It was a poignant moment when the novel February was chosen as the Canada Reads winner, a day before the 31st anniversary of the sinking of the Ocean Ranger.

Newfoundland and Labrador author Lisa Moore reflected on that coincidence on Friday, as she discussed her win with CBC cultural affairs show Q.

"To be truthful, I woke up this morning and my pillow was wet with tears because today is the anniversary of the sinking of the Ocean Ranger," she said.

"I had tons of e-mails and people congratulating me but it’s still a very much a live thing in Newfoundland, people are going to memorials and talking about it today."

The oil platform went down off the coast of Newfoundland, killing 84 people, on Feb. 15, 1982.

Moore’s book February is the story of one woman working through her grief and struggling to raise a family after the loss of her husband in the disaster.

Moore said she is "thrilled" February will have more readers as a result of its Canada Reads win.

"I think it’s important, not just for Newfoundland, but for the global oil community. I think it’s important for everybody who works in an industry where their lives are at risk and it’s important for us as oil consumers…to think about what it means to the environment and what it means to the lives of those men and women who work in those industries," she said.

February was defended in the Canada Reads debate by Corner Brook, N.L.-born comedian Trent McClellan.

He says he remembers hearing about the disaster as a child and was moved by the "pureness and rawness" of the book.

"I just felt like I was reading a bit of my own life with regards to the losses I’ve had in my life. I felt people would be able to get it.  It felt like it was a real character who was talking in a real way about their emotions and it was ripped out and bared all for everyone to see," McClellan said.

McClellan says some of his fans questioned why he took such a serious approach to Canada Reads — CBC’s annual four-day book debate — but he felt the topic didn’t call for humour.

This year, Canada Reads was a turf war, with books representing five different regions of Canada competing.  The other books:

  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, defended by Carol Huynh.
  • The Age of Hope by David Bergen, defended by Ron MacLean.
  • Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan, defended by Jay Baruchel.
  • Away by Jane Urquhart, defended by Charlotte Gray.

Moore said she was struck by how much people care about books and about stories from their own region.

"It’s so personal," she said.  


Lisa Moore, right, wrote February, the winner of the Canada Reads book debate on CBC. Comedian Trent McClellan, left, defended it. (CBC)