Books: Bill Conall



The Promised Land – a novel of Cape Breton by Bill Conall

“How are you today, Thelma?” asked Linda.

“Good dear, good,” she answered. “How’s yourselfs?”

“We’re good too,” answered Linda. “Isn’t it a beautiful day!”

“They’re all good days if we’re here to see them,” answered the older woman with a smile.

 Like the tides that have washed her shores forever, the story of Cape Breton has always been one of comings and goings. Native peoples came here while Europeans were still living in caves. In 1820, the fiery Presbyterian minister Norman MacLeod and his flock settled in the St. Ann’s Bay area, and their presence is still felt in the communities that line the shore six generations after many of them left, bound this time for New Zealand.

The Promised Land begins with the arrival of a small truckload of hippies in 1970. Moving against the tide of young people leaving Cape Breton, they are eager to get back-to-the-land. They are also grubby, scrawny and broke, and in this regard are not unlike those original Scottish settlers who preceded them. There are stories of humour and pathos as the newcomers and the locals adjust to each other, culminating in the legendary hippies’ ceilidh.

Four decades later, another new arrival crosses the Canso Causeway to begin her career as a medical doctor at a clinic in Baddeck. And on his first-ever trip outside the Boston States comes loud, brash, 78-year-old Gavin Mercer to visit on his niece’s little farm in Indian Brook. Young Gummer MacInnes, grandson of one of the original hippies, forms a friendship with Black Angus MacDonald that results in a brief spark of worldwide fame for both of them.

Through the adventures of his characters, Bill Conall’s story is told with humour, kindness, insight, and with the gentleness of touch that can only come from a writer who loves his subject.

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The Rock in the Water by Bill Conall

Shortlisted for the 2010 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, The Rock in the Water is a rollicking romp through the hilarious and sometimes heart rending experiences of the inhabitants of Quadra Island, British Columbia.

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