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Causeway: A Passage from Innocence

by Linden MacIntyre

Though he is one of Canada’s best-known broadcast journalists for his award-winning investigative work on CBC’s the fifth estate, Linden MacIntyre has plenty of the Irish storyteller in him.

Causeway is MacIntyre’s abbreviated autobiography, focusing mostly on his pre-teen and early teen years between 1952 and ’57, the former marking the beginning of construction on the causeway that eventually connected Cape Breton Island to the Nova Scotia mainland across the Strait of Canso, not far from the village of Port Hastings, where the Newfoundland-born author grew up.

MacIntyre came of age in an exciting time. The causeway promised to bring wealth and jobs to the region and maybe one day allow MacIntyre’s father, who worked as a hard-rock miner, to be home more often. The MacIntyre family was always an unfortunate event or two away from poverty, and the only son in the family had a difficult time coming to grips with the economic imperatives of life, how “getting by” and “making a living” meant being separated from his father.

MacIntyre has an excellent sense of the connection – and often the disconnection – between boys and their fathers. Dan Rory MacIntyre’s presence was marked mostly by his absence. But even when the father was in the room, young Linden often felt as if his father was not there, his mind elsewhere. Questions often go unasked; when they are asked, the father’s answers are often cryptic and inscrutable.

This is a moving account of a young boy’s questions about the world and the answers that help him get to know himself: What is home? Is it where you were born? Is it a concept in your head? Or is it only where you get your mail?

There is a poignancy and melancholy here that is common in Maritime literature. MacIntyre’s novelistic style and the stories of men, dogs, work, mining, liquor, church, politics, and fate are reminiscent of No Great Mischief, by another Cape Bretoner, Alistair MacLeod.