Alberta author explores Canada and motherhood with memoir Confederation Drive

Janice MacDonald, best known for writing mysteries, took trips through her past and across Canada to craft her memoir.

Book explores familial ties across generations while questioning what it means to be Canadian.

Janice MacDonald, left, re-created part of her 1967 road trip with her mother, standing at the site of Expo 67 wearing her mother's dress. (Janice MacDonald)

Edmonton author Janice MacDonald is best known as the creator of the Randy Craig Mysteries — a six-novel series following the adventures of a university English instructor with a knack for finding murder and trouble wherever she goes.

MacDonald took a departure from Craig for her latest work, deciding instead to take a trip through her own childhood  and across Canada to craft her memoir, Confederation Drive.

Daybreak Alberta host Russell Bowers sat down with Daybreak's resident bookworm and author Angie Abdou to talk about the memoir, exploring familial ties across generations while questioning what it means to be Canadian.

The following is an excerpt from that interview:

Q: Janice normally does mysteries — how is this book different? 

A: She's remembering a trip she took with her mother to Expo 67, driving across the country to get there.

Janice MacDonald stands with all of the books in her Randy Craig Mysteries series, six novels about a university English instructor who finds murder wherever she goes. (Janice MacDonald)

And then she takes the same trip with her husband 50 years later, so it's a road trip memoir of two road trips.

Q: This year is the 50th anniversary of Expo 67. What else ties us into that nostalgia there?

A: Janice realizes she thinks about that trip almost everyday and she wants to understand why that drive across Canada meant so much to her and why Expo [67] meant so much to her.

So the chance to do it on the 50th anniversary with her husband and write a book while she's doing it gives her the opportunity to reflect.

Q: Does the 50 years worth of change to the country reflect the change in her own life?

A: Her memory is fluid and she doesn't always maybe remember things the way they are,
so there's that kind of change — there's a nostalgic, idealized version of something versus the real version.

Janice MacDonald at Boldt Castle, located in Ontario's Thousand Islands, while on a cross-Canada road trip in 1967. (Janice MacDonald)

And the changes, I won't give it away ... but in the afterword she has kind of a call to action for Canadians, almost.

So it's not only a book of reflection of motherhood and Expos and cross-Canada trips, but kind of what it even means to be Canadian. What it used to mean, what it means now, what it could mean.

Q: How does MacDonald becoming a parent change how she remembers her own experiences growing up?

A: You think you have an idea about your parents and the kind of job they did, and once you have kids it's quite a bit different than it looks from the outside. So you have a new understanding of your parents

Q: What did you take away from Confederation Drive?

A: It reminded me of what all good memoirs remind me of ... is that readers want in behind the scenes.

Janice MacDonald's memoir, Confederation Drive, uses two road trips set 50 years apart to explore familial ties across generations while questioning what it means to be Canadian. (Janice MacDonald)

We do so much posing in our life right now. We have the Facebook version of our life and it's very heavily Photoshopped...and we don't talk about vulnerability or fear or anxiety or less pleasant things.

And someone said to write well you have to be willing to embarrass yourself, because you're letting down that guard and you're making yourself really vulnerable. So those are the sections I like in any memoir.

A list of MacDonald's works, including Confederation Drive, can be found on her website.

With files from Daybreak Alberta