Raisin Wine: A Boyhood in a Different Muskoka
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A warm, at times hilarious, yet dark childhood memoir from a bestselling author.
This memoir recalls the boyhood years of Ontario’s future lieutenant-governor, living in a dilapidated old house complete with outdoor toilet and coal oil-lamp lighting. Behind the outrageous stories, larger-than life-characters, and descriptions of the mores of a small village in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country are flashes of insight from the perspective of a child that recall the great classic Who has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell.
But why "a different Muskoka?" Because the boy was a half-breed kid. Visits to his mother’s reserve showed him that he was caught between two worlds. His mother’s fight with depression flowed from that dilemma. His father — the book’s main character — was a lovable, white, working class, happy-go-lucky guy who never had any money but who made the best home brew in the village — and his specialty was raisin wine.
Like that raisin wine, this unusual book goes down easily and has a kick to it.
From the Hardcover edition.
I. Title. FC636. B37A3 2007 971. 3'160492 C2006-904212-8 We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and that of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program. A Douglas Gibson Book McClelland & Stewart Ltd. 75 Sherbourne Street Toronto, Ontario M5A 2P9 www.
After the house was wired to the grid and the lighting came from electricity, he began to frequent the small village library, borrowing books to satisfy his thirst for literature – translations of French classics by Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, Zane Grey Westerns, novels by John Steinbeck and Pearl Buck, Harlequin romances, and accounts of the early exploration of Canada by Alexander Henry, Samuel Hearne, and La Vérendrye. The boy, who up to then had read only comic books and newspapers, turned his attention to the books his father left lying around the house.
The blinds were drawn, the interior was dark, and the smell within was of sweat, cigarette smoke, and air that had been breathed too many times by too many people over too long a period of time. The conductor roused a girl, about eighteen years old, who was slumped across three seats, shaking her gently and telling her that she had to make room for new passengers, before installing the boy and his companion beside her. She shook herself awake, sat up, and with a smile said something the boy did not understand.
They can play with the children of the guests on the beach and eat with the rest of us in the staff dining room. The food is kosher, but I guarantee they’ll like it. ” The boy’s mother soon reported for work, discovering that it helped relieve her depression as well as bring in a second income. As for the boy, it was his first contact with Jews. He had, however, often heard his parents talk of a Jewish doctor who had saved his brother’s life the year before the family moved to Port Carling. His brother, sick with pneumonia, had been given up for lost, and his mother had been summoned to the hospital to be with him as he died.
Sitting on his bed in his lonely room years later, Old Jack would glance up at the old photograph and remember that in those days he used to fantasize that Betty Grable had come to Port Carling to see him after the war. He would propose they go dancing, but she would tell him she preferred the music of the newfangled big bands, such as those of Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington, to the square dance and Scottish Country dance tunes Old Jack knew and loved. He would suggest they go to the movies in the nearby town, but she would reply that, living in Hollywood, she had already seen them all.