Books and Backroads: Rural N.B. book clubs curate annual summer reading list

Hillsborough Community Library included members Grace Stevens, Khalil Akhtar, Victoria Stroud-Arsenault,  Jessica Hatfield and daughter Audrey, Alyssa Blagdon, Cindy Grant, Maisie Hatfield, Daisy Blagdon and Sawyer Blagdon.  (Chantal Bernard/CBC - image credit)
Hillsborough Community Library included members Grace Stevens, Khalil Akhtar, Victoria Stroud-Arsenault, Jessica Hatfield and daughter Audrey, Alyssa Blagdon, Cindy Grant, Maisie Hatfield, Daisy Blagdon and Sawyer Blagdon. (Chantal Bernard/CBC - image credit)

CBC New Brunswick and New Brunswick Public Libraries are partnering again this summer for the Books and Backroads series.

Readers in six rural communities across the province have taken part in book clubs, to read new books with a connection to New Brunswick.

The CBC's Cindy Grant travelled to each community to learn about each book and the book clubs tasked with reading them.

Here's what they've been reading this summer:

  • Hillsborough Public Library: Tigger and Jasper's New Home by Cheryl Gillespie and Chocolate River Rescue by Jennifer McGrath.

  • Campobello Public Library: The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning

  • Dalhousie Centennial Library at Ugpi'ganjig First Nation: I am a Truck by Michelle Winters

  • Harvey Community Library: You were Never Here by Kathleen Peacock

  • St. Croix Public Library: 42nd Wave by Zoe Fitch

  • Stanley Public Library: The Sound of Fire by Renée Belliveau

A story of love and loyalty

Members of the Ugpi'ganjig book club read I am a Truck by author Michelle Winters.

In the novel set in rural Acadia, Agathe and Réjean Lapointe are about to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary when Réjean's beloved truck is found abandoned at the side of the road with no trace of him. It's a comedic story about love and loyalty.

Book club members at the Campobello Public Library read The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning.
Book club members at the Campobello Public Library read The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning.

Book club members at the Campobello Public Library read The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning. (Cindy Grant/CBC News)

One aspect of the book that grabbed the attention of its readers was the cover, which curiously depicts an open bird cage.

Members of the Ugpi'ganjig book club discussed what that could mean symbolically.

"I think it has to do with the isolation and being trapped in there," said one reader, "because you can't live alone, we need people."

Another said excitedly, "I think you hit it on the nail! I read it twice — the first night in three hours and again over the weekend."

For the kid at heart

Members of the Hillsborough book club were tasked with reading children's books, including Tigger and Jasper's New Home by Cheryl Gillespie.

CBC News has partnered with New Brunswick public libraries to curate a list of books to read this summer that all have a connections to the province.
CBC News has partnered with New Brunswick public libraries to curate a list of books to read this summer that all have a connections to the province.

CBC News has partnered with New Brunswick public libraries to curate a list of books to read this summer that all have a connections to the province. (Sophia Etuhube/CBC News)

Gillespie tells the tale of two mischievous kittens who are adopted by a blind woman.

Being blind herself, Gillespie recounts her own experience while highlighting that everyone has their own challenges to overcome in life, from physical to social or economic.

The Hillsborough book club also read Jennifer McGrath's Chocolate River Rescue, which Grant said was hard to put down.

Through the seas and shores

In Campobello, book club members read Beth Powning's The Sea Captain's Wife/

The book was recommended by several CBC listeners after the debut Books and Backroads series.

Powning sends readers travelling through the high seas to various ports, including Whelan's Cove, which could be the Bay of Fundy in the late 1800s.

In the novel, Azuba Galloway is the daughter of a shipwright who marries a sea captain. It is a tale of loneliness, love and determination.

You Were Never Here

Students in Harvey explored sci-fi and fantasy through Kathleen Peacock's mystery novel You Were Never Here.

The Bathurst author tells the story of Cat Montgomery as she returns to Montgomery Falls to spend her summer in exile after an incident with her best friend leaves her feeling humiliated and alone.

Cat is a teen with an unusual gift and when she returns to the town she used to adore as a child she is feeling lost and alone. It's not long before she gets caught up in the small-town's mystery, that has a huge connection for her.

Inspired by the archives

Stanley book club members stepped into the year of 1941 while reading Renée Belliveau's The Sound of Fire.

The book was inspired by archival records from December of that year. While war was raging overseas, a fire burned through the men's residence at Mount Allison University in Sackville. The death of four students had the town wondering how this all could have happened in the dead of night.

The Stanley Community Library book club included members Sandra MacBean, Tim Sarty, and Audrey Pinnock.
The Stanley Community Library book club included members Sandra MacBean, Tim Sarty, and Audrey Pinnock.

The Stanley Community Library book club included members Sandra MacBean, Tim Sarty, and Audrey Pinnock. (Cindy Grant/CBC News)

In this historical fiction, Belliveau tells the story from several angles. Reader Audrey Pinnock told Grant that she loved how Belliveau gave the fire a voice.

"It was something very different that I hadn't seen done in another book, so I thought that was really creative of the author and really outside of the box," said Pinnock.

"I also saw in those chapters it was a different style … which really leaned into the imagery and the feeling of the words themselves."

The Sound of Fire has earned acclaim, named one of Quill and Quire's 2021 books of the year and the Miramichi Reader's best fiction title of 2021.

More recently, the novel was shortlisted for the 2022 ReLit Novel Award.

A future barter economy

St. Stephen's St. Croix book club members read Zoe Fitch's first book in what will be a series of four.

Title 42nd Wave, the science fiction novel looks ahead to the year 2031, after what she calls "the Reset" — the end of fossil fuel consumption and a new economy.

Members of the book club at the Dalhousie Centennial Library group at Ugpi'ganjig First Nation read I am a Truck by Michelle Winters.
Members of the book club at the Dalhousie Centennial Library group at Ugpi'ganjig First Nation read I am a Truck by Michelle Winters.

Members of the book club at the Dalhousie Centennial Library group at Ugpi'ganjig First Nation read I am a Truck by Michelle Winters. (Cindy Grant/CBC News)

Fitch's novel uses local landmarks in Charlotte County and people to tell the story of how communities re-learn traditional ways in order to live a sustainable life.

Reader Brandon Hicks was reminded of St. Stephen while reading the book:

"I moved here in 2021 and within the first week people were handing me deer meat and fiddlehead and it's hard going for a walk without someone asking if you need a lift somewhere.

"So I think we're already halfway to a barter economy, so it really felt like — if there was a setting for this that really made sense — this was the one," said Hicks.

Want to read the Books and Backroads books?

If you're interested in reading any or all of Books and Backroads selections, many of the provincial libraries have bookmarks listing all of them.

You can also email Grant at cindy.grant@cbc.ca for more information.

If you have book recommendations, you can send an email to infoamnewbrunswick@cbc.ca or call 1-800-561-4222.