“Every atrocity creates ripples that travel through time and space”.
Linden MacIntyre’s visited the Grimsby Author Series for the third time, in November, to talk about his latest novel, The Only Cafe. He is the author of 7 books including the 2009 Giller Prize winning, The Bishop’s Man (which unfortunately I forgot to bring to be signed. Ugh!!!) MacIntyre was an engaging speaker who shared glimpses of his 38 years as a CBC journalist which have melded into his work as a novelist.
Lessons of survival came from a lost story from Ukraine during the Nazi roundups. A person who had been a child shared how a group of Jewish individuals pooled their resources to hide in the cellar of a warehouse. To keep the group safe, a 17 year old being sent up for use by the men upstairs. These kind of stories inspired MacIntyre to think of the secrets that people carry with them and don’t want to talk about, “secrets that are buried in shame”.
Named after an actual cafe on the Danforth (Toronto), The Only Cafe tells the story of a man troubled by his past in Lebanon. After his mysterious death, his son planned his memorial, a “roast” at the Only Cafe and began to learn about his father’s past life. At the gathering, he met an Israeli man, who had known his father before he took refuge in Canada, and he began to learn about his father.
The experienced journalist had spent time in Lebanon and Beruit during the massacres. Two thousand people had been killed and he was able to get into the country with a resourceful driver and the cover of surgical masks. He spoke of standing amongst bodies that were almost unrecognizable and seeing, in midst of the horror, the arm of an infant while nearby, a front end loader dug out bodies. This scene and the look of terror on a group of young teenagers has never left him. He acknowledged that we all have accountability for these situations and that the “consequences of violence travels”. He shared his gruesome experience with the crowd and said that he feels that “when you get a chance to talk about it, you should”.
“Flashing lights tell me that lives have changed forever”
At the end of the evening, mention was made of his wife, Carol Off. This couple of journalists, who have both recently published books, must have interesting conversation at the dinner table! Off is also on my wish list of authors to meet and I have a copy of her book, All We Leave Behind near the top of my TBR pile.
As always, this Grimsby Author Series event was fascinating and the audience was spellbound listening to Linden MacIntyre. He is an engaging speaker and certainly has more stories to tell!