Information about the author.
In 1779 Calum MacDonald set sail in exile from the Highlands of Scotland with his wife and twelve children, along with the dog who would not be left behind and swam after the departing boat. After a catastrophic crossing he landed in the New World at Cape Breton, by which time he had become a widower and a grandfather.
Two hundred years later, another MacDonald tells the story of coming of age in that same bleak Cape Breton landscape. Alexander is orphaned by a cruel accident on the ice, and his yearning for connection with family produces two of the most vivid narrative strands: a summer spent in the mines with his wild older brothers that ends in murder and, much later, his tender care for one of those brothers, now a dying alcoholic. The first lesson Alexander learns from his grandmother is “Always look after your blood.” But, as revealed in the elegant twining of this tale, blood and history are all but inescapable for the MacDonalds. The brothers still speak Gaelic to each other; legends lurk at the edge of the simplest conversation; language and music are themselves links to a heroic, defeated past.