Maureen Potts, Ph.D., native of Toronto, Canada, and English faculty member at the University of Texas at El Paso, has written an account of her family’s 30-year relationship with the summer cottage they built and enjoyed on Badgerow Island in Lake Muskoka, one of a handful of lakes east of the Georgian Bay in Ontario. She covers the time in anecdote and summary, focusing on the ways that summers on Badgerow Island taught her family self-reliance and cooperation.
Potts leaps from memory to memory — from building a dock that was angled precariously toward oncoming storms to the routines five siblings negotiated to survive the small cottage space without electricity or hot water (by the late 1960’s they had both). Sometimes, she sprinkles in written recollections from her mother, brothers and nephews.
In fact, this has the feel of a transcribed oral history, with occasional commentary on the regional history of the area, as well as an intriguing academic digression about how one playful game featuring the Lord of Misrule paralleled the ancients’ ritual of Saturnalia. Potts goes on to suggest that the game was representative of what all vacationers found at Lake Muskoka: an ‘”ordered chaos” that provided a complement to structured city life.
The foreword introduces a wayward leaning pine tree at the edge of their island property that grew to an “undeserved height” despite the rocky soil, thanks to her mother’s constant attention and care. She names it the “stunning metaphor” of life on Badgerow Island, and though she never returns to the tree, Potts’ anecdotes illuminate the concept.
A few typos, awkward transitions, and repetitive phrases, such as “I had my own suspicions,” distract from text. But overall, this is a quick, charming read about a time when families used primitive summer vacations to build togetherness and self reliance—as well as daily honesty and humor. It will appeal to anyone interested in lighthearted family stories and the vacationing history of the Ontario region.
BlueInk Head’s-Up: Local librarians in the municipality of Muskoka, Ontario, Canada may want to stock this title, as it provides a nice summary overview of land development of the area.
Regional interest: Lake Muskoka/Ontario, Canada
Also available in hardcover and ebook.