Muskoka by-the-Book

Reviews by J. Patrick Boyer

One of the rewarding ways to discover Muskoka is reading books set in or written about this legendary district. Like a line-up of good friends, Muskoka books are patiently waiting to share information and entertain you with great stories.

Our bibliography lists hundreds of them. Our online bookstore has dozens. The reviews below, written by Muskoka author and historian J. Patrick Boyer, highlight many.

Making His Muskoka Boyhood into a Universal Story

Raisin Wine: A Boyhood in a Different Muskoka –James Bartleman
Out of Muskoka –James Bartleman

For Jim Bartleman, growing up in Port Carling after World War II was to live in one village but inhabit many worlds.

For openers, there was the aboriginal community of his mother and her relatives, the Caucasian universe of his hard-working father and his wine-drinking philosopher friends. Even within these dual spheres, the boy encountered many additional worlds.

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From Oka to Muskoka:
the “Special Case” of Wahta Mohawks

An Indian Odyssey
Tribulations, Trials, and Triumphs of Gibson Band of the Mohawk Tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy
–Sylvia DuVernet

Wahta Mohawks of west Muskoka were not included in John W. Grant's1984 book Moon of Wintertime because, its author believed, in a general account of the aboriginal-Christian encounter, "they were a special case."

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Remembering the Saga of Wahta Mohawks

A History of the Wahta Mohawk Community
–Wahta Mohawks

For seven thousand years aboriginal peoples, primarily identified today as Ojibwa, travelled through and lived in the territory that would become known as "Muskoka" after Chief Musqua-Ukee. When we think about early Canadian history and European settlement, the idea invariably is that aboriginals were here first, back through "the mists of time" and millennia of unrecorded history, truly the country's "first nations."

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Coming of Age in Muskoka includes First Nations Tales

The Roads to Go Home Lake –Christina Kilbourne
Where Lives Take Root –Christina Kilbourne

Rites of passage from youth to adulthood, a universal theme in literature, feature in many "coming of age" books set in Muskoka.

For Muskokans who grew into adulthood here, the most compelling of works in this genre are those informed by the local point of view. There is the reassurance of self-recognition in John Ibbitson's The Landing, drawn with poignancy from his youth in Gravenhurst, or Jim Bartleman's fictional memoir Raisin Wine, chronicling his rites of passage as a Port Carling youngster, or even Gregor Robinson's novel Providence Island set in the Milford Bay area whose protagonist Ray Carrier is a hybrid of outsider and local.

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