Review: Acadian Driftwood – One Family and the Great Expulsion

Category: arts 83

Nova Scotia author Tyler LeBlanc’s ‘Acadian Driftwood’ offers a fascinating window into one family’s experience during the Acadian Expulsion.

Cathy Carter

The Acadian Expulsion may be an unlikely choice for a summer read, but Tyler LeBlanc’s Acadian Driftwood was so engaging I blew through it like it was a summer blockbuster. 

LeBlanc didn’t discover his heritage until his twenties. In fact, despite his last name he didn’t even know he was Acadian. When a friend and historian prompted him to begin researching his roots, he set off on a genealogical treasure hunt that eventually allowed him to trace his family back as far as the expulsion. The experience of ten of these relatives, drawn from extensive research on the Acadian experience and firsthand testimony given by his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather forms a compelling book that is both educational and moving. 

It’s easy to forget that the events we read about in history books involved actual people that lived, breathed, and had feelings, just like you and I. LeBlanc’s creative non-fiction approach brings his family members to life and drives home the tragedy of Le Grand Dérangement in a way that conventional historical texts do not. 

Because firsthand documents from the lives of everyday people in that era are so rare, LeBlanc supplements the bare facts of his family’s lives with information drawn from historical documents to convey “the most plausible experience” for each family member. This gives the book the readability and flow of a novel and keeps the reader engaged until the final pages. 

Far more than simply a “good read” though, this book provides an educational account of one of our region’s most horrifying events. Although I had some basic knowledge of what happened, it took reading this book tor me to realize that the expulsion was truly a crime against humanity. Had I been reading a book with a more academic slant, I’m honestly not sure I would have grasped this. 

In his notes at the book’s end, LeBlanc quotes well-known author Eric Larson: “It’s one thing to write Great Man history, quite another to explore the lives of history’s little men.” LeBlanc’s ability to do just that – to focus on the lives of everyday people is what makes this book shine. I’d recommend it to anyone that is interested in learning more about the history of our region and the people who lived here before us. 

Acadian Driftwood is published by Goose Lane Editions

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