Great Lakes/Great Books is a monthly discussion group of books that have a focus on the Great Lakes or on water in general. Works of fiction, nonfiction, and more are discussed both in-person and virtually. This month’s selection is Voyageurs: A Novel by Margaret Elphinstone.
Mark Greenhow, a naive and peaceful Quaker, lands on the shores of North American on the eve of the War of 1812, thinking only of finding the missing sister, a missionary whose adventurous spirit he has always admired. His pursuit begins by hitching a ride with the voyageurs who have canoed the rivers, transporting the tons of furs that feed the trade that has made the region a battleground of the French and British empires. Though Mark enters this brave new world with his conscience clean and his convictions sound, his encounters with a place and people he never could have imagined test his rigid upbringing. The backwoods of Canada have certainly led his sister astray; she has been excommunicated from the Society of Friends for running off with a non-Quaker. After her child is stillborn she runs again, deep into Indian country. On this increasingly desperate search, Mark finds himself among spies and domestic warriors, displaced natives, infidels, and the pious each engaged in their own battles to maintain their particular way of life.