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Armchair Book Club: Still something to learn
Review by Heather Allen
I grew up in the valley, and thought I knew this corner of the world pretty well. But, it turns out I had something to learn from a couple of Americans. I’ve been humbled by the knowledge of Oroville author Arnie Marchand, who has an entirely different and deeper understanding of this land. Marchand shares a collection of facts, photos and stories about the Okanagan in his new book The Way I Heard It: A Three Nation Reading Vacation.
Marchand has roots up and down the Okanagan. Even though we’re separated by a border, we have strong connections to the small towns just to our south. One of my favourite road trips is to follow the Okanagan River to the Columbia past all the places and people who share this basic resource. Because The Way I Heard It is loosely organized as a trip from Wenatchee north to Enderby, my drive will be greatly enhanced by having Marchand’s book in hand.
Along the route, Marchand recounts stories from each town site, and seems to have a story for every bend in the river, every canyon, even every rock. He retells stories from his family, his elders, and from material — such as an excerpt from General William Sherman’s diary as he passed through Keremeos – found while digging through museums.
Marchand’s style is warm and humorous. To be sure, the book has its fair share of typos and formatting mistakes, but they don’t interfere greatly with the content. This book has information — such as the back story of the Hee-Hee Stone in Wenatchee, or childhood stories of self-made Chief Tonasket.
A second book with local content, but not written by a local, is Lessons of the Lost by Scott C. Hammond. Hammond is a writer, professor, and along with his dog, is a search and rescue volunteer from Utah. In Lessons of the Lost, Hammond recounts several rescue missions and at the same time explores why people became lost, and how they are found.
Of particular interest, Hammond includes a chapter about Pentictonite Rita Chretien, who along with her husband, Al, became lost in the Nevada wilderness in 2011. Hammond thoughtfully and compassionately describes Rita’s 49-day ordeal as she waited to be rescued from her mud-mired van.
Lessons of the Lost is well-written, yet haunting. I had difficulty sleeping after reading such vividly recounted stories – whether they ended tragically as for Al Chretien, or in a successful rescue.
Heather Allen is a writer and reader living in Penticton.