Alone: A Winter in the Woods

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A story for all ages, Alone A Winter in the Woods quickly engages he reader in thirteen year-old John Turner’s adventures. Left alone on his family’s land grant in a virtually unsettled township in the winter of  1797, he has to overcome devastating isolation and loneliness. With only a couple of oxen, a pregnant cow, a handful of chickens and his dog to keep him company, everyday tasks become ten times more difficult than they were when Pa was still with him , building their tiny cabin. Back in Adolphustown, the orphaned Joséphine, adopted by the Turner family, keeps a journal recording their lives and her own experiences. The family waits for Pa to return to escort his wife and young children up the lake to the new settlement once Spring allows water traffic to start up again. This tale explores the differences between family life and expectations in the eighteenth century and the present, as John and Joséphine reflect on what home, family and friendship mean to them and struggle to find the courage , determination and faith needed to face the future.

Felicity Sidnell Reid uses vivid description of southern Ontario in the late 1700s in Alone: A Winter in the Woods. Thirteen year old John shows resilience, responsibility and self-reliance during his ten weeks of solitude. Reid’s story transports the reader to a time in early Canada where nothing came easily—a sharp contrast to today’s convenience. John’s story could offer students and teachers an entry point  to discussion about local history, character education and our relationship with nature. I highly recommend Alone:A Winter in the Woods. A valuable asset to any school library or classroom!

Jessica Outram, author and publisher of From the  Cottage Porch and The Writing Spiral. Teacher of writing and Principal for Indigenous Education for the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board.

Felicity Sidnell Reid delivers a compelling, at times harrowing, adventure story that will be enjoyed by readers of any age. There is so much information here that the book belongs in every Ontario classroom studying the lives of the Loyalist settlers. The book is filled with such vivid descriptions of the forest of Upper Canada, the rivers and marshes, the glimpses of Lake Ontario in the distance, and the changing seasons that the reader easily imagines sharing these surroundings. The author’s use of actual place names adds authenticity to this historically accurate story. Highly recommended.

Peggy Dymond Leavey, biographer of Mary Pickford, Laura Secord and Molly Brant, and author of nine novels for young readers.

Reading about John Turner, the young hero of Alone is the perfect antidote to Holden Caulfield, the cynical protagonist of Catcher in the Rye. In this engaging novel, set in 18th century Ontario, a thirteen year-old goes through the rites of passage, guarding the homestead alone in the bush, while his father fetches the rest of the family. John fends off a pack of wolves, a thievish pedlar and a dangerous fever. He makes friends with an Ojibwa boy, learns to spear-fish salmon and delivers a calf. John has what it takes to survive in the bush–spunk, skill and determination. He shows the quintessential pioneer spirit of courage, perseverance and industry. While John takes care of the homestead newly carved out of the bush, the rest of the Turner family makes preparations to leave the relative comfort of a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario and join him at their allotment. We see them through the eyes of Joséphine, an orphan who has been taken in by the family. In her diary, Joséphine tells of their labours and of her own difficulties warding off the unwanted attention of a young lout. Alone introduces us to a panoply of characters–homesteaders, loyalist refugees, a young woman from Quebec, a family of Ojibwas,  and a Methodist circuit rider. They made up the cultural patchwork of Canada then and foreshadow the multiculturalism of today. Alone is a coming of age story crowded with life and youthful derring-do. It is a ripping adventure story as well as a compelling lesson in history.

Erika Rummel, historian and author of many novels, the latest Evita and Me and The Loneliness of the Time Traveller

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