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A Journey Unfolds Across Canada - an Editorial Review of "Grande"

Book Blurb: Coming Soon

Book Buy Link: Coming Soon

Author Bio: Coming Soon

Editorial Review:

Grande by Darren Jerome follows two brothers, Hugh and Richard Brislin, on a

journey along Canada’s Grande river in the early 1800s. Along this journey, we learn more

about the brothers’ past, present, and uncertain future.

The story opens with the brothers on the road, and throughout a series of reflections along the

way we find out that they are leaving Bytown and heading west to escape a dangerous

situation. Richard is injured, and it has affected him mentally as well as physically. Hugh is his

caretaker, and holds himself responsible for their safety and wellbeing.

Grande is not told linearly, but rather through a series of flashbacks and reflections.

It is written in third person, and told primarily from Hugh’s perspective. It is through these

flashbacks that the brothers’ past is revealed. Richard was a member of a group called The

Shriners, who have since become outlaws, before his life-changing injury. Hugh is very

protective of him, and is hoping to outrun their past by moving them to the farm of the sister of

their savior, Mrs. Digby.

Consumed by the message, he’d lay awake all night, at some point making up his mind

to go and visit Francis Apple at his office and plead for mercy. He would explain his

brother’s condition. How he no longer posed a threat to anyone. He would invite him to

meet with and speak to Richard. It would be obvious to any, Francis Apple included, this

new Richard bore no resemblance to the man who had once tried to murder the newly-

minted magistrate’s father-in-law. He’d told Mrs. Digby of his plan, asking if she might

look in on Richard while he was away. How she’d stared at him before speaking her

words of wisdom in her usual gruff fashion. Hugh Brislin, she’d said. Have you lost your

goddamn mind?

The sister does agree to take them in, on a trial basis at least, but the brothers’ troubles are not

over. Richard is still strong despite the injury, so he chops wood and removes tree stumps to

earn his keep. Hugh had worked in a tavern previously, so Mrs. Digby allows him to cook,

clean, and tend to the vegetable garden for his share of their board. Hugh is very grateful for

the work and shelter, but finds himself trying to care for Richard and protect him from the other

farm hands, particularly the foreman Christopher Corrigan. Christopher is cruel to both

brothers, and eventually causes them to be fired and asked to leave Mrs. Digby’s farm.

The characters in Grande are well-developed, and we get to know them through

the events that unfold as well as through the reflections into the past. As the story progresses,

we learn more and more about the complex relationship between Hugh and Richard, and see

different facets of each man’s personality. There are also glimpses into the pasts of the other

characters, which explain some of the actions they take within the story. A man referred to as

the Minister helps Hugh come to terms with his and his brother’s situation, and also sheds some insight on Mrs. Digby:

We all have our burdens, my son. Even the strongest among us. Do you know,” he said,

the story behind the little willow tree you are not to touch? The one at the edge of the

garden?”... “I first met the Missus when I was asked to bless the tree for the sake of her

only family,” he said... “Poor infant,” he said. “Born small on the day after the ship left

Manchester on its way. Our Missus was travelling with her sister but was also with child.

She gave birth onboard, but the poor infant was weak and passed the next day. She did

not give him up, and told no one, committed as she was that he would receive a proper

burial. Imagine that. Carrying him wrapped and hidden for the duration of the trip. This

would have been a burial at sea, you see, had she been found out. Just imagine,” he

repeated. “The child was buried when the ship landed, but she kept the tiny shawl she’d

wrapped him in until the garment could be laid to rest close to wherever she settled. And

so we had a service. It was a sad moment of course. But there was a strength and

determination as well, no doubt partly borne of this tragedy.” The cart continued to roll

and was approaching the garden. “We’re all shaped by our struggles,” the Minister said.

Perhaps our greatest gift, or curse for that matter, is our capacity to endure. No matter

how they seem at first.”

There are a few loose ends throughout the story that do not get fully resolved. For example,

Hugh mentions his sister Eileen a few times, and alludes to her passing away as the cause for

Richard attacking Mr. Apple’s father-in-law, which in turn causes them to have to flee Bytown.

We never get the full story of what happened though, and there is no resolution other than Hugh and Richard running away.

The book’s conclusion is a bit open-ended, with the brothers back on the road after being fired

from Mrs. Digby’s farm. There is a bit of a role reversal though, with Richard seeming to take

charge of their journey and echoing an instruction that Hugh issued to him in the beginning. I

think we are to take away from this that Richard is a bit more capable than Hugh had previously thought, and hopefully things will turn out all right for them. I personally find the ending to be just a little disappointing, because after traveling so far with them and getting to know them so well I would like to know for sure what happens to the Brislins.

Richard had already turned away and was taking long, purposeful strides down the path.

Hugh struggled to match his brother’s pace, drained as he was by the evening’s

debauchery and his own muddled head. The gap between the two began to widen.

Keep up, Hugh!” Richard called back, smiling over his shoulder. “Choimeád ar bun!”


“Grande” by Darren Jerome receives 3.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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