unusual and striking memoir, a coalescing of prose, poetry, found documents and
photographs. In it Mary Oliver
uncovers the life of her father (b. 1904) and ranges
across the history of England and Canada in the twentieth century. Jim left
England in his teens, as a seaman. He travelled to South Africa, stowed away to
Australia and eventually landed in Canada just before the Great Depression. Here
he met his partner Lizbietta in a bookshop in Toronto, but while he was working
as a lumberjack she died in childbirth. Ill and destitute, Jim was declared a
vagrant and his baby daughter was sent to an orphanage. Admitted to a mental hospital
in Ontario Jim was eventually repatriated to England.
Jim met and
married Mary?s mother during the war before serving in North Africa and Italy.
Their marriage was a difficult one and although it endured until Jim died in
1983, his life was dominated by the loss of Lizbietta and their child. Driven
by the prospect of a half-sister, and the enigma of a father she didn?t really
know, Oliver set out to discover the truth behind the family stories and to better