The best books about families and growing up in rural British Columbia

Who am I?

I grew up in a rural community and have lived most of my adult life in a small city in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. I’m fascinated with West Coast culture, particularly the Canadian version of it, which is connected to the environment and outdoors, shaped by more recent immigration and its sense of distance and disconnect from the country’s capital and economic and social centres, and informed by a more gentle climate. Rural west coast culture is especially rich in iconoclasts, those who live outside the norm, and I’ve explored these sorts of characters in all four of my novels and my short story collection.


I wrote...

What Is Going to Happen Next

By Karen Hofmann,

Book cover of What Is Going to Happen Next

What is my book about?

Karen Hofmann’s empathetic and cathartic novel pieces together the lives of five young members of the Lund family following their dispersal after the loss of their parents in the remote BC community of Butterfly Lake. It explores the siblings’ self-doubts and aspirations in the ways they cope with their separation and reunion through work and personal relationships, and reveals the ways in which their past is filtered through memory and desire. The characters mature and create a chosen family against a backdrop rich in tenderly and wryly observed detail.

The books I picked & why

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Astra: A Novel

By Cedar Bowers,

Book cover of Astra: A Novel

Why this book?

I liked this book for its rural BC setting and its detailed, insightful depiction of West Coast lifestyles and culture, as well as its multiple perspectives and voices. Astra Brine, who grows up on a remote farm commune on Galiano Island, is seen through the eyes of the people who know her, and through the filters of their own lives. The ten interconnected stories explore the beauties of West Coast individuality and iconoclasm, as well as the pain and tenderness of connection.

Astra: A Novel

By Cedar Bowers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Astra as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Little Fortress

By Laisha Rosnau,

Book cover of Little Fortress

Why this book?

Laisha Rosnau is a prize-winning poet, and her literary skills shine in this novel about a noble Italian family, the Caetanis, who immigrate from Italy to Vernon, BC to escape the rise of fascism. Based on a true story, this intricate novel explores the bonds of family and friendship, the contrasts in class and changing times, and the hardships and beauties of life in a rural area through the lives of three women. I was captivated by the characters and the gorgeous, insightful writing. Ofelia and Sveva Caetani and their personal secretary, Miss Juul, will stay with you forever as women creating home and family in the face of exile, loss, and sweeping change.

Little Fortress

By Laisha Rosnau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Little Fortress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on the true story of the Caetanis, Italian nobility driven into exile by the rise of fascism, the long-awaited second novel by award-winning author Laisha Rosnau follows this once glittering family to British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. When Ofelia Caetani takes her daughter, Sveva, into seclusion after the death of the duke, they are cared for by their personal secretary, Miss Jüül, who brings her own secrets to their twenty-five-year retreat from the world. As the stories of these three remarkable women unfurl in unexpected and often tragic ways, Little Fortress is revealed as a graceful and intricate tale of…


The Tree Whisperer: Writing Poetry by Living in the World

By Harold Rhenisch,

Book cover of The Tree Whisperer: Writing Poetry by Living in the World

Why this book?

I loved this book for the beauty of the prose and for Harold Rhenisch’s inimitable voice, his language, his wit, his eye for detail. Rhenisch has published many books of poetry and non-fiction about the BC Interior, and it’s difficult to choose just one. I liked this, a study of the apple and the rose, of pruning trees, of BC Interior orcharding, of a unique lifestyle and culture, and of life and living. Rhenisch is one of the best Canadian writers and should be more well-known.  

The Tree Whisperer: Writing Poetry by Living in the World

By Harold Rhenisch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tree Whisperer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Sisters of Grass

By Theresa Kishkan,

Book cover of Sisters of Grass

Why this book?

There’s so much to love about this book: the language, the location, the history, the characters. Anna, a young woman who is creating an exhibit on textiles from 19th-century Interior BC, discovers a box of the personal effects of a woman who lived decades before. Margaret is the daughter of an Aboriginal mother and a settler father. Kishkan recreates the unique beauty of the South Cariboo/Nicola valley landscape as a backdrop to this intricately woven story of family, friendship, love—and train robbers.

Sisters of Grass

By Theresa Kishkan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sisters of Grass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her vibrant first novel, Sisters of Grass, Theresa Kishkan weaves a tapestry of the senses through the touchstones of a young woman's life. Anna is preparing an exhibit of textiles reflecting life in central British Columbia a century ago. In a forgotten corner of a museum, she discovers a dusty cardboard box containing the century-old personal effects of a Nicola valley woman. Fascinated by the artifacts, she reconstructs the story of their owner, Margaret Stuart. Margaret, the daughter of a Native mother and a Scottish-American father, she tries to fit into both worlds. She's taught photography by a visiting…


Greenwood

By Michael Christie,

Book cover of Greenwood

Why this book?

I love generational sagas, and this novel explores several generations of the Greenwood family, from the 1930s into the future. Set primarily on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia, Greenwood explores the passions and bonds and stories that arc through families, as well as the fate and interconnectedness of the West Coast forests, their destroyers and their preservers. The novel reminded me of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and of Richard Powers’ The Overstory, and maybe speaks even more truly and uniquely. Michael Christie is an insightful and gifted storyteller.

Greenwood

By Michael Christie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Greenwood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The truth is that all family lines, from the highest to the lowest, originate somewhere, on some particular day. Even the grandest trees must've once been seeds spun helpless on the wind, and then just meek saplings nosing up from the soil.'

2038. On a remote island off the Pacific coast of British Columbia stands the Greenwood Arboreal Cathedral, one of the world's last forests. Wealthy tourists flock from all corners of the dust-choked globe to see the spectacle and remember what once was. But even as they breathe in the fresh air and pose for photographs amidst the greenery,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in British Columbia, trees, and the United Kingdom?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about British Columbia, trees, and the United Kingdom.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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