A teenager comes of age amid a period of technological advances and controversy in the first novel in Warren’s Centrewood Cycle.
In the fall of 1957, 13-year-old Lois Michelsen and her family move from their home in Unionville to Centrewood, a model community in Toronto. Lois’ mother wants her to make friends, and she arranges for her to walk to school with another new student. Lois starts having a series of what she calls “waking visions.” While the teenager adjusts to school, her father, Graham, prepares for a milestone in Canadian aviation history. He is the lead engineer for the Avro Arrow, a state-of-the-art supersonic aircraft. While attending the Arrow rollout in Malton, Lois has a series of visions of indigenous people “mouthing sorrow and grief.” Graham is skeptical of these visions, but he investigates her story and discovers a possible connection between it and the land claims of First Nations Mississauga. His search leads the family to a chief and tribal elder who may be able to provide the appropriate insight and history. Warren has crafted a lavishly detailed debut that combines the intimacy of a bildungsroman with the epic sweep of a historical novel. Lois is an appealing, resourceful heroine whose maturation provides the emotional center of a multilayered narrative and well-developed cast. The imagery in some scenes, however, is incongruous with the serious and thoughtful tone of the novel. For example, the muscles of Mitsy’s calves are described as resembling “the knotted rawhide you see in specialty pet food stores for dogs.” But the stories of the Avro Arrow and First Nations Mississauga are well-detailed, and Warren includes a section of photographs and illustrations that depict the layout of Centrewood, the rollout of the Avro Arrow, and key figures in the tribal land claims.
Skillfully weaves together two significant events in Canadian history.