Friday, November 28, 2008

Book Report/In the Shadow of the Glacier

In the Shadow of the Glacier
by Vicki Delany
unabridged audio read by Carrington MacDuffie
mystery, 2007
finished, 11/15/08

In all these years since the Vietnam War, I have never heard of a book that talked about the boys who went to Canada to avoid the draft into that war. Maybe they exist and I just missed them. Perhaps, there are nonfiction accounts, in fact I'm quite sure there are, and I plan to look into them. This subject is a real focus of Vicki Delany's terrific mystery set in British Columbia. Apparently, a great proportion of those who were known as draft-dodgers settled in that province, and indeed there was a great furor a few years back about a proposed memorial honoring these men.

There are people on both sides of this issue, and I really don't want flaming sorts of comments because after all this is just a book report, but I wouldn't be entirely honest if I didn't say where Tom and I were in those early 1970s days when his draft lottery number was 56, putting him near the top of the list for draftees. We were definitely against that war, though we weren't in any organizations, and we weren't hugely visible in our protests. The sixties and early seventies were, for these old hippies, mostly about food and music. I try so hard to explain to my children that the popular expressions of those years didn't apply to everyone. There were a million different ways that (mostly) young people responded to the spirit of the times. Not everyone was into tie-dye and the Grateful Dead; and not everyone was in a commune. But every single one of us was changed in some way by those years. Some died in that war. Some went to the land, and stayed. Some became politicians. And some went to Canada. After receiving that particular bit of news on television, Tom and I, with the complete approval and support of our families, took a drive up to Montreal. We wanted to take a look at the place we might be calling home one day. As it turned out, there was a medical problem that prevented him from being inducted into the army. Who knew a dry skin condition inherited from his grandfather could make such a difference in his life?

So, anyhow, a long time has past, and yet passions still rise when the subject comes up. In this book there are several people in the small community of Trafalgar who settled there as war resisters all those years ago. They have made a life for themselves. They have made positive, lasting contributions to their town. When a local man dies, and leaves part of his land to the town, on which he wants a memorial garden to the draft-dodgers, it divides the citizenry. A shady newspaper man comes to the area, and through his divisive reporting, brings people on both sides from afar into the community. Tempers flare. Of course there is a murder, and a delightful new police woman in the mystery world is introduced. She is young Molly Smith, who is the daughter of a draft-dodger and a politically active mother, and whose real name is Moonlight. I've seen it as Moonbeam on some sights, but the book I read called her by the former name. Can you imagine the surprise of her peace-loving parents when she made this job choice? As the story moves along, we find out about the sad event which prompted her decision. She is a wonderful, wonderful character; just about the age of my own daughter, which of course makes me feel all the fonder toward her. This is her hometown, and she knows all the people and their stories. In addition to her abilities as a police woman, this alone would make her an asset in any investigation. She knows what makes the people tick, and knows all about their past and present lives. We meet many of the townspeople, including a senior officer who has just come to the force after his own sad event in Vancouver. The town itself is interesting because it includes a mix of many different types of people. So far, they have melded nicely, but this murder and the surrounding news coverage threatens their quiet, happy way of life.

Along with The Coffin Trail, this book also kept me awake until the wee hours, and as I wrote, it was so worth it. The writing is crisp, the characters are rich and real, and the story is fantastic, both a good mystery and a compelling tale of the war resister situation. I loved it, and can't wait for the second in the series to come out in February - a birthday present for myself! If you have a chance, please read this excellent interview with the author.


  1. It is amazing how the repurcussions of that war are still reverberating through our lives. My brother served and was injured and lived the ensuing years with health issues and disabilities which culminated in his death earlier this month, almost 40 years later. Spending months at Walter Reed visiting him following his injuries & seeing the babies(young men) that were cannon fodder was something that would have turned the most ardent, gung-ho soldier supporter into a pacifist.

    I am intrigued with someone wanting to build a monument to draft-dodgers and can imagine the heated responses this would provoke, so will be looking for this book soon. Thanks for sharing. Anonymous in KS

  2. I worked at a university in Vancouver during those times ... and met many many draft dodgers there.

    Those were emotional times, and I'll surely be looking for this book.

    thanks, Nan

  3. What an interesting and thoughtful post, Nan. Here in the UK we felt very fortunate not to be having to make such choices. I think we'd have done something similar, though like you we weren't very overtly political people.

    This sounds a very interesting book, I hope it will turn up here in due course, and I'll be able to read it. By the way, I think Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride has a character who went to Montreal and then to Toronto to avoid the draft, and other people would turn up from time to time.


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