Where in Canada: A Place Called Sorry

February 1, 2016

A Place Called Sorry takes place deep in the rural sceneries of BC’s Cariboo Region. Similar to the stories of many early settlements in British Columbia, the population of the town grew around a roadhouse built strategically on the wagon road to the “motherlode.”  But clientele dwindled as prospectors discovered shorter routes to the gold, and the enterprise was forced to close. Eventually all that was left of the once roaring roadhouse was a prominent sign that read, “Sorry, we’re closed.”

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PlaceCalledSorry

What:

A Place Called Sorry (Caitlin Press, 2015)

Who:

Donna Milner is the author of four novels, including Somewhere In-Between, A Place Called Sorry, the internationally acclaimed After River, which was published in twelve countries and translated into eight languages, and The Promise of Rain, which was a Globe and Mail 2010 Top 100 pick. She now lives off-the-grid.

Where in Canada:

A Place Called Sorry takes place deep in the rural sceneries of BC’s Cariboo Region. After tragedy strikes her family, Adeline Beale holds her sorrows close to her heart, only later learning that her grandfather, Chauncey, has lived with his own secret torment for over seventy years. As he slips into blindness and dementia, Chauncey shares his burden with his granddaughter. The dark spectre from his past slowly emerges and begins to intersects with Addie’s present, changing her future in ways that she, and those she loves, could never have imagined.

The opening chapter of the novel launches into the history of Sorry. Similar to the stories of many early settlements in British Columbia, the population of the town grew around a roadhouse built strategically on the wagon road to the “motherlode.”  But clientele dwindled as prospectors discovered shorter routes to the gold, and the enterprise was forced to close. Eventually all that was left of the once roaring roadhouse was a prominent sign that read, “Sorry, we’re closed.” Over the years, the second half of the sign faded away and “Sorry” was the only word left to identify the town.

Milner describes Sorry as “the place where a number of side roads, not much more than widened paths, converged onto the trail that once led to the Cariboo goldfields”. While Sorry is a fictional location, more familiar places, like Quesnel, Williams Lake, and mid-1880’s Fort Victoria make guest appearances in the story. Milner interweaves the narrative of Addie as she discovers the early life of her grandfather, Chauncey Beynon Beale, through the journal he kept as a child. What comes tumbling out of these memories is an emotionally distressing look at a community interlinked with the injustices and crimes committed against the Indigenous communities of the Chilcotin-Cariboo populace.

In the context of A Place Called Sorry, Canada is given the voice of a historical span of time, preceding World War II but saturated in the colonial narrative of the early settlements attached to the Cariboo Gold Rush and the Chilcotin War. Even the voice of historical figurehead Mr. Waddington, whose name is most associated with the Chilcotin War, appears in Grandfather Chauncey’s journals.

 While the story is set in the 1930s, the themes of solitude and life in a small community, as seen through Addie and her family’s eyes, are very familiar today. A Place Called Sorry gives this time period and environment a sense of depth and relatability only attainable through the genre of historical fiction.

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Thank you to Caitlin Press for sharing this deeper look at A Place Called Sorry. If you like reading books set in various places around Canada, check out more of our Where in Canada features.


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