on October 9, 2005
Thomas Wolfe said that you can't go home again, but when you must, there is a price. Rebecca McKenzie left her dysfunctional family in small-town Ontario and made an investment career for herself on the West Coast. Then her fairy-tale marriage turned to dust after her husband's fatal accident. Now with her mother dead and her father failing, she finds herself returning after thirty years to the hardscrabble farming area, on the edge of cottage country and in an economic revival. Encounters with her brother and sister reveal a bitter history, and she's tempted to abandon any attempt at reconciliation. Cleaning up, she discovers her mother's diaries, begun in wartime England and continuing in her new home in Canada. Instead of a dream, Janet McKenzie found a nightmare under the hand of a tyrannical patriarch who abused his wife and drove his son to alcohol. Unable to stop despite her growing disgust and pity, Rebecca reads on, learning why her mother turned over her small inheritance to help her daughter escape the same horror. Meanwhile the disappearance of a young girl plunges the town of Hope River into chaos and sets neighbour against neighbour. Could it be connected with Rebecca's only brother, the black sheep of the family? Or has he mended his ways with his new marriage? Delany pulls back the bedcovers in this knife-edged portrayal of a family taking arms against itself. Her descriptions of the scenic but deadly bush parallel the danger that lies under the surface of a community. Characters alive with sins and sensibility advance the plot while pages turn in the diary. Rebecca, hardened in her own ways, holds the key to redemption. With her faithful dog Sampson by her side, she battles personal doubts and inadequacies. Delaney's fresh, lyrical prose illuminates each paragraph. The evocative title comes from a scene in a dark basement. "I leaned up against the freezer and shone the flashlight into Sampson's eyes. She didn't like it and snapped her jaws to scare the light away." Delaney is as deft at animal psychology as she is with human behaviour. With mature themes, a matchless historical vision, and a window on the soul, this novel establishes her as a force in Canadian fiction.