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The Word On The Street Blog

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What The Word On The Street is Reading: Pastoral

June 5, 2014

30 by 30 Nature Challenge

If you visited a Toronto park or green space during the month of May, chances were better than usual that you could have run into our Festival Director, Heather Kanabe. Heather loves being outdoors all year long, but last month she pledged to spend 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days, as part of The David Suzuki Foundation’s  30×30 Nature Challenge.

Now what might a book and magazine Festival Director do with 900 minutes of screen-free outdoors time? The answer may shock and surprise you…

Just kidding. She read books. Of course she did. Heather’s latest read was Pastoral by André Alexis, published by Coach House Books earlier this year.

About the book:

For his very first parish, Father Christopher Pennant is sent to the sleepy town of Barrow. With more sheep than people, it is sleepily bucolic – too much Barrow Brew on Barrow Day is the rowdiest it gets. But things aren’t so idyllic for Liz Denny, whose fiancé doesn’t want to choose between Liz and his more worldly lover Jane, or for Father Pennant himself, whose faith is profoundly shaken by the miracles he witnesses – a mayor walking on water, intelligent gypsy moths and a talking sheep.

Q&A with Heather

What drew you to this book?

“I was immediately drawn to the idea of a story inspired by Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. The idea of following a priest’s journey into a small town made me think of some of my favourite Victorian literature.”

Did you enjoy the book?

“I found myself absolutely taken by the small southern Ontario town of Barrow; be it the quirky townsfolk or the local nature, nothing quite plays by the rules here. I liked how the characters are  informed by the mythology of the past—Eurydice and ancient prayer books—but also confused by the mythology of the modern—holograms and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I cant wait to see how the characters’ decisions will affect them down the road. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next book.”

Would you recommend it?

“All those who grew up loving the Brontë sisters, like small town gossip, or revel in a bit of the mystic will love this book.”