Written by Alison Griffiths David Cruise
Review by Tess Allegra

This sweeping novel of Vancouver, British Columbia, opens in the Alaskan ice age with Tooke, a Siberian of African descent, setting out across the Bering Strait to search the origins of his people. His stories inspire his grandson, Manto, to continue the quest south. The novel then skips across the millennia like a stone, pausing in selected centuries to introduce the travelers who fought and plotted their way up the Pacific coast to establish the unique society that is Vancouver. Although Balboa mapped the great ocean for his native Spain, the Pacific coast area becomes diversified by Scots who trap and trade and bring a severe brand of Christianity to the pagan “new world.” The Chinese enter through San Francisco, bringing their culture and their opium, learning of prejudice firsthand from the white settlers who form the Asiatic Exclusion League attempting to forbid immigrants from the Far East to settle in America. Their efforts fail, and immigrants such as Soon Chong, a Chinaman who speaks English, and Nanak Singh, a Sikh, pursue their dreams, aided by a colorful character named Warburton Pike who emigrated from Great Britain.

The novel culminates in 2003 with discontented native Ellie Nesbitt breaking her vow to leave Vancouver after discovering her own native heritage through an unusual talisman, memories of her grandmother’s stories, and an Indian rock star. Vancouver is filled to the brim with tribal and personal conflicts, natural disasters, and people who are real enough to step off the page. Although the novel’s random time jumps preclude a seamless read, the characters met along the way make this reading journey well worth the trip.