Orchard Beach is a collection of linked short stories set in a sleepy Southwestern Ontario port village located in a band of Carolinian forest on the northern shore of Lake Erie. It examines the lives of its mostly elderly residents as they circumnavigate old age, relationships and a changing world in a town in perennial retreat from an ever encroaching Lake, itself a potent character with whose vagaries they must constantly contend. Geography and the natural environment have always played a strong role in my work; this book will be no exception. I also hope to examine what it means to be Canadian in the Age of Trump.
The Virgin of Bright Leaf
In The Virgin of Bright Leaf, I return to my native North Carolina to serve as location for a rollicking tale of a Marian vision gone terribly wrong. The novel is set during the turbulent sixties, not thirty miles from the site of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, on the estate of the Buck family – the Bucks are heirs to a considerable tobacco fortune and the town of Bright Leaf’s most prominent citizens.
The novel tells the story of what happens when Sabra Buck, a headstrong and willful fourteen-year old girl, fresh from convent school and a torrid love affair with one of her instructors, a nun endowed with Discriminatio Spirituum – the ability to discern demons — sees an apparition which she takes to be the Virgin Mary. It is, of course, not the Virgin Mary, but something far more sinister and deeply rooted in her family’s tragic and convoluted past.
The Virgin of Bright Leaf explores the phenomenon of Marian visions and the steamier underside of Catholic excess, with cameo appearances by snake-handlers and assorted demons, all set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement.