CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008
Skye Haverill, the main character of Valerie Sherrard’s Three Million Acres of Flame, is a young girl whose entire world seems to be falling apart. Her father has remarried after only a year of widowhood, and her new stepmother, Hannah, has also brought a son into the marriage. Skye is determined to dislike the new members of the family and is especially dismayed when she discovers that Hannah is expecting a baby. Skye is rather unfair to Hannah, but she is a child who is hurting and missing her mother. Nothing though has prepared Skye for the losses she and the rest of the townspeople will face when a wild forest fire sweeps through the town and destroys everything. Through Skye, the reader experiences the terror of the fire, the desperation of their flight and the struggle to survive and rebuild. The story is one of faith and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
With the story based on real events and steeped in fine details, the reader is treated to a very plausible picture of a great Canadian natural disaster that occurred on October 7, 1825. Once again, Sherrard has perfectly captured the voice of the child. Skye is a wonderful and naïve narrator who believes that nothing can be worse than having a new mother and brother. At the beginning of the story, she seems so young, but she is forced to grow up in the wake of the devastating fire that destroys the entire town and takes so many lives. Sherrard is so good at telling the story from the child’s point of view with all the immature emotions and thoughts that entails. As always, the details are painstaking and, therefore, bring the story to life. From taking charity from strangers to living in root cellars as the town rebuilds, every event in the novel is wonderfully crafted. The only time the novel falters is when the reader is given a broader view of how a particular event will affect later history. But, for the most part, Sherrard uses footnotes to add in historical details, and, therefore, the flow of the book is relatively uninterrupted. Three Million Acres of Flame is definite a good solid read.
Ruth Sands is a freelance writer from Vancouver, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.