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In 1966, when his parents abandoned their suburban Toronto split-level to buy Green Acres, a cottage and trailer resort in Ontario's Kawartha Lakes region, eleven-year-old Linwood Barclay's life took an unexpected turn.
No more rec-room train sets. Now Linwood was hauling fish guts to the woods for burial, answering distress calls from women in the ladies' room who found themselves without toilet paper, and standing in leaky chest-waders pounding dock posts into the lake bottom.
The chores weren't so bad, especially when he could help his father, who had been a commercial artist before he bought his way into the tourist business. And in other ways, it was a good life for a boy. He had wheels (a John Deere riding mower), a small aluminum boat with a 9.5-horsepower outboard and only one speed (fast), and Chipper, a dog that chased boats the way other dogs chase cars, sometimes with catastrophically comic results. Linwood also had access to The Chart, a cottage reservations list that was, for him, a guide to the arrivals and departures of the guests' teenaged daughters. Summer romances could be as intense as they were heartbreaking.
When he was sixteen, an unexpected tragedy changed Linwood's life again. His older brother, Rett, helped out as best he could, but he was wrestling with demons of his own - often withdrawing into his own complicated inner world. Linwood found an extended family in the resort's guests, who lent him a hand, and shaped him into the man he would become.
His mother's eccentricities (she quit driving to shame the police for having given her a ticket) made Linwood's new responsibilities heavier than they might otherwise have been. When he finally decided to move away from Green Acres to make a separate life, she made it as difficult as possible for him.
In the midst of all this, Linwood found his vocation, and mentors, too, in Margaret Laurence, and in Kenneth Millar, who (under the pen name Ross MacDonald) wrote a highly successful series of detective novels.
In this memoir, Linwood Barclay looks back with humour, sadness, and affection on the singular circumstances of his coming of age.