A forgotten chore, a dose of laudanum and a dream of pirate treasure converge with dire consequences and a life-changing adventure in the mid-level historical fiction novel, “Maud & Addie” (Regal House Publishing) by Maureen Buchanan Jones. It’s 1910. The location is Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Two sisters from Halifax stay at their family’s summer residence while their parents travel to India for their father’s tea business.
Addie, the eldest, seems destined to follow in her mother’s distinguished footsteps, keeping up with the latest fashions and developing her social prowess. She’s a bookworm lost in romantic musings, and she couldn’t be more different from her younger sister. Maud cares little about her appearance, polite society, or the pursuit of boys. In fact, she prefers to race with boys – and win. Curious and pragmatic, she wants to learn how things work and gets her hands on as many things as possible. Less than a year apart, they bicker constantly, but never with real cruelty.
They don’t know that their differences will become their strengths in the weeks to come.
A SOCIAL OUTLET TURN OF THE BALL
Their plans to attend the city’s summer social event are temporarily thwarted when the car intended to transport them passes. It turns out that Min, a mysterious and sick guest helping to watch the girls, forgot to make this stop for them. Meanwhile, Addie found laudanum in the guest room and took a sip, hoping to dilate her pupils in the dreamy look she sees in Min’s eyes. Always the most practical, Maud convinces her sister that they can just row across the bay to the fairground if they can find a boat. And maybe take a detour to look for the pirate’s treasure, she thinks privately.
The girls manage to reach Social, but nothing goes. Addie falls ill with laudanum, although she keeps the reason a secret from her sister. Maud wins a marble game, but the boys she plays with don’t recognize her. Discouraged, they waited for the end of the festivities and returned home in the borrowed canoe. But Maud has other plans and while her sister sleeps from her illness (or rather laudanum), she heads to some pirate caves which she has been told to be in a nearby cove. What she doesn’t expect are the strong currents she will encounter, or that the waves are too powerful for her ability to row, and the girls are washed out into the ocean, unobserved.
LOST ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONLY THEIR WILL TO SURVIVE
What happens next will test their intelligence and courage – and change their relationship forever. After a storm nearly submerges their small boat, they land on a desert island with nothing but clothes on their backs, picnic food in their basket, and a car blanket. With Maud’s impressive hands-on skill and a little learning from Addie’s book, the girls somehow manage to build themselves shelter, find food and water, and settle in to wait. a rescue that day that they begin to realize they could never come. Addie, who never helps much on practical matters, finds herself totally dependent on Maud’s strength and skill for survival. So, when the worst happens and Maud is unable to provide for the couple’s needs, Addie must take charge of their well-being – and their destiny – for the first time. time in his life.
Reading “Maud & Addie” is like stepping back in time – or more precisely, the pages of a classic children’s book like “Anne… the house of green gables” or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. There is a charming, old-fashioned atmosphere to the story, although its themes of brotherhood and personal growth are universal across time. The relationship of the girls to each other is by turns funny and touching with a depth, complexity and evolution well conveyed both in the characters and in their actions. The girls might be lost on an island, but this is where they really end up.
Strong characters and an engaging plot are often enough to move a story forward. But the real star of the show is Jones’ use of language. His descriptions of the island’s flora and fauna, water and sky, sand and stones are as poetic as they are alive. With its fluid and well-conceived sentences, it is a prose that should be lingered, not skimmed over. You can taste the salt in the air, smell the grain of the sand, smell the algae drying in the sun. You will never want to leave Maud and Addie Island again. Or, for that matter, the company of these two credible and endearing characters.
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