Reviews

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