"Either you belong to someplace or you don't. If you don't, you can go anywhere. If you do, then the place belongs to you too."
So says Gil Dubois, a trapper and fisher who defiantly belongs to a place, and will not leave it for anything. Not for his wife in Winnipeg. Not for his impressionable young son Wade. Gil belongs to Lake of the Woods, and it belongs to him. On one level, Gil dominates Up in Ontario, the assured literary debut by former Manitoban James Sherrett. Gil is an attractive, classical archetype, a Marlboro Man in the Canadian backwoods, living by his own rules.
Yet rather than pursue the obvious Grizzly Adams parallel, Sherrett reaches for something far more significant. Up in Ontario is a tale of father and son, separated through distance and time, brought together in their mutual love of an idyllic wilderness.
Sherrett is a powerful enough writer to trust his talents, bringing about the story in his own relaxed manner. Like Lake of the Woods itself, Sherrett leisurely follows the currents and eddies of the Dubois's lives, touching on those precise moments where simultaneously nothing happens and everything changes.
Both Gil and Wade, as the years pass, find themselves struggling to discover their places in the world. Gil accepts that his life is an anachronism, part of an ever-shrinking population, railing against the encroachment of a constantly expanding civilization.
He lives "in the last century," knowing that there was "no changing the things that had happened, there was only being less afraid of the things to come."
Wade, growing up in Winnipeg, bemoans his realization that he is not his father.