Review: Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River

Category: arts 119

“Philip Lee takes readers through calm waters, white rapids and occasional portages to share the many characters and events that have shaped the region’s rich history.”

John Matthews

There is an unfortunate imbalance in historical writing pertaining to New Brunswick’s waterways and coastal regions. Countless books and articles have been written about the Saint John River, the Miramichi River and the Bay of Fundy. These stories of shipwrecks and industry, myths and lore, and the diverse populations whose existence has long been tied directly to the province’s waterways as a source of travel and sustenance have, in many ways, shaped a unique interpretation of New Brunswick, its people and its history. 

In his now famous book, Glimpses of the Past History of the River St. John, first published in 1905, Woodstock-born clergyman W. O. Raymond wrote, “Born and reared upon the banks of the River Saint John, I have always loved it, and have found a charm in the study of everything that pertains to the history of those who have dwelt beside its waters.” 

In his latest book, Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River, author Philip Lee finds common ground in Raymond’s appreciation for his beloved waterway. Driven by a deep love for the region’s people, its history and the stunning natural beauty that is the Restigouche River, Lee takes readers on an epic journey down one of New Brunswick’s most storied waterways to reveal its impact on the region as well as the many ways the region has directly impacted this world renowned river.

Lee is a gifted storyteller. But he is also a biographer, a historian, an environmentalist and a journalist. Each of these influences have helped him to build a captivating narrative, elevating Restigouche from a simple travel memoir to a meticulously detailed document. Using an ambitious canoe trip as the structure for his story, Lee takes readers through calm waters, white rapids and occasional portages to share the many characters and events that have shaped the region’s rich history. The journey is long, deep and involved, but moves with a comfort and confidence rarely found in texts of this complexity. 

Who would have thought a book about a river could be such a page turner? 

Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River was released June 16, 2020 (Goose Lane Editions). 

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