a boy, finding his way as a novice teacher and following his path as an school administrator in the busy world of the Toronto District School Board.  It’s a quick read, with the author’s strong personality shining through, and I felt like the book was a great blend of personal story plus his perspective on parenting and the world of hockey.  I had always been a P.K. Subban fan (although never a Habs fan) and now I am a Karl Subban fan.

At WPL we aren’t just fans of books, we also have big sports fans among the staff here and it is absolutely clear where loyalties fall. Team hats or sweaters are occasionally worn and there are heated discussions after pivotal games, as the promising seasons begin, and as playoffs begin and end.  Some years library sports fans see their dreams realized and then.. there are the Toronto Maple Leafs fans.  I’ve just finished reading a book that should be required reading for those who cheer for Toronto, it has been so worth waiting for, the autobiography of Doug Gilmour. This book is such a blast to read the pages almost turn themselves. You just can’t stop reading it. From the first pages of Killer: My Life in Hockey you know you are reading a book written by someone who feels lucky that they were ever able to tie on skates. Each little tidbit he chooses to share, whether it is about his life as a player, coach or from his family life, feel genuine.  It’s like sitting down beside him in his local restaurant and having a chat. Some of his family stories made my heart ache and the risks he took as a kid and the pranks he played made me feel fortunate that he wasn’t my kid – it had a bit of the roller coaster feel for me. A fabulous hockey read and a tribute to his parents which really feels good at this time of year.

Any one of these books would be a perfect choice for someone who is sitting in a cold arena, clutching their thermos of hot tea, while their own hockey player work their hardest on the ice, occasionally shooting the puck at the boards directly where you are sitting just to scare you. Maybe that is just the players that I know?  Or, reward yourself with one of these fantastic books after you get home and enjoy a second cup of tea. If you are looking for books about hockey players, coaches, the history of hockey or maybe you need directions to the arena in that small town you can stop by the library – we are here to help you.  Even if you cheer for Montreal.

-Penny M.


A quiet bravery

So Much Love is exactly what I have for this novel. I read it quickly in a few days, walking around the house with it; holding it in one head while I brushed my teeth and propping it up in the kitchen while I made dinner. I couldn’t put it down. It is about a horrible crime, but it is not a thriller, not in any way you would expect. It reminds you of Emma Donoghue’s Room for a chapter in the beginning and then it completely changes it’s course, for which I was glad. There is no mystery. This novel is about what happens after, to the victims and the people who love them. There is nothing sensational about the crime. This book is about simple lives and the small, everyday things that keep us connected to each other. Not the holidays or major events, but the tiny acts that make up our homes and our families.

The writing is gorgeous. Every chapter has a voice of another player in the story, which reminded me also of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitterage (read it also if you haven’t). We read about how the crimes affect so many people and how strong their love remains for the victims. It is about resilience and it is quiet and brave. It is the first novel written by Canadian Rebecca Rosenblum and I cannot wait to read her next one!

-Sarah C.



Join us at a book club conversation

Please join us for a book club conversation at any of our meetings. No need to sign up – you can just drop in!  This month we are discussing the One Book One Community (OBOC) selection – Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady.  To learn more about OBOC and upcoming related events go to

Monday, August 14 at 7 p.m. – Main Library Auditorium

Thursday, August 17 at 1:30 p.m. – Main Library Boardroom

 Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady

How far would a son go to escape his past? And how far will a father go to help him?

With his wicked grin and confident swagger, navy musician Jack Lewis evokes Frank Sinatra whenever he takes the stage. While stationed in Newfoundland during the Second World War, Jack meets Vivian Fanshawe, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock. They marry against the wishes of Vivian’s family—hard to say what it is, but there’s something about Jack they just don’t like—and as the war ends, the couple travels to Windsor, Ontario, to meet Jack’s family.

But when Vivian encounters Jack’s mother and brother, everything she thought she knew about her husband—his motives, his honesty, even his race—is called into question. And as the truth about the Lewis family tree emerges, life for Vivian and Jack will never be the same.

Told from the perspective of three unforgettable characters—Vivian, the innocent newlywed; Jack, her beguiling and troubled husband; and William Henry, Jack’s stoic father—this extraordinary novel explores the cost of prejudice on generation after generation. Steeped in the jazz and big band music of the 1930s and 1940s, this is an arresting, heart-rending novel about fathers and sons, love and denial, and race relations in a world on the cusp of momentous change.

You can find more information about WPL Book Clubs here or contact Christine Brown at 519-886-1310 ext. 146.