David Bergen, The Retreat

What would cause a Kenora, Ontario, policeman in 1973 to leave Raymond Seymour, an eighteen-year-old Ojibway man, on a secluded island to die? All Raymond had to do was date the cop’s niece.

A year later the Byrd family goes to a near retreat the island where daughter Lizzie ends up meeting Raymond, who escaped the island and now works at the retreat. Their conversations change Lizzie’s view of the world, focusing on the love between a white girl and an aboriginal boy among other weighty topics.

Award-winning author David Bergen has created a haunting masterpiece set during the summer of the Ojibway occupation of Anicinabe Park in Kenora. Bergen’s mastery of sparse language does not damage the almost hypnotic emotion of the story. His style brings characters to life, making fiction read like fact. With an ending both heartbreaking and shocking, The Retreat is reminiscent of driving by a car accident; you can’t not look not matter how difficult it is to watch. Or, in this case, read.

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