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Thursday, September 13, 2012

One Year in Coal Harbor, written by Polly Horvath. Groundwood, 2012. $14.95 ages 9 and up

"But, I thought he's not really among us. That's how he's kept his kindliness. He exists in the thin places. He hovers there. He floats. I knew these places from when my parents had disappeared and I felt I floated, not quite in touch with people who had lives in gear on Planet Earth. It was like he was the outline of who he was but the substance was not available to anyone."

Do you remember Primrose Squab? If not, you likely didn't read Polly Horvath's first story about her in Everything on a Waffle (2001). She is a young woman who is remarkably unforgettable. You won't be sorry to meet up with her in this engaging and well-written sequel.

There are many quotes I would love to share with you. Needless to say, they have found a way into my writing notebook. Polly Horvath is a profound and accomplished author whose stories are on my
'favorites' shelf and have, in fact, been reread. That is not something I do very often as there are so many new books to read every single day!

Enough...get to the story! Primrose lives in the fishing village called Coal Harbor on Canada's west coast, and loves her community and most of the people in it. Her parents have returned following their year lost at sea, and things have come back to normal. Her father fishes, her mother works at a B & B, and Primrose spends a good deal of time helping Miss Bowzer in her restaurant, quaintly named the Girl on the Red Swing. Primrose likes to help with the cooking; but, she especially likes collecting favorite recipes and has plans to publish a cookbook.

Primrose has an ulterior motive for spending time with Miss Bowzer...she thinks that she would be a perfect match for her Uncle Jack, who helped care for her while her parents were gone. Other characters who have real presence in this story are Evie and Bert, a couple who are pleased to welcome Ked, a foster child and a new friend for Primrose. As events play out concerning the cookbook collection of recipes and a protest against a logging operation that will clear cut some nearby mountains, Ked remains a bit of a mystery to Primrose. He says little about himself and his life prior to his arrival in Coal Harbor. But, they become good friends and like to spend time together.

There is humor in the telling, and also some dark times. Polly Horvath manages to mix the two with aplomb and left me wanting to know more about her wonderful characters. While you can read this book without having read the first one, your reading life will be better for having read both. The setting is perfectly beautiful, and the sense of community is evident on every page...with all of its warts and blemishes.

I love Primrose. Her voice is strong, humorous, thoughtful, learned and always charming:

"But Miss Connon always said she had no patience with people who kept a white-knuckled grip on ignorance when any fool could see that if you didn't know a word all you had to do was LOOK IT UP. I noticed that Miss Lark was of the ignorance-is-a-terminal-condition-school because she had taken all of the Mary Oliver and Walt Whitman books from the free-time reading shelves and replaced them with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys."

Don't miss visiting with Primrose in the pages of this wonderful book! 

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