First look at ‘The Second History’

ST. JOSEPH DU MOINE: The future world described in Rebecca Silver Slayter’s new novel, The Second History, is post-apocalyptic and not necessarily cheerful. It’s also a story of how two very intense feelings circle each other.

“One of the things that’s explored in the book is the relationship between fear and love, and especially the love of a parent for a child,” said Silver Slayter, speaking to The Reporter on Aug. 3. “That’s one of the themes running through the book. The characters learn to love a little more bravely over the course of the book, and that requires them going through some tough times for sure.

“You can’t protect them from that, but you do root for a happy ending.”

The novel is Silver Slayter’s second, as it follows In the Land of Birdfishes (2013). Silver Slayter is also known for her efforts as the director of the Cabot Trail Writers Festival. With that, she’s an editor of Brick, A Literary Journal.

In a press release from publisher Doubleday Canada, The Second History is described as “a post-apocalyptic love story about a young couple embarking on a journey to understand, for the first time, what they’ve been hiding from all their lives.”

Central characters Eban and Judy find themselves enduring the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe. The catastrophe happened so long ago that neither character is clear on what exactly took place. Eventually, the characters begin to look for explanations. With that, Judy is pregnant and desperate to find safety for her child.

“It is a story about the limits of our ability to know each other or understand the past, and about the courage it takes to invent the world again for those we love,” stated Doubleday in its promotion for the novel.

Writing The Second History was a long process, Silver Slayter said, and its release was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Living through this pandemic taught me how suddenly things can change,” she said. “The characters in the book didn’t live through a time of change. They’re living in what’s left after it; after the upheaval and the radical disconnection from the world and understanding it.”

The plot of the book borrows from the realm of science fiction and speculative fiction, but Silver Slayter noted the real heart of the story relates to how the characters deal with the world around them.

“At the heart of it, it’s still a very personal and intimate story about the characters, even though it’s got this context of a changed future world,” she said. “I wanted to capture an image of what the future world might look like but also be an elegy for the world that had been lost. The characters are in so many ways trying to excavate the past and figure out what has happened.

“In some ways, I was trying to honour the world we have and we so badly need to take care of.”

A book launch for The Second History will take place at the Inverness County Centre for the Arts this Sunday, Aug. 8. The doors open at 7 p.m. with the event beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The Second History is now available in book stores everywhere.