I read Donna Milner's debut novel, After River, back in 2008. In re-reading my review, I see that I described Milner's writing as "quite simply, beautiful."
Her newest book, A Place Called Sorry, has just released - and Milner's writing has only gotten better.
1930's British Columbia. Young Addie Beale makes her home on a cattle ranch in the bush in British Columbia. Sorry is " a scanty little settlement located twelve hard bush miles from our ranch....the place where a number of side roads, not much more than widened paths, converged onto the trail that once led to the Cariboo goldfields."
Addie loves the land as much as her grandfather and father. Her grandfather has only ever hinted at the life he led before the ranch. As age creeps up on him, he slowly begins to reveal his secrets to Addie as she reads him the journals he wrote as a boy. Milner employs a then and now narrative that moves the story forward until past and present intersect. I quite enjoy this story within a story style.
I loved Milner's characters - I became so invested in them and their lives. The gentle wisdom of Addie's father and grandfather, the interactions between the three, the burgeoning friendship between Alan and Addie, hurt and heartache and joy. There is one exception - Mrs. Parsons the malicious, vitriolic schoolteacher. I simply wanted to rip her from the pages and throttle her.
It took me over a week to read A Place Called Sorry. Why? Because I became so emotionally involved in the book - I was so angry at the prejudice and so saddened at the injustice and treatment of the First Nations people. I became completely caught up in both the past and the present lives of Chauncey and Addie and found myself many times with tears running down my face. I was so tempted to flip ahead to the last pages and assure myself of the ending. But instead, I put the book down and walked away, returning to unfold the story as Milner wrote it. The ending? Couldn't have been better. "Loving someone does not require their presence in your life. Sometimes forgiveness is simply remembering that love."
Milner herself makes her home in British Columbia. Her descriptions of the land painted vivid mental images for me. Her exploration of the past was simply outstanding, blending fact and fiction together. "We're the newcomers here. There's something to be said about our European arrogance of believing it's our God-given right to go wherever and however we please. "The Chilcotin War was real - and the reverberations have echoed across the decades. The B.C. government only last year apologized to the Tsilhqot’in people.
Readers will know of my love for book covers - this one is absolutely perfect for the story. As is the book itself - A Place Called Sorry was a five star read for me - absolutely recommended!
"Donna Milner is the author of four novels, including Somewhere In-Between, A Place Called Sorry, the internationally acclaimed After River, which was published in twelve countries and translated into eight languages, and The Promise of Rain, which was a Globe and Mail top 100 pick for 2010.
Born Donna Jonas in Victoria, British Columbia, Donna spent her childhood in Vancouver. As an adult she relocated to the town of Rossland in the heart of BC’s West Kootenay, and ten years later moved to the central interior city of Williams Lake. She now lives in an off-the-grid, eco-friendly lakeside home in the Cariboo woods with her husband, Tom, and their dog, Beau." You can connect with Donna Milner on her website and find her on Facebook