"NO GREAT MISCHIEF", a 1999 award-winning Canadian novel by Alistair MacLeod, bursts on the literary scene like a modern-day epic, written in prose, not verse.
Filled with Gaelic music and poetry, like"The moon is the light of the poor",the novel tells the story of three year-old twins, orphaned when their parents are drowned walking the drift ice back to the island where the father is employed as the lighthouse keeper.
Brought up by the father's parents, the twins learn of the heritage from the grandmother's sayings. Called "the red-haired boy" in Gaelic, Alexander MacDonald did not know his real name until he entered school.
The story traces the family back to the Highland MacDonald clan in Scotland whose leaders were loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie, through to the New World where they fought the French for Quebec under General Wolfe.
Later Wolfe wrote,"It would be No Great Mischief", if the Highlanders were killed in battle.
These words color the fate of the clan, beginning with Calum who emigrates to the bleak but beautiful Cape Breton Nova Scotia in 1799.
This Calum becomes a mythic figure, living to the age of 102, and who is finally buried in a solitary grave on a majestic headland.
The story then switches to the present-day Calum, Alexander's sixteen year-old brother who becomes the titular clan head when his parents die.
Through Calum's adventures, first as a fisherman, and then working in the uranium mines of Ontario, the author depicts the desperate lives of Cape Bretoners as they are forced to leave their beloved highlands to make a living.
Valiant dogs and loyal horses accompany their masters in the story of the clan's heroic endeavors.
In the end, Alexander, the "red-haired boy", remembers his Grandmother's favorite saying,"There's nothing worse than a nail in your shoe".
"Perhaps for us", Alexander thinks,"the nail did not protrude in the same way." Life for him and his twin sister is not as unforgiving as it has been for his forbears.
Along the way, in "NO GREAT MISCHIEF",the author has created an intricate tapestry, sure to fascinate all who follow its colorful threads.
This report prepared by Betty-Jeanne Korson