By Wendy Elliott
Twenty-six is the book to read right now in this province. Leo McKay Jr.’s novel was selected for an inaugural reading campaign.
The Valley launch for One Book Nova Scotia was held at the Wolfville Library Sept. 21.
Deputy Mayor David Mangle officially unwrapped the novel and Annapolis Valley Regional Library chairwoman Shirley Pineo explained the concept.
“We’re hoping this leads to a more literate community,” she said. “One that is passionate about reading.”
Pineo, who represents West Hants on the regional library board, said the Nova Scotia model involves universities and the Nova Scotia Community College. Planning for the program began a year ago.
Regional librarian Frances Newman chaired the steering committee for One Book Nova Scotia. She has said the program offers opportunities for dialogue, for community development and social interaction. One Book Nova Scotia also supports lifelong learning.
The committee sought a living Canadian author’s book that would appeal to a broad cross section of readers. In some ways, Newman said, they were looking for a hidden gem that all Nova Scotians should read.
McKay’s novel is available through library branches and as an ebook. McKay will be giving 12 public readings during October, including one in Middleton on Oct. 16. The program time line wraps up on Nov. 9. The One Book movement began in 1998 out of Seattle Public Library. This is the first time it has been carried out on a province-wide basis in Nova Scotia.
A Nova Scotian author
Leo McKay Jr. grew up in Pictou County in a miner’s house. His father worked for the Labour Federation. His novel concerns the infamous 1992 Westray mining disaster that killed 26 miners.
Published in 2003, Twenty-six achieved bestseller status and won the Dartmouth Book Award. McKay, who is now in his 40s, says the book is about memory.
However, the characters in Twenty-six are all fictional. The mine is called Eastyard, not Westray, and it is located in Albion Mines, not Stellarton. McKay drew on his own memories of growing up in a county where the miners’ memorial has more names on it than the war memorial.
McKay, who has three children, teaches high school in Truro. He has a second novel soon to be released.