Books·Canadian

Sea Trial

Sea Trial is a nonfiction book Brian Harvey.

Brian Harvey

After a 25-year break from boating, Brian Harvey circumnavigates Vancouver Island with his wife, his dog and a box of documents that surfaced after his father's death. John Harvey was a neurosurgeon, violinist and photographer who answered his door a decade into retirement to find a sheriff with a summons. It was a malpractice suit, and it did not go well. Dr. Harvey never got over it. The box contained every nurse's record, doctor's report, trial transcript and expert testimony related to the case. Only Brian's father had read it all — until now.

In this beautifully written memoir, Brian Harvey shares how after two months of voyaging with his father's ghost, he finally finds out what happened in the O.R. that crucial night and why Dr. Harvey felt compelled to fight the excruciating accusations. (From ECW Press)

Brian Harvey is the author of three works of fiction and two works of nonfiction. He lives in Nanaimo, B.C.

Sea Trial is a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. The winner will be announced on Oct. 29, 2019.

From the book

My father's effects were like flotsam on a beach, each wave leaving something behind as he weakened and died, until the beach was littered with his life. 

And there were so many John Harveys. The prairie kid who was happiest snaring gophers with his friends and crawling underneath the boardwalk on Main Street, who left home at 16 and never came back, not even for his father's death. The disillusioned high school teacher who borrowed money, went back to school and became a doctor. The photographer who filled our house with the smell of developers and fixers, and our family albums with images that were much more than snapshots. And the trophy-winning violinist and peripatetic physician who kept searching for the place where medicine was practised the way he thought it should be.


From Sea Trial by Brian Harvey ©2019. Published by ECW Press.

Why Brian Harvey wrote Sea Trial

"In a sense, I was trying to finish something that my father had started. He tried to write about his trial and the effect it had on him — and that's the stuff that I inherited. He wasn't leaving it to me, but I found it in a box and he was dead. So I had to do something with it." 

"I had to do it right. I had to read everything. I had to be sure I understood it. My biological training came in handy as I found that there was no problem for me to read the medical and scientific papers. I had to be sure that my understanding of the legal aspects was not totally faulty. I did lean on other experts; I had to be very careful I got the facts right.

In a sense, I was trying to finish something that my father had started.- Brian Harvey

"The story about my dad is presented a lot of different problems. There are real humans involved here who suffered, on both sides. I had to be fair, but I also had to give people their privacy. When people read this book, they can hopefully see that I was trying not to 'set the record straight' or prove someone wrong or right. I was trying to stay out of it and let the reader decide for themselves.

"There was an understanding that I was writing about my own family, especially my dad. You have to be pretty darn sure that you're not treading on too many toes. But you also have to tell a story." 

Read more in his interview with CBC Books.

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