The Value of The Land by D.C. Troicuk
Publisher: Boularderie Island Press
Size: 6 x 9
Number of Pages: 298
Living in Toronto, after years of estrangement, Dixon Peach is reluctantly drawn back into his family when his grandfather offers him an opportunity he can hardly refuse. If Dixon will move back home and claim his inheritance—the family farm in Cape Breton where he grew up—the old man will finance the development of a golf course on the property. For Dixon this means not just returning to the life he ran away from, but admitting that, on his own, he has been unable to find his place in the world—something his deceased father could see just by looking out his own window. He arrives to find the land where he has set his tentative hopes desecrated for profit. In setting things right, Dixon must come to terms with his resentment toward his father and his guilt over the death of his little brother. Only then can he make a choice that will not only determine his own future but bring full circle the conflicting hopes and dreams of three generations.
D.C. Troicuk was born in Glace Bay, NS, but her work is representative of a broader life experience that has taken her from coast to coast, and back again. Her short fiction has appeared in several literary magazines and anthologies. Her first collection of short stories, Loose Pearls, was published in 2010.
Troicuk offers stunning prose in The Value of The Land
The Value of The Land: Troicuk’s first novel explores family farm struggles, pressures to change
– Frank Macdonald, The Inverness Oran
A cast of strong, determined characters bring to D.C. Troicuk’s novel, The Value of The Land, the conflicting values and enduring love story that allows the tale to unfold over four decades and three generations of manipulation, misunderstanding, assumptions and misplaced trust.
At the heart of the story two families become entangled, the Peaches, who for eight generations have farmed the same land in Cape Breton, and the Quincys, whose patriarch, Robert Quincy, finds himself and his family trapped in Cape Breton where he has been transferred from Toronto as a bank manager.
When Quincy’s daughter, Irene, falls in high school love with Willard Peach, her father’s effort to separate the two becomes a losing battle. Instead, ashamed that his daughter is married to a dairy farmer, Robert Quincy tries to elevate Willard’s goal in life, who has never wanted anything more than to milk his cows, run his farm, raise his family, goals Irene shares, goals to which Robert Quincy can’t imagine anyone aspiring.
The depth of responsibility to the land finds expression in Willard’s words, “You take a good look around, Bob. This place of ours, she’s a living, breathing thing with a heart and soul, sometimes even a mind of her own…And I’m ashamed to say I lost sight of that for awhile.”
The chasm between the two men deepens as Robert’s efforts to force his vision on Willard’s land come to naught.
While the future of the Peach land is the underlying tension driving Troicuk’s story, the author has created additional tensions across the generations. Willard’s relationship with his son, Dixon, an ongoing tension that is rooted in tragedy and a misunderstanding reach far back into Dixon’s childhood; the evolving tension between Robert Quincy and his wife, Catherine, who eventually chooses Cape Breton as her place to live despite the fact that her husband’s financial fortunes rise towards considerable wealth following his return to Toronto; and a friendship between Dixon and his boyhood best friend, Ewen Lloyd, one that is tinged with Ewen’s innate meanness, drawing the two towards an inevitable rupture.
Despite the family tensions, the backbone of The Value of The Land is the quality of Willard’s and Irene’s love for each other, their family, the land. Over the years in which the story is set, (1942-1987) The Value of The Land’s constant sanity is rooted in the relationship between Willard and Irene. As the couple raise their family, three daughters and two sons, tragedy ravages them, wealthy forces try to change them, but neither comes between them.
The catalyst for Troicuk’s novel is Dixon Peach, Willard and Irene’s surviving son who has disappeared from Cape Breton and their lives as a teenager, vanishing into the anonymity of Toronto, determined to make his own way until a coincidental meeting with his uncle, Spencer Quincy draws Dixon back into the manipulative orbit of his aging grandfather.
Robert offers Dixon a proposal, one Dixon’s father, Willard, had rejected decades before, but one Robert has never been able to give up, has kept alive in a back burner of his mind, and on the aging dusty blueprints of his vision for a golf course.
It is a proposal no more appealing to Dixon than it had been to his father.
In The Value of The Land, D.C. Troicuk explores an eternal conflict, the value of land to those who live on it and off it versus the value of land that others see only as profits from investments, the land itself a commodity shorn of the sentimental attachment of those who occupy it. It is a familiar confrontation that in Troicuk’s story is made fresh once more through the families and characters that propel the telling, people familiar as neighbours whose fight to remain small but relevant in a Goliath economy is heroic if not always successful.