Road’s End–Tales of Tofino

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while: my review of my friend Shirley’s new book. This is the dry, newspaper review; the Tofino Time one is more fun, but it ain’t on-line yet.

Road’s End, Tales of Tofino
— a review

by greg blanchette, Tofino

It has been her labour of both love and obsession for years, and now it’s finally out. Locals will recognize Tofino man-about-town Turtle smiling from the cover, as well as appearing in a couple of the stories within.

Many other locals, past and present, may see themselves in the pages of Road’s End—Tales of Tofino, a new book by Tofino’s own Shirley Langer.

It’s a fun read. Shirley’s got a knack for digging up good stories and telling them. It’s like a lazy walk around town, bumping into people on the sidewalk or eavesdropping on them in a coffee shop.

There are twenty tales in all, on a wide variety of subjects. Some are profiles, some are little adventures. There’s one about a dog and one about a chicken; also beachcombing, latkes, driveways and tsunamis. One is almost an investigative report on the problem of plastic trash in the ocean. Others smack of a sociology text on the town, in which the writer makes note of details that everyone knows but nobody notices.

There are three or four honest pieces about local First Nations, and character sketches aplenty — profiles of locals present and past, living and dead, celebrated and infamous. Plus of course, being the legendarily outspoken Shirley Langer, there’s a rant or two. How could she resist?

Shirley has been compiling this collection for years, chasing the stories down, getting the details right, clearing the stories with the people in them. This may have toned down the spiciness of the tales a little, but it brings them a weight of accuracy and means they aren’t just hearsay, that bane of small-town life. It also means that Shirley can still show her face around town without fear of repercussion.

Shirley got Ucluelet artist Shannon McWhinney to do up a line drawing for each story, and the drawings nicely catch the whimsy in the tales.

Rather than go the traditional (and agonizingly slow) publishing route, Shirley opted to publish the book herself. That turned out to be more work than she first thought, and it’s sad that the book finally came out the very month she packed up and moved away from Tofino. That’s West Coast irony for you.

The book didn’t quite hit the summer tourist season, but by all reports sales have been brisk. At 134 pages, it makes for perfect bedtime (or bathroom) reading. Quirky characters and events are the kind of thing tourists make a small-town pilgrimage for, so the book would be a good Christmas gift for the out-of-town readers on your list.

For now you can get Road’s End—Tales of Tofino at Mermaid Tales Bookshop and Wildside Booksellers, both in Tofino, and at Wild Heather Books in Ucluelet, at a cost of twenty dollars. It’s also available in a few other bookshops around Vancouver Island.

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