Tag Archives: Susan Young de Biagi

One Book / One Conference

Out of 12 nominations, The Church Library Association of Ontario chose one book for everyone at their 2009 fall conference to read and discuss. It’s quite an eclectic list, and the ones I haven’t read I’ve heard good things about. What a great way to raise awareness of quality Canadian writing.

Nominated books were:

The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill

Broken Angel, by Sigmund Brouwer

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway

Christianus Sum, by Shawn J. Pollett

Cibou, by Susan Young de Biagi

Hot Apple Cider, N.J. Lindquist and Wendy Elaine Nelles, editors

Love Comes Softly, by Janette Oke

Mohamed’s Moon, by Keith Clemons

One Smooth Stone, by Marcia Lee Laycock

The Shack, by William P. Young

Shaded Light, by N.J. Lindquist

Vengeance, by Donna Dawson

I’ve read a lot of these books, although some were before I started doing regular reviews. If you want to see which ones I’ve reviewed, just click on the “reviews” tab at the top of this page.

Each one would have been a fine choice, and the most votes went to Hot Apple Cider. Since it’s an anthology from 30 Canadian authors who are Christian, covering a variety of topics in non-fiction, poetry and fiction, there’s sure to be something to please each participant in the One Book / One Conference event.

Congratulations to each author whose work was nominated!

It must be awards season…

A number of books you’ve seen on my free books page are up for awards these days:

Finalists for The Word Guild Christian Writing Awards (winners announced at The Word Guild Awards Gala, 17 June, 2009) include:

Cibou, by Susan Young de Biagi: in both Book—General Readership and Novel—Historical categories.

Vengeance, by Donna Dawson: in both Novel—Contemporary and Novel—Mystery/Suspense.

Stories from the anthology Hot Apple Cider are short-listed in seven categories: Article—General Readership (two), Article—Inspirational/Devotional (two), Article—Personal Experience, Article—Profile/Human Interest, and Short Story.

Finalists for the Daphne du Maurier contest (winners announced at the Romance Writers of America National Convention, 16 July, 2009) include:

Suspicious Minds, by Christy Barritt: Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense.

Finalists for the Faith, Hope and Love, RWA Chapter’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest (winners announced at the RWA Conference in July) include:

Shadows at the Window, by Linda Hall: Romantic Suspense

[This one hasn’t been one of my free book offers yet, but Shadows in the Mirror, previous book in the series was.]

Congratulations to these authors and to all the others who are up for these and/or other awards!

Review: Cibou, a novel by Susan Young de Biagi

cibouCibou, by Susan Young de Biagi – Cape Breton University Press, 2008

A 17th century Mi’Kmaq maiden’s life changes as she spends time with two brothers from France: Jesuit missionary Antoine Daniel and his sea-faring brother Charles. French fishermen have traded with this group of natives on the Atlantic shores of what will one day be Canada for perhaps 100 years, and by the time of the novel the French/English power struggle for this part of North America is beginning to affect the indigenous population.

Cibou shows the Mi’Kmaq community’s daily life and observations of the French and English foreigners through the eyes of a young woman named Mouse. Author Susan Young de Biagi depicts the Mi’Kmaq as a people of integrity and spirituality, living in harmony with nature and caring for the less-fortunate among them.

Susan Young de Biagi has given us a well-written story with characters and events that linger after the final page has been turned. I think the best part of this gift is the Mi’Kmaq approach of looking at life – really observing and chewing it over – and finding life lessons to apply. Whatever our culture of origin, as we’ve moved away from the oral tradition we’ve lost the propensity to do this.

This isn’t a novel to rush, nor is it dry and heavy. It flows gently, thoughtfully, and is well worth a second read. One of my favourite characters is the chief, a man who embodies Fr. Antoine’s God’s call to lead through servanthood. The chief is wise and deserves the people’s confidence, but he doesn’t look the part except on formal occasions. His wife complains (with pride) that every time she makes him a thick new robe, he gives it to someone in need.

The author presents Mi’Kmaq spirituality and Antoine’s Christianity with sensitivity, as an integral part of the characters’ lives. She makes no comment, but leaves readers to take – or not – what they will from this as from the rest of the book. As a Christian, I found much to think about.

In a culture where mainstream fiction often portrays Christians’ failings and bad examples, it’s refreshing to see a character who “gets it right.” For those who prefer to see where Christians go awry, there’s a hot-tempered zealot to offset Antoine’s practical love.

A review by Maura Hanrahan in the Catholic Register suggests the novel would have been better served with Antoine as the viewpoint character. I can’t agree.

We see both Antoine’s and Charles’ values more clearly through Mouse’s fresh eyes, and would have missed much of Mi’Kmaq culture if we only saw what a stranger saw. Plus, we’d miss the sometimes-laughable interpretations these gentle people put on what we understand as common practices. (Mouse and her friend, Bright Eyes, for example, are horrified by Antoine’s use of a handkerchief.)

Plus, Antoine would have been too good to be true if we knew him from inside his own head. As might the chief. Characters who are very noble or wise are best presented in small doses lest the reader feel inadequate or preached at. Mouse, with her clear-sighted timidity, makes an ideal observer. She sees, and leaves us to draw our own conclusions.

The same review commented on the stiffness of the Mi’Kmaq dialogue. I have no idea how real 17th century Mi’kmaq spoke among themselves, but to me the dialogue felt natural and flowed well, regardless of its historic authenticity. Instead of stiffness, I heard an older pattern of speech, which helped transport my imagination into the past.

Cibou is Susan Young de Biagi’s first novel. A former Nova Scotian, she resides in British Columbia. Ken Chisholm of the Cape Breton Post reports, “De Biagi is working on her next novel, due in a couple of years, about Alexander Graham Bell and the Silver Dart.” I’ll be looking forward to it.

You can read the first few pages of Cibou here. The novel is in stores now, and available online.