“Emancipation Day” by Wayne Grady

emancipation dayEmancipation Day by Wayne Grady

How far would a son go to belong? And how far would a father go to protect him? 

With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It’s World War II, and while stationed in St. John’s’, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled, romantic Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock and is desperate to see the world. They marry against Vivian’s family’s wishes–hard to say what it is, but there’s something about Jack that they just don’t like–and as the war draws to a close, the new couple travels to Windsor to meet Jack’s family.

But when Vivian meets Jack’s’ mother and brother, everything she thought she knew about her new husband gets called into question. They don’t live in the dream home that Jack depicted, they all look different from one another–and different from anyone Vivian has ever seen–and after weeks of waiting to meet Jack’s father, William Henry, he never materializes. 

Steeped in jazz and big-band music, spanning pre and post-war Windsor-Detroit, St. John’s’, Newfoundland, and 1950s Toronto, this is an arresting, heart wrenching novel about fathers and sons, love and sacrifice, race relations and a time in our history when the world was on the cusp of momentous change.

This ensemble narrated book, based in the 40s and 50s really hit something inside of me, surprising me and pulling me in. Each character, given their own narrative had their own unique point of view of events that happened, giving a full fleshed out picture of what happens when someone might not be willing to accept who they are. It reflects the length we go to as people, to possibly escape our pasts, but inevitably some pieces of it end up engrained in our future.

It is easy to tell that this book, in some ways is autobiographical, and it is so well written that all of the characters become people to sympathize with.  Whether it’s Jack, who really is a little boy lost, not matter what decisions he tries to make. Or Vivian who is so naive and yet one of the warmer characters in the novel. William Henry was the one who I felt the most sympathy for, as he made wrong decisions, left and right and didn’t quite know what to make of his son until it was far too late.

It was also a good, albeit sad reflection of racial relations in both the U.S and Canada which really fleshed out the realism in the book.

This book also made me fall in love with it because it is a Canadian novel, with settings so close to me, and the area I live in. It was simply a well written, well woven tale.

Good for:

Those who love a good historical book with a strong basis in reality.



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