Joey Smallwood, known as the "last father of Confederation" for bringing Newfoundland into the Canadian fold in 1949, grew up poor and was bullied mercilessly early in the last century. This book takes known elements of Smallwood's life and combines them with fictional characters and events to describe Smallwood's coming-of-age and political awakening. Incidents from Smallwood's life are interspersed with excerpts from a fictional "Fielding's Condensed History of Newfoundland", written by Smallwood's foil, the newspaper columnist Sheilagh Fielding.
Smallwood moves from Catholic school to discover the union movement and left-wing politics. Inspired by John Reed (of "Ten Days that Shook the World" fame), he makes his way to New York city, observing the life of working-class and the poor, honing his political instincts and worldliness. Returning a few months later to his homeland, travelling across Newfoundland to its most remote fishing outposts, as a union organizer. During his travels, he comes into closer contact with the generosity of his fellow Newfoundlanders, despite their dire poverty.
Smallwood returns to the capital of Newfoundland, determined to make change in the colony that he would bring into the Canadian Confederation. He embarks on a political career, scrutinized and criticized by Fielding, for whom he nonetheless harbours strong feelings. Only after becoming Premier of the new province does he discover the secret that kept Fielding at such an emotional distance from him for so many decades.
The review of this Book prepared by Jan Arata