In Reviews & Press

By Wayne Ng

October 16, 2023

Historical fiction written in historically accurate prose and much Scottish brogue would typically be a pass for me. Like many readers, I’ve been corrupted to gravitate toward a snappy, intimate point of view whose only requirement is to entertain. Plus neither brickmaking, civil engineering or sheep farming particularly in the early 1900s excites me much. But throw in two Scotsmen who give up a lot and leave much behind to build their dreams in the new world, and you have in many ways, an immigrant story. Those, I love.

Someone (Mark Twain? Joseph Campbell) said there are only two stories: a man (I think we can now say, person) goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town. Brodie Smith, an engineer with a chip on his shoulder, is that man on a journey and must find himself. He is also that strange who meets another stranger in town, Alistair, also from Scotland. Both have big hopes ambitions and chance upon one another in Buffalo. From that, ideas of brickmaking and farming just over the border in rural Ontario became a reality.

While not quite a rags-to-riches immigrant story, Brodie and Alistair form a solid friend and partnership but are still met with obstacles, heartbreak, a wee bit of romance, and yet another calamity–a heartbreaker.

Lucy E.M. Black’s research and ability to recreate the minutiae of the setting, and the intricacies of early industrialization are astonishing. The prose feels like an authentic and masterful representation of the period. It is easy to be transported into the era and into Brodie and Alistair’s struggles and triumphs. I found their journey a comfort to experience and looked forward each evening to being part of.

That’s good storytelling for you.