Did you know that there was a tsunami in Canada? It is hard to believe that a tsunami in Newfoundland is a piece of history that most Canadians are not aware of. The Wake describes the terrible tsunami, which was the aftermath of an earthquake, and then reaches far beyond that fateful day. The book begins when 28 individuals, many of who were children, were swept to sea along with houses, wharves, boats and the livelihoods of a community. The fishing industry was decimated.
What happened next was worse, mining which caused a legacy of cancers and lung disease, wiped out generations of men who had little choice but to work in the mines to feed their families. Safety equipment and protocols were substandard, to say the least. The men didn’t even have hard helmets and were even drinking run off water in the mines. They had limited success fighting for wages, safety standards and support following workplace injuries.
While I enjoyed the history, it was hard to follow all the names of individuals and their families. A page with family trees might have been helpful but in the end, I didn’t worry about keeping track of the names and just immersed myself in the history with horror to the think of the generations of deaths that followed the tsunami.
I had been lucky enough to hear the author speak of this novel at the Grimsby Authors Series. The story is personal to MacIntyre as his own dad had been a mine supervisor and died at a very young age. As I read the words, I could hear Linden MacIntyre’s voice and was continually impressed with all the detailed research he completed to write the story.
Please don’t read this story if you are looking for a happy ending. We read it for our February book club and and the harsh reality of this small community was difficult (but important) to read. While the story was bleak, we did enjoy some Newfoundland treats including pineapple crush, Purity gingersnaps, tea veas and jam jams (sourced at Stoyles Newfoundland Food Products in Cambridge and the purity snacks can also be found in Sobey’s stores, for some reason in the “international” food section).