Book Review: East of the Merrimack by O. H. Warwick


This is a conflict of interest.

O. H. (Harold) Warwick was my father-in-law, and it turns out we loved many of the same things: medicine, medical oncology, science, academics, nature, the cottage on the lake, dogs, our children, his wife Barbara, my wife Vikki. Is it so unusual that he and I had such similar careers, similar activities?

Harold’s was far more successful, however. The first medical oncologist at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Dean of Medicine at Western University, Rhodes Scholar, Member of the Order of Canada, Gold Medalist at McGill.

This is one of two books of fiction Harold wrote. I don’t remember if I ever told him of mine, although after he died, I read my first book to Barbara in her nursing home.

This book is good on several levels. Neither Harold nor I are terribly good at writing erotica, so there is none of that, as those who knew Harold might guess. But Harold’s dedication to accuracy in terms of fidelity to historical fact is apparent in this book, and to anyone who knew him, of course.

The story revolves around the young (aged eleven) John Gyles who was captured by the Indians in the late 1680’s from  a farm near Pemaquid Harbor in New England. The story recounts his struggles to live while enslaved by a tribe of North American aboriginals who were aligned with the French during the the War of the Grand Alliance (1689 to 1697), a European endeavor that quickly spread to the colonies.

Life was difficult, and many of John Gyles’ friends and relatives died in the course of the story. Harold extracted much of the details from a diary kept by Gyles during his five years of captivity, so this is true historical fiction. The history and picture of life in the New England colonies, as well as life among the aboriginals, is well portrayed, and quite fascinating. How the people of the era were sustained  during such arduous times in such extreme circumstances is amazing to understand.

In the end, Gyles prevails, else his real life diary would never have captured Harold’s interest, but the understanding is one that readers can have almost first hand through the eyes and ears of John Gyles, fictionalized only to the extent of giving Gyles a reasonable interesting personality, and typical life struggles. It is well worth the reading from my very biased viewpoint.


One thought on “Book Review: East of the Merrimack by O. H. Warwick

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s