ANTIGONISH: Danny Gillis is happy to report his first novel Where the Rivers Meet contains everything from fiddlers, pipers, saints, sinners, and even a federal election that brings Diefenbaker to town on the Judique Flyer.
“The characters are pretty true to Cape Bretoners, and it deals with a clash of cultures,” Gillis said, explaining that the novel takes place in a fictional town situated in the Margaree Valley.
“North of where they live is populated by indigenous people, and there’s gold discovered there. That creates a gold rush in a sense, with a mining company looking to get in there. It’s owned by one of the people in this town, so it sets up a clash of values – Route 19 values against corporate values.
“There are some twists that come along that are a little more surprising.”
Also featured in the book is a magic tomahawk that enables the lead character, Tommy Caffrey, to cross boundaries between cultures and geography.
“A little bit of magic never hurts,” Gillis said.
“There’s a lot based on my youth. It’s set in 1961, and that was the year my mother got sick. It kind of follows her battle with cancer; she was pregnant at the time, and has to make the decision to have the child or not.”
Gillis was born in Port Hood, was educated and currently lives in Antigonish, and he’s traveled a fair bit as well, going as far as the Philippines and Toronto. He’s written non-fiction in the past, including a book on the Antigonish Highland Games and a biography of his father.
Where the Rivers Meet is the first novel.
“In 2001, I came back to Antigonish after living in Toronto for a long time, and was flooded with memories of my younger days in Antigonish,” he said. “I decided to try to write about these early experiences, and that led to the novel.
“I’ve been writing this for 15 years, and at one point I said ‘stop reading, you have to focus on doing this.’ After working on it for so long, I wasn’t sure it would happen, but it’s a great feeling to have it done.
“I always had this thing on the backburner, always wanted to do it, and it feels great to have it done.”
The book was officially launched Friday at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall in Antigonish.