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  • Writer's pictureAnna Karras

Book Review by Anna Karras - The Berry Pickers: A Novel


Six-year-old Joe and four-year-old Ruthie are the kind of brother and sister that get along. But even at this young age, they knew they weren’t like the white folks. From the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaq family would spend the summer as itinerant workers picking blueberries in Maine. Working for the Ellis family made good money for their winter, but the work was hard, and the boss was even harder. This was never more evident than on one hot August day in 1962 when Ruthie disappeared, never to be seen again. The Ellis family and police gave a half-hearted search but scolded the family for not taking better care of their children. Joe, the last to see Ruthie, sitting on a rock by the road, felt this reproach keenly, as if it was his fault Ruthie was gone.


Norma, a young girl who lived in Maine, always felt different. Not only did she tan far more easily than her parents, but she was also set apart by an overprotective and highly-strung mother. As a young girl, she had dreams of campfires and a boy named Joe, but her parents urged her to forget them. Norma, who always did as she was told, did her best to put them aside, even though she knew they were strange and not like regular dreams. She would spend the next fifty years unraveling the secrets those dreams held.


Told from alternating points of view by Joe and Norma, The Berry Pickers is an exploration of not just families and race, but also forgiveness of others and ourselves. The inter-weaving tales of Joe and Norma explore the multitude of ways we hurt the ones we love and the efforts we make to repair those damages. Like the long roads traveled in the pages of this novel, two families find the road to forgiveness can seem endless. Amanda Peters digs into these themes with deliberate purpose. Even though this book is set a long way from South Florida, we as readers can appreciate the sameness of the characters she portrays.


 

∞ Author's Profile

Amanda Peters is a writer of Mi’kmaq and settler ancestry. She has a certificate in creative writing from the University of Toronto and she is a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe New Mexico. Amanda is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Theatre at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The Berry Pickers is her first novel.

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