Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Though his mother named him after a priest, there’s nothing saintly about McGauran O’Dowd. He needs to escape the slums before he’s forced into marrying his friend’s sister and revealing the sin he’s managed to hide so far.
When McGauran gets hired as a logger by ruthless business man Gédéon Latendresse, people warn him –the Latendresse family is cursed. Twenty years ago, Gédéon rode the witchin’ canoe from the camps to the city to stop his brother’s wedding. But that night, Gédéon broke one of the Chasse Galerie rules, and now the Devil’s come for his due.
And that due, McGauran soon finds out, is Gédéon’s sheltered young nephew Honoré, the most enchanting man McGauran’s ever met. The lover he’s been praying for.
Cursed, Honoré is slipping into madness and threatened to be interned. When the winter comes, McGauran is stuck at the shanties, helpless to save Honoré from his tragic fate. He’ll do anything to save the man he loves, even bargain with the Devil himself.
The Witchin’ Canoe is a very unusual setting and definitely nothing like any other book I’ve read before.
First of all, I have no idea how historically accurate this book is. I literally know nothing about Canada during this period in history. But it all seemed realistic, for what that’s worth.
This book is about two very different people falling in love with each other. There’s Honoré, he’s rich, but lonely and possibly cursed or mentally ill or maybe he just doesn’t fit society’s expectations. He’s an intriguing young man and I liked him from the very start. Then there’s McGauran, who lives in the slums in desperate poverty. He’s lonely too, even though he has friends and a woman he’s expected to marry soon. He was also extremely likable. There are many minor characters showing up throughout the book, but no matter how short or unimportant their appearance, they all got a unique personality with actual depth. Not all of them were likable, but that made the cast all the more interesting.
The poverty surrounding Mac was extremely well described. I could literally taste Mac’s desperation to somehow change his depressing surroundings. But with a sickly mother and no education to speak of, that’s not exactly easy.
Likewise, the house Honoré lives in was easy to imagine. It was all very mysterious and also a little bit creepy at times. Just enough to give you a little thrill.
The whole story had a gothic, mysterious feel to it that was very addicting and made it very hard to put down the book.
There were only two things that bothered me. First, there’s the romance part of the story. While the relationship itself takes a while to develop, it’s essentially love at first sight for both of them. They barely even talk to each other during their first meeting and still they’re in love. There’s a huge societal gulf between these two and they seemingly had no trouble whatsoever to cross that, which seemed a bit idealistic to me. Then there was Mac’s mother. She can’t support herself and yet Mac plans to run off to the wild all on his own, seemingly without a care what that would mean for his mother. He’s such a responsible young man otherwise, so it just felt very much out of character for him.
“The Witchin’ Canoe” is very high quality fiction, with a subtle creepiness. Some very mysterious things are going on here and it’s sometimes hard to tell reality from imagination. I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to more fascinating books by this author.
The cover has all the important elements of the story and yet it still doesn’t quite do it justice. It just doesn’t look mysterious enough to me.
Published January 5th 2019 by JMS Books
Edition Language English