The Three Sisters Bar and Hotel is an epic novel spanning three generations. It is set in the shadows of The Three Sisters part of the Rocky Mountain range of Western Canada. Alberta resident and author Katherine Govier read as part of the Grimsby Author Series and the tale of intrigue, wilderness, love and loss provides an interesting historical perspective on the beginnings of national parks and the challenging living conditions of the early 1900s.
The novel twists around a Quaker family, headed by a widowed professor, that set out on a summer adventure to collect fossils. The group, including the father, son, daughter and butler, were accompanied by Herbie Wishart and his group comprised of a cook and cowboys. The professor with his preoccupation of collecting fossils made some poor decisions with disastrous consequences when he sent the guide and his group ahead while he finished up his hunt. The family was lost and presumed dead.
Herbie married and continued his life on the trails but never forgot this loss in the mountains. He and his wife struggled as he tried to find clues to the lost expedition for years to come. This preoccupation impacted their daughter, Iona, who made her own independent choices leading to her own challenges. When Herbie was not out on the trails he, and later his wife, became fixtures of the town, working at the bar.
Years later Iona and husband, now in senior years, purchase the old bar and hotel for their three adult daughters to rehabilitate. The plan is for them to work together to spruce up the historic building, spending time together. While they renovated they learned more details about their family who had been lost in the mountains.
Like hiking the complicated trails and mountain passes, the story slowly leads the reader to understand what happened on the failed expedition. The reader learns the decisions that were made and the tragic consequences while understanding impact on the next generations. It was an interesting portrayal of life and hardship in the early 1900s but I have to admit that after reading The Shadow of the Wind, the change of pace was a bit challenging. I did pick up another of Govier’s books at a book sale and have added it to my TBR pile!