On Nov. 18, 1929, a tsunami struck Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula. Giant waves, up to three storeys high, hit the coast at a 100 kilometres per hour, flooding dozens of communities and washing entire houses out to sea. The most destructive earthquake-related event in Newfoundland's history, the disaster killed 28 people and left hundreds more homeless or destitute. It took days for the outside world to find out about the death and damage caused by the tsunami, which forever changed the lives of the inhabitants of the fishing outports along the Burin Peninsula.
Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning writer Linden MacIntyre was born near St. Lawrence, N.L., one of the villages virtually destroyed by the tsunami. By the time of his birth, the cod-fishing industry lay in ruins and the village had become a mining town. MacIntyre's father, lured from Cape Breton to Newfoundland by a steady salary, worked in St. Lawrence in an underground mine that was later found to be radioactive. Hundreds of miners would die; hundreds more would struggle through shortened lives profoundly compromised by lung diseases ranging from silicosis and bronchitis to cancer. As MacIntyre says, though the tsunami killed 28 people in 1929, it would claim hundreds if not thousands more lives in the decades to follow. And by the time the village returned to its roots and set up as a cod fishery once again, the stocks in the Grand Banks had plummeted and St. Lawrence found itself once again on the brink of disaster. (From HarperCollins Canada)
Linden MacIntyre is a former CBC journalist and novelist. His novel The Bishop's Man won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2009.
- Why Linden MacIntyre wrote about a 1920s natural disaster in Newfoundland that changed the region forever
- 40 works of Canadian nonfiction to watch for this fall
- Why journalist Linden MacIntyre channeled the violence he saw in Lebanon into his fiction
- Linden MacIntyre on writing and other pathologies
- Linden MacIntyre shares personal connection to Newfoundland disaster in The Wake
- The best Canadian nonfiction of 2019
- Mark Critch recommends 3 great books about Newfoundland
From the book
St. John's was a distant world, in many ways irrelevant, except when it came to pricing fish, which were the economic staple for everyone who lived in the remote, sparsely populated island nation, Newfoundland. There was no road between the capital and the southern peninsula called the Burin. France was closer than St. John's — the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon were just twenty miles away. The people there were fiercely French. But they mingled, married, did business — officially and unofficially — with the nearby Newfoundlanders.
From The Wake by Linden MacIntyre ©2019. Published by HarperCollins.