COLUMN: Have map will travel

Write what you know becomes write where you know with the Toronto Public Library’s Reading Map.

Write what you know becomes write where you know with the Toronto Public Library’s Reading Map.

In an innovative new initiative, TPL has set out to map novels set in the Toronto area, browsable by neighbourhood (O Yorkville! O Etobicoke!) to find Ray Robertson’s Moody Food, Joy Fielding’s Lost, Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, or Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin.

From Kensington Market’s Courage My Love by Sarah Dearing to Cabbagetown’s Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, Toronto comes to life through the novels set on its streets.

The map is interactive, and growing.

Great novels are set all over Canada — including the Kootenays. So why not start our own fiction mapping project?

It’s a little challenging: unlike Big City authors, who clearly set their novels in New York or London, Montreal or Toronto, rural Canadian writers will rename their locations, presumably to protect the innocent—or the guilty.

It’s a smaller world after all.

Up front or thinly disguised, here are a few titles set right here.

Antonia Banyard’s Never Going Back is clearly set in Nelson as it tells the story of a group of friends returning for a memorial — and the recognition of some long-held secrets.

The stories in D. W. Wilson’s Once You Break a Knuckle are all set around and about here, as are about half the stories in Tom Wayman’s Boundary Country.

And The Kootenay Kidnapper by children’s author Eric Wilson describes an abduction at the Chahko Mika Mall.

In the mystery novels In the Shadow of the Glacier and Valley of the Lost, Vicki Delany renames Nelson “Trafalgar”.

Other re-names of familiar places include Deryn Collier’s whodunits Confined Space and Open Secret, set in Creston-like “Kootenay Landing,” and Holley Rubinsky’s Beyond this Point, set in Kaslo-like “Ruth.”

The smelter town of Grace River in Rebecca Hendry’s novel of the same name  is the stand-in for — can you guess? — Trail!

Angie Abdou’s The Canterbury Trail sets a tale of weekend adventurers confronting the wilderness and their own shortcomings  in Coalton—clearly Fernie. And yours truly set Treading Water in “Bear Creek”, but Renata — a once-flourishing community on the Arrow Lakes — is the inspiration.

Of course there are more and you may know them!

Email me at with your Kootenay-set novels (fiction only for now), and let the mapping begin!

Or better yet, go to our Facebook page (search for Nelson Public Library), see the list grow, and add your own. We’ll do something cool around this for Library Month in October (stay tuned).

Of course, there are plenty of non-fiction books that are also about our area.

Local histories and regional books are tremendously important to our understanding of our history, communities, and culture.

They may delve into the past (Rita Moir’s The Third Crop, John Norris’s Historic Nelson, Sylvia Crooks’s Homefront and Battlefront), involve memoirs (Blue Valley by Luanne Armstrong) or current affairs (In the Path of an Avalanche by Vivien Bowers), or even humour (Creston author Dave Perrin’s Don’t Turn Your Back in the Barn, Sparwood author Bobby Hutchinson’s Blue Collar B&B).

Hutchinson, by the way, is a One Book, One Kootenay shortlist author with her hilarious Blue Collar B&B: Adventures in Hospitality.

Find out what happens when a marathon-running, romance-writing, feisty entrepreneur opens a B&B in Sparwood — and lives to tell the tale — at a special OBOK shortlist reading on Tuesday, June 17 at 7 p.m. at the library.

In the Kootenays we’re blessed with books, writers, and a brilliant setting. We’ve got the compass, and we’re working on the map. And here, the plot thickens.

— Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to

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