Raft Baby

By (author): Bonnie Dunlop

A sprawling historical novel set in the Peace River country in the early 1900’s, a period and a place that tested the mettle of all who came there. The novel is complex and layered, with multiple narrators, and interwoven stories. Its main story, though, is the mystical tale of a young girl straddling two worlds in ways she is not always aware of, with elements of love, sacrifice, greed, envy, heartbreaking sorrow, and unexpected twists in plot. The novel is set mostly in the past and chronicled through various voices that tell the Raft Baby’s amazing journey. We also hear directly from the Raft Baby herself, both at the beginning of the novel and at the end. Her voice is vital, true and clear and it validates the novel’s history and circumstances in the gentlest of ways.


Bonnie Dunlop

Dunlop is at home in several genres — fiction, poetry and memoir. She is the author of two short story collections, The Beauty Box, winner of the Saskatchewan First Book Award (2004), and later her second collection Carnival Glass (2008) which was also nominated for a SBA. Dunlop lives under the endless skies of Swift Current Saskatchewan, but shares an affinity with the Peace River area of Alberta. As she tells it, her uncle moved to the Peace River country from Saskatchewan in the dirty thirties. Trips to the Peace River country loom large in her childhood memories although, in reality, “how many times would my entire family drive 18 hours on less than stellar roads for a visit?” When her uncle died, his roots deep in the Peace, there was a clipping in his effects titled “Raft Baby of the Peace River.” Her cousin sent her the clipping and suggested it would make a great novel. She read the clipping and set it aside for ‘’sometime later.” That sometime later is now.


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Excerpt #1

It was slow going, and messy too, but the baby was amazingly intent, watching him with ancient eyes. She sucked hard on the knot, indicating with a tiny whimper when she’d sucked it dry and it was time for him to reload.

“What in bloody blue blazes will I do with a scrap of humanity like you?”

The rising colour in the aspen leaves had confirmed his hunch that, this year, winter would be closing fast. He couldn’t travel far hampered by a baby.

The Dene? They had invited him close to their fires. Shared their caribou stew, and finally sent him on his way with a pouch full of achee and two pair of soft moccasins. Maybe the Dene?

Trapper John held the baby to this chest, the heft of her as light as the down of a duck. His roughened hands were gentle on her back. Pat, pat, pat. Pat, pat, pat.

His efforts had further exhausted him and the sun was still warm on his back. And although he’d been sure he would never, in his lifetime, fall asleep with a baby cradled in his arms, he slumped, his eyes became heavy, his breathing measured and slow. The baby felt it, and matched her breath to his.

Snuggling deeper into the wiry nest of grey that fronted his massive chest, the Raft Baby slept, her lips curved in a secret smile.

Excerpt #2

Dear Ones,

I am writing by the light of a snapping birch fire, and my long hair, of which I must admit, I was just a smidgen proud, now smells like old moccasins and looks much worse. The first thing to go is vanity, which may not be so bad.

This land is so beautiful and so incredibly vast. It’s hard to imagine it, back home, where all you can see is another house across the street and a little patch of the sky. It’s the stars I would stay for, dotting the huge black bowl of the universe. Silence so absolute you could hear the beat of an angel’s wing.

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256 Pages
8.5in * 5.5in * .63in


September 15, 2020


Thistledown Press



Book Subjects:

FICTION / Historical / General

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