A good read

Berwick au­thor’s first novel weaves love story, fo­cuses on evo­lu­tion of a fam­ily ap­ple farm

Annapolis Valley Register - - ARTS - BY KIRK STARRATT KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA BERWICK, N.S. Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

It’s a fic­ti­tious story but one that draws greatly upon the his­tor­i­cal con­text of the ap­ple in­dus­try and trans­for­ma­tions that have ac­tu­ally oc­curred on fam­ily farms.

Au­thor Barry Corbin of Berwick said his first novel, The Girl at the Top of the Tree, fo­cuses on the chal­lenges faced through mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions on a fam­ily ap­ple farm in the An­napo­lis Val­ley and the farm’s evo­lu­tion dur­ing the time frame of 1946 to 2008.

“Of course, weaved in is this love story be­tween By­ron, who takes over the farm, and a girl who has Dutch an­ces­try, so there is that as­pect of those Dutch im­mi­grants that came af­ter the Sec­ond World War and es­tab­lished farms here as well,” Corbin said.

The Berwick town coun­cil­lor said he reads a lot and rec­og­nizes that many of to­day’s nov­els fo­cus on su­per heroes and su­per sit­u­a­tions that are larger than life. He wanted to fo­cus on ev­ery day heroes who face ev­ery-day chal­lenges while sus­tain­ing a good qual­ity of life for their fam­i­lies. The story fo­cuses on the de­ci­sions and changes By­ron Cor­bett must make to en­sure the sur­vival of the fam­ily farm.

Corbin said the ti­tle of his novel was in­spired by a poem, Girls Are Like Ap­ples, that he in­cludes near the front of the book. It draws the anal­ogy that, just as the best ap­ples can be found at the top of the tree, the same is true for girls.

Boys might be afraid to reach for the good ones out of fear of fall­ing and get­ting hurt. In Corbin’s book, By­ron wasn’t afraid to reach for Anna, the girl at the top of the tree.

Corbin draws from his own life ex­pe­ri­ence to a cer­tain ex­tent, hav­ing lived on a farm in Lakeville that his fa­ther helped man­age. Although his fa­ther later found em­ploy­ment in Kentville, the fam­ily kept liv­ing in Lakeville.

As a teenager, Corbin worked on neigh­bour­ing farms. He was al­ways fas­ci­nated by how hard farm­ers work and how lit­tle re­ward there is in ex­change. He would of­ten won­der what kept farm­ers go­ing but later re­al­ized that the life­style is in their blood.

Corbin moved away to at­tend univer­sity and went on to a ca­reer as an ed­u­ca­tor but he would of­ten come home to visit his par­ents. It amazed him to ob­serve just how much farm­ing had changed from the post-war pe­riod to the first decade of the new mil­len­nium. Many smaller fam­ily farms had dis­ap­peared or evolved into larger op­er­a­tions.

The novel was three or four years in the mak­ing. Corbin said it all started af­ter a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend that he at­tended high school with who had also grown up in a farm­ing area but left for ed­u­ca­tional and pro­fes­sional pur­poses. The friend asked Corbin if he’s ever thought about what might have hap­pened if he hadn’t had the chance to at­tend univer­sity and had no other choice but to stay home and work on a farm.

Corbin de­scribed this as “the trig­ger point” for his novel. By­ron, the hero, grad­u­ates from high school in the mid 1960’s and is des­tined for a univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion. He doesn’t re­ally care for farm­ing and has had many dis­agree­ments with his fa­ther, who wants By­ron to take over the farm.

How­ever, cir­cum­stances dic­tate that By­ron is obliged to take over the farm for the sake of the fam­ily. The story ex­am­ines how this im­pacts his life and, re­flect­ing on things as an older man, whether or not he missed out by not hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend univer­sity.

Corbin has writ­ten a num­ber of cur­ric­u­lar pieces, in­clud­ing coau­thor­ing three ge­og­ra­phy text books that are used through­out east­ern Canada. Corbin also au­thored a book en­ti­tled “Un­leash­ing the Po­ten­tial of the Teenage Brain: 10 Pow­er­ful Ideas” that fo­cuses on the neu­ro­science and neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy of the teenage brain. How­ever, aside from some short sto­ries, The Girl at the Top of the Tree is his first foray into fic­tion.

Corbin worked with Quar­ter Cas­tle Pub­lish­ing to have the novel edited but it is es­sen­tially a self-pub­lished work. It can be pur­chased on­line through the web­sites Ama­zon and Lulu in tra­di­tional form or as an e-book.

Corbin has an of­fi­cial book launch com­ing up at the Berwick Li­brary on Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. He plans to at­tend lo­cal mar­kets and craft sales to pro­mote the book lead­ing into the Christ­mas sea­son and he hopes to make it avail­able in book­stores. He also hopes to make copies avail­able at Berwick Town Hall.

To pur­chase a copy from Corbin, email bacorbin@ns.sym­pa­tico.ca or phone 902-538-8378.


Berwick au­thor Barry Corbin is launch­ing his first novel, The Girl at the Top of the Tree, a work of fic­tion that weaves a love story while draw­ing on the his­tory and evo­lu­tion of the fam­ily ap­ple farm.


The Girl at the Top of the Tree by Barry Corbin of Berwick.

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