Fortunately, it is not the end of his story. As Maclean’s magazine said of this award-winning book by his son Roy, “Dunc MacGregor will live on by the grace of this vivid and extraordinary book.”
Back in 1929, 22-year old Duncan MacGregor arrived in Algonquin Park, the largest tract of preserved bush in the world, and was, as his son writes, “home for the rest of his life.” Duncan, the son of a lumberman and great-grandson of a voyageur, was a natural in such settings. Here is the true nature of fishing, the harsh reality of raising a family in the woods, the honesty about fear in the bush, and all the nuances of family relationships – especially that most complex one of all between a father and son.
Roy MacGregor is surely at the peak of his form as storyteller in this tale of his father, a quientessential Canadian. The frank familiarity that only a son could share, the wise interpretation of a man’s strengths and shortcomings, the love of another refracted through shared experiences and legendary exploits, are all here in a compelling work that reads as much like a novel as a biography.
In the telling, a rich education awaits the reader – about the rawness and splendor of life in the bush, of the rich treasures a man can store up through reading widely and listening to radio broadcasts of baseball games, and of the courage to tackle any task or journey with willful innocence and steely determination.
However, this beautifully crafted memoir is not only spellbinding for its saga a man’s life, for its “unselfconscious freedom that comes from living apart from town and city.” It is, perhaps for the first time in Canadian literature, a realistic account of how those who live in our country’s totemic wilderness genuinely love it.
Set aside those books of talking animals. Put behind you the precious tomes from effete authors who gild nature with a pastiche of unreality, or those who could only write pioneering accounts that told of how fulsomely they detested the bush. This is real “move over Suzanna Moodie” stuff. As the Group of Seven achieved a breakthrough in painting Canada as it really is, Roy MacGregor has broken out of the old clichés in literature that for too long hobbled understanding of Canada’s bushland reality – and the lives of those who bridge us all to it.
— Review by J. Patrick Boyer