Thursday 18 September 2008

Book ~ "Down the Coaltown Road" (2002) Sheldon Currie

From Chapters ~ Set in a small coal mining town in Cape Breton at the beginning of World War II, and against the backdrop of labour unrest in the coal mines, Down the Coaltown Road dramatizes a significant but almost forgotten event in Canadian history. After Mussolini took Italy into the war on the side of Hitler in June 1940, able-bodied Italian men were rounded up and interned in camps, some for as long as three years. Most of them had worked in the coal mines. Their families were left without income, and suffered the usual hostility and abuse that accompanies such episodes. In Coaltown, that drama plays out among a cast of memorable and finely wrought characters.

The police come to take Tomassio. But Tomassio's arms, strengthened by fifteen years of loading coal with a pan shovel, fling off the officer and he bolts. This act has far-reaching consequences for everyone in Coaltown: for his wife, Anna, who learned in Italy at an early age how to get what she needs from a man; for his son Gelo, who suddenly is the man of the family; for his lover Cathy, who had renounced one family for her husband and risked losing another for Tomassio; for his enemy and Cathy's husband Ump, a brash and bigoted man; and for his friend Big Jim McMahon, who stood up for him against an angry mob.

As the social fabric of Coaltown strains and rends, it falls to Father Rod MacDonald - who lost an eye, but not his faith, in the war - to mend the pieces and transform individual acts of contrition into acts of redemption.

Remember when Gord and I saw the play Lauchie, Liza and Rory in August, which was written by a former prof of mine, Sheldon Currie? And Sheldon was in the audience and I said hello?

Shortly after that I got an email from Sheldon ... he must have searched and found the post about the play on my blog. He offered to send me a copy of this book. It arrived on Tuesday.

I enjoyed this book. It was an interesting story and I cared about the characters who are not flawless.

I spent my high school years in Sydney River, not far from where this story takes place so recognized most of the places. And it was fun to read and remember the expressions that only a Cape Breton uses.

So would I recommend this book? Yes!


John Mutford said...

You're right, it isn't a wiely known part of our history.

Nice new look on the blog!

Wanda said...

I love his book "The Glace Bay Miner's Museum", must add "Down the Coaltown Road" to my tbr list, thanks!