If you enter the term “Canadian novelist” into Google’s search engine, a seemingly endless number of names come up, making it very difficult to narrow down the choices to just one book for Canada. I’m not quite sure how I picked Lauren B. Davis’ Our Daily Bread from the myriad books that were available to me. However, it turned out to be a timely, if sobering, selection, addressing such topical themes as bullying and isolation, as well as the tendency to ignore problems confronting other people if you can somehow convince yourself that the “otherness” in those people make them less deserving of your help.
The book is set in the fictional town of Gideon and on the mountain, known as North Mountain, nearby. North Mountain is home to the Erskine clan, who have lived there for generations. In the world of the Erskines, the children are savagely abused -- physically, psychologically, and sexually -- but they are taught from birth that “Erskines don’t talk and Erskines don’t leave.” While the Erskines are fictional, I was horrified to learn in the book’s acknowledgements that they are based on a real-life family, the Goler clan of the eastern Canada province of Nova Scotia.
The townspeople of Gideon stay away from the North Mountain people, for the most part, although some drive up under cover of darkness to buy the product of the Erskines’ newly-established meth lab, and some are complicit in the abuse of the children. Most of the “good” people of Gideon, though, are content to simply look down their noses at the North Mountain people.
There are three unlikely heroes in the book, whose lives intersect at a time when the children of North Mountain need help the most. Albert Erskine lives on North Mountain in the Erskine compound, but at twenty-two years of age, is no longer subject to the same abuse as the Erskine children, and he hasn’t adopted the unspeakable habits of the older Erskines. Tom Evans has lived in Gideon his whole life and is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. Many years earlier, he married a much younger woman whom he met in New York, and it seems the whole town knows things about her that his love blinds him to, making him a frequent topic of gossip. Dorothy Carlisle is my favorite character, a widow who owns an antique shop and is friendly, but generally doesn’t involve herself overly much in the lives of the people in town. By the end of the book, all three of these characters discover inner reserves of strength and purpose that they didn’t know they possessed.
The subject matter could have made it impossible to stomach Our Daily Bread, but the author’s skillful storytelling drew me in. It’s a reminder that evil can’t be swept under the rug, no matter how much we’d like to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Canada is just across the northern border of the United States, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Canadians eat many of the same things that people in the U.S. do. The characters in Our Daily Bread ate things like burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, and I didn’t see any mention of dishes that were distinctively Canadian. So I turned to Google and found a recipe for Canadian Maple Pie on the UnconventionalBaker.com website. How delicious does that sound?
Really delicious, as it turns out! The recipe is already vegan (and gluten-free, for that matter), so no substitutions were needed. The ingredients listed are for a very small pie, though, so if you intend to share it and not just eat it all yourself, you’ll need to triple the ingredients for a regular-sized pie.
Since the abuse of children was the great evil in Our Daily Bread, I looked on the GlobalGiving website for a project or organization that would benefit children. I found the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, which provides “a safe, supportive place where Canadian children and youth can go to experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life.” Homework help, healthy meals, and a safe space are just a few of the benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada offer. More information about this organization is available at https://www.bgccan.com/en/.
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