Mil­ner’s sus­pense­ful, com­pelling tale is uni­ver­sal

B.C. be­comes a char­ac­ter in new novel

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Books - TRACY SHER­LOCK

Donna Mil­ner’s Some­where In-Be­tween be­gins with a tragedy — a teenage girl is killed in a car crash, leav­ing her mother and fa­ther, Julie and Ian O’Dale, dev­as­tated and reel­ing.

The driver of the ve­hi­cle was a young man from a First Na­tions com­mu­nity, and the par­ents hold him to blame for the loss of their daugh­ter.

As the book opens, the cou­ple, whose mar­riage is in tat­ters af­ter the death, is con­sid­er­ing buy­ing a re­mote ranch in Bri­tish Columbia’s Chilcotin area. The ranch, which is beau­ti­ful, is also iso­lated and makes Julie feel like they’re run­ning away from ev­ery­thing. Nonethe­less, they go ahead and buy the ranch, which comes with a caveat: The new buyer must al­low a reclu­sive ten­ant to con­tinue liv­ing in a cabin on the property.

That ten­ant is Vir­gil Blue, an in­trigu­ing char­ac­ter with a haunt­ing and tragic his­tory of his own.

Mil­ner is also the au­thor of Af­ter River, which was a best­seller that was trans­lated into six lan­guages and sold in 12 coun­tries, and The Prom­ise of Rain. She was born in Vic­to­ria and grew up in Van­cou­ver, but as a young woman she moved to the cen­tral in­te­rior of Bri­tish Columbia, work­ing as a real­tor and rais­ing four chil­dren.

All of her books are set in B.C. and Some­where In-Be­tween is no dif­fer­ent. B.C.’s iconic ge­og­ra­phy and wildlife are as much char­ac­ters in the book as the people are.

Al­though B.C. plays a ma­jor role in Mil­ner’s fic­tion, her nov­els are about fam­i­lies and the Donna Mil­ner Caitlin Press con­flicts, re­la­tion­ships, ties and strug­gles that are so much a part of all re­la­tion­ships.

In Some­where In-Be­tween the story is re­ally about con­nec­tions be­tween and among fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween life, death and the af­ter­life, the con­nec­tion with the First Na­tions spirit world, and the con­nec­tions be­tween moth­ers and daugh­ters, hus­bands and wives.

The O’Dale fam­ily is not the only fam­ily suf­fer­ing in this story — the fam­ily of the young man who was driv­ing the car, Levi Johnny, is also fal­ter­ing af­ter the fa­tal crash. Johnny was a promis­ing young hockey player; af­ter the crash he quits hockey and rarely leaves his house.

While it may sound de­press­ing, the mes­sage of Mil­ner’s story is ac­tu­ally one of hope and re­demp­tion.

With wis­dom and com­pelling sto­ry­telling, Mil­ner gives read­ers a tale of ru­ral Bri­tish Columbia that is both uni­ver­sal and time­less. Her writ­ing style is un­clut­tered and spare, but em­i­nently read­able while the sto­ry­telling is sus­pense­ful, well-paced and nu­anced.

Some­where In-Be­tween

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