The famed Miramichi River—Wayne Curtis’ boyhood milieu and part-time residence to this day—usually provides the setting for his expansive literary output. Its landscapes and inhabitants are Curtis’ regular canvas. The author portrays both the glorious beauty of the surroundings, andtheunrelenting hardships of living in an impoverished rural locale, with understanding, acceptance and a finely developed eye.
The 13 stories of Winter Roads offer different interpretations of this duality. Curtis vividly recalls the past using an array of emotions and insights. At the heart of many of these works is a sense of melancholic longing for an alteration of past actions/circumstances. Protagonists rarely experience a more rewarding outcome. Reminiscence and regret are explored through backward glances at missed opportunities and unfulfilled dreams and aspirations.
Three of the stories are linked. They tellingly examine a couple at various stages of their enjoined and then separated lives.
First, they are returning to the narrator’s home town as youthful lovebirds. Later, the marriage has withered and the dreams of the narrator to refurbish his family home are dashed. His estranged wife lives there while he is exiled to a city apartment.
Finally, after decades away, he returns to ponder and consider his life while visiting the now derelict house.
Always, the ever-present beauty of the natural world is minutely, lovingly described by Curtis. Several of the stories have a singular, simple activity—burning potato stalks, picking apples, sleigh-riding at Christmas—as their basis. Curtis imbues them with a finely observed immediacy of nature and simultaneously, the humanity of those involved.
All his stories lay bare the souls of those who call the Miramichi home. They are regretful, unfulfilled, memory-laden and wistful in their telling.
Curtis’ obvious love for the place and the people shines through, sometimes shaded in nostalgia, sometimes burdened and often bloodied by life. But ultimately unbowed.