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**Mary Ann Alice

by Brian Doyle

Reviewed April 21, 2003.
Groundwood Books, Toronto, 2001.  168 pages.
The Canada Council for the Arts Governor General’s Literary Awards Nominee

Brian Doyle’s books have been highly recommended in Horn Book Magazine, so I checked this one out with interest.  Mary Ann Alice does not have a dramatic plot, but it does have dramatic and delightful characters.

Set in the 1920s in rural Canada, Mary Ann Alice looks at a community located next to the beautiful Paugan Falls.  When the government decides to replace the falls with a dam to generate electricity, the people know that it will bring many changes.

The book centers around Mary Ann Alice McCrank, with the soul of a poet, named after a church bell.  Her teacher, Patchy Adams, excites in Mary Ann Alice a love for geology.  He goes searching in the caves behind the falls for wonderful rocks and fossils that will disappear forever after the dam is built.

We see the community adjust to the influx of workers and see how everything changes when the dam is built.  We enjoy the quirky characters of the community, including Patchy’s wife, who longs to be back in her native England.

This is more a picture of life among these interesting people than it is a story with a driving narrative thread, so that makes it slower going and easier to put down.  However, the picture is a good one, and the reader who perseveres to the end will come away smiling.

I’m sorry for this one, but I can’t resist:  This is one good dam book!

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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