Married coauthors Cruise and Griffiths, who have written several nonfiction books about Canada, tell the history of Vancouver from 16,000 years ago to the present in this ambitious, deeply imagined novel. In 12 parts, 12 protagonists make their ways in the region, from Manto, a boy of the peaceful Yupick tribe who settles in the area with his Tlingit wife in 13,811 B.C., to Ellie Nesbitt, a young woman ...dreaming of escape in 2003. In between these two stories, the authors loosely link 10 other tales: of Gistula, in A.D. 212, who fights to stay with her family rather than become a whaler's bride; of Soon Chong, a Chinese immigrant in search of gold in 1844; of the changing fortunes of Konrad von Shaumberg in the early 20th century. Though the authors offer much in the way of background information-they cover, for instance, primitive fishing strategies, climate change and mining techniques-they never lose sight of the human story. The contrast between the epic history and the individual stories of the authors' finely drawn characters moves the narrative forward; it leaps over millennia in a sentence and then stops to reveal the thoughts of a marooned Russian explorer. Despite the book's length, the story is surprisingly of a piece, as these singular tales-connected sometimes by related characters and sometimes simply by geography or rumor-weave together to recount the saga of a city and its people.
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