Field Notes, subtitled A City Girl’s Search for Hearth and Home in Rural Nova Scotia—delivers 42 essays, including the introduction titled “One hundred thousand welcomes.” That pretty wells sets the tone for the rest of the book. Reading this collection of stories is like stepping into the author’s kitchen and being greeted with a grin and a big cup of tea. Pull up a chair and sit for awhile.
Early on you’ll learn that in the late 1990’s Jewell had been living in Vancouver. In 2001, when her husband informed her that he no longer wanted to be married, she didn’t call a lawyer, talk to her minister or even tell her best friend. “My first thought—and only plan—was go to Pugwash.” Deep down the author knew that what she had hoped to find on the West Coast simply wasn’t there. “I was on the wrong side of the country.”
At age 32, Jewell heads to Nova Scotia, ostensibly to care for her parents and pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Before long, she falls in love with the area surrounding Pugwash Point Road (her parent’s summer home); she also agrees to go on a blind date. Eventually, she also falls in love with this guy, Dwayne Mattinson, a man with deep rural roots.
What some readers may find annoying is that the book does not roll out in chronological form. Rather, stories (essays) are grouped according to four main themes. The upside is that readers are not stuck in a particular year (or even a particular place.) It’s a book that’s easy to pick up and put down as each essay is a complete short story with a beginning, middle and end. Some are simple; others are complex. But each story has some universal truth that helps us look at ourselves and measure our own humanity—in rural Maritime terms, not big city terms. Bonus: readers learn the difference between the two—and are richer for it.