The problem here isn't that McKay's motive isn't clear, it's that his "teaching" frequently interferes with his story. The story of an English settler in the early days of Newfoundland trying to escape from the French, it has potential to be a thrilling tale. However, too often I could sense the author's presence. Historical facts (if they are facts), are worked awkwardly into the narrative and distract from the action. For example, when Abel is off to warn Captain Daniels about a French invasion, he comes across a creek:
At this point the channel was little more than a creek which threaded its way through marshy bogs which would one hundred years later provide perfect spots of forage for moose. In 1814 moose were as alien to the Newfoundland landscape as snakes.Flashing forward to educate readers about moose in Newfoundland's future is not only irrelevant to the story, it completely removes the connection to Abel, who most certainly wouldn't be making predictions about the success of imported moose.
At it's heart, "Abel Clarke; At Sea in a River Boat" has potential to be a great man versus nature survival story, akin to a Jack London style tale, but it's too bogged down with historical awareness-- even though we were promised that wouldn't be the case.
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