Precious Cargo had been sitting on my shelf since I met Craig Davidson at the Grimsby Author Series in November 2016. I picked it up again when I met Craig at the One Book One Brant Event in April 2017 which united the community to read his novel, Cataract City. The third time, I was reminded to pick up Precious Cargo was when it was announced as part of the 2018 Canada Reads short-list. It seemed appropriate that I had procrastinated reading this gem until it was chosen for Canada Reads, one of my favourite Canadian book events.
This book is heartwarming, it is sweet, it is reflective and, at times, it is funny. It leads the reader to think about the challenges that everyone faces. No one is immune to hardship, yet some challenges are more overtly seen by others. Craig begins sharing that he was down on his luck. He had quit a job at the library after a disagreement over watering a ficus plant. He was not qualified to work as a worm harvester and was not the successful candidate for a lunch monitor position. When he came across a flyer seeking school bus drivers, he embarked on a year of learning about himself, witnessing some shocking human nature and the understanding the challenges faced by his students (and their families).
Precious Cargo is open, honest and at times heartbreaking. It is a book to open your eyes, to make readers think about their own reactions. Do you avert your eyes from an individual with cerebral palsy? Does your child invite their classmates with autism to the party? Have you ever made comments about the short bus? How do you react if your kids use the “r” word or slap their hand against their chest signifying the word?
This book is about acceptance – of the author himself as he struggled to make ends meet and the children who experienced day to day challenges at school and making their way in the world. It is about caring, kindness, laughter. It is about taking a chance, doing something new and being open to experience.
One constructive criticism was that I did not love the additions of his unpublished novel, The Seekers into the book. These snippets were interspersed between the chapters and I am not sure that they added to the story. Despite these sections, I truly believe that this is one book that Canada should read.
Precious Cargo is a book that young and old can learn from. It is a book that causes reflection and will inspire kindness. Perhaps we can all learn from Craig’s experience driving a bus and getting to know some remarkable children who taught Craig some lessons on the journey.