San Josef — Reviews
“In August 1898, Clayton Monroe, sixty-some years old, is looking for a place of refuge. On the run from the law in the States, Monroe leaves Seattle for Victoria, Canada. Arriving in Victoria, he shoots his pistol in public and is ordered by a judge to leave the city. Monroe boards a steamship and heads for San Josef, a small town on the northeast side of Vancouver Island. A portion of the island is inhabited by a small colony of primarily Danish immigrants, working the land with the promise of government subsidies that would help attract other settlers to the island.
The immigrants include Rolfe and Anika Frederickson who, along with their young son, operate a general store in San Josef. When Monroe befriends a cook working for the local lumberjacks, he is introduced to the couple and finds a small shack that he now calls home. He hopes his seclusion will protect him from those who wish him harm.
In July 1899, Cyrus Walker, a freight wagon driver in Kansas, reads an article written in Seattle about a former bushwhacker named Clayton Monroe who, during the Civil War, killed his parents and raped his sisters. He immediately buys tickets to Seattle, seeking revenge.
This novel is about a man who has committed atrocities during the war and tries to seek redemption. Monroe is an old man with nightmares because of “the killing of widows and orphans.” Sometimes he just wants to have someone put a bullet in his back, but first he “needed a place unhounded to set things straight.”
Descriptions of the landscape, especially Vancouver Island, permeate the story, which is rich in historical accuracy. The author paints a thorough picture of life on Vancouver Island at the turn of the 20th century.”
~ Jeff Westerhoff, Historical Novel Society
“San Josef does what novels do best — brings us in close to witness an unfolding drama (both personal and communal) that we can believe in.”
~ Jack Hodgins, CM, novelist, and recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence
“Reading Harold Macy’s book San Josef was a remarkable education for me. His book places the reader into life as it must have been lived in that remote area in 1898. With the use of resilient and colourful characters plus a compelling descriptive text, Macy’s novel takes the reader into a completely different world. The book holds your attention from the beginning — as every good story should.”
~ The Ormsby Review
“The characters are as complex as a spider’s web, the language poetic and the environment a tangible force.”
~ Paula Wild, author of Return of the Wolf, Conflict & Coexistence.
The Four Storey Forest: As Grow the Trees, So Too the Heart — Reviews
“The chances for success stack up in Harold Macy’s favour. He’s a forester who honed his craft during years as the resident forester at UBC Oyster River Research Farm. He operates a 400 hectare woodlot in the shadow of Mount Washington. There, he practices his beliefs, makes his mistakes, and harvests his joys. His faith and social consciousness are grounded in the Quaker and Mennonite peace traditions. His irreverence for convention is grounded in what he calls his hippie experience. His knowledge of political machinery comes from his time on the board of the regional district. And he’s friends with BC’s most revered writer, Jack Hodgins.
Now, Macy, who has been honing his writing skill for years, has written a book, The Four Storey Forest: As Grow the Trees, So too the Heart, published by the recently-established Poplar Press in Courtenay. Given his experience and training, Macy should, we’d expect, be able to write a book worth reading. He doesn’t disappoint. Without pretension or pomp, but rather with clarity, insight, skill and humour, Macy writes humbly in a lofty tradition.
The opening chapter presents the cycle of a year in the forest, echoing Roderick Haig-Brown’s Measure of the Year and Aldo Leopold’s classic A Sand County Almanac. The year begins for Macy with trumpeter swans passing low over his roof. “They overnight,” he says, “on the big wetlands near the base of the foothills and in the bleak dawn they commute noisily to the beach to forage and gossip, claiming eyebrows of gravel as the tide retreats.” In December, “The year ends with music and celebration at church and home. With candlelit children cheerfully singing, the smell of greenery in the house and the forest continuing to grow, we are blessed.” Macy loves the world, has eyes and heart to see it, and writerly skill to evoke it.
As well, the book’s title, The Four Storey Forest, evokes the spiritual tradition of environmentalist Wendell Berry’s A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979–1997. That book records Berry’s weekly restorative walks in his own forest.
Macy’s multi-layered forest refers to other things as well: the biological layers of the forest; the literary layers of the book including its fictional thread; and its spiritual dimensions moving upward, outward, forward, and inward.
The book ends with an appearance of the fictional Jacob, a Black Creek Mennonite who, as a boy, survived the great fire of 1938. He meets the real-life Macy in Macy’s forest, among trees planted by Jacob in 1942. He later blesses Macy, saying, “’What you are doing up there in the woods is good. It completes me.” What Macy has done in this book is good, working to complete us by helping us to live and giving us reasons to keep living.”
~ Trevor McMonagle — The Right Words Editing Ltd