Where I Belong – Alan Doyle

DoyleOn The Cover: Singer-songwriter and front man of the great Canadian band Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle is also a lyrical storyteller and a creative force. In Where I Belong, Alan paints a vivid, raucous and heartwarming portrait of a curious young lad born into the small coastal fishing community of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, and destined to become a renowned musician who carried the musical tradition of generations before him and brought his signature sound to the world. He tells of a childhood surrounded by larger-than-life characters who made an indelible impression on his music and work; of his first job on the wharf cutting out cod tongues for fishermen; of growing up in a family of five in a two-bedroom house with a beef-bucket as a toilet, yet lacking nothing; of learning at his father’s knee how to sing the story of a song and learning from his mother how to simply “be good”; and finally, of how everything he ever learned as a kid prepared him for that pivotal moment when he became part of Great Big Sea and sailed away on what would be the greatest musical adventure of his life.
Filled with the lore and traditions of the East Coast and told in a voice that is at once captivating and refreshingly candid, this is a narrative journey about small-town life, curiosity and creative fulfillment, and finally, about leaving everything you know behind only to learn that no matter where you go, home will always be with you.

Published: 2014

Why I Chose It: As a Great Big Sea fan I was immediately curious about Doyle’s memoir and the tales of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland.

The Review:

In the “Author’s Note” Doyle begins by saying “I am from Newfoundland. Therefore, I am a bit of a story-teller.” (p xiii) By far that is the strength of this book. The style of writing is incredibly easy to read. It seems to flow naturally off of the page, and seems almost elegant. Yet each story remains interesting and funny and entertaining. While not quite linear, the book does make its way from the childhood of Doyle to the creation of Great Big Sea. It is almost as if this book contains many short stories, yet collectively they create the young life of Alan Doyle, and it’s a really enjoyable story.

There is a really great amount of culture held within this book. As the story surrounds a Canadian, but more importantly a Newfoundlander, Doyle properly represents that heritage in his stories. There were many different aspects of life in Petty Harbour, such as working with the fishermen on the wharf, the religious culture, and of course the singing parties. There were also really great pictures capturing the heart of each story. I want to call this book quaint,  simply because I felt immersed in the culture of the coastal Newfoundland town and it was a highly enjoyable experience.

This story focuses on Doyle’s life before Great Big Sea. Doyle joined the band when he was 24, so appropriately this memoir really is about his childhood growing up in Petty Harbour. I really enjoyed the window into Doyle’s childhood, though there were perhaps a few too many stories of a young boy’s curiosity about girls and sex. While I wish there had been more stories about Doyle’s teen life or his involvement in Great Big Sea, I do like how the theme of this book stayed focused on the coastal town, and it was really great hearing about how he learned to sing and play guitar. I would be really interested if Doyle wrote more memoirs about the band or his later years. Definitely check this one out if you’re a fan of Great Big Sea or interested in the cultural life of Atlantic Canada.

Rating: 4 / 5


“We wondered what this man could possibly be doing there in one spot for so long, not lifting or hauling or building anything. He held a long paintbrush in one hand and a flat piece of board in the other, which was dotted with reds and blues and greens. His longer than local hair lifted and fell gently in the spring breeze. As we often did when a new person showed up in town, we came to an unspoken yet unanimous decision that we should throw rocks at him and run up behind the church when he chased us.” p 26

“(Note for Mainlanders: a lobster pound is an onshore holding tank for lobsters, where sea water is pumped in to keep the creatures alive and kicking until they’re sold and moved. I was shocked when my editor told me I had to explain this.)” p 29

“Every now and again, I’d see Sean or his bandmate Darrell Power lurking in the back of one of my gigs, listening to a song or two. Even then, they were pretty well known, so it was hard for them to hide. Bob tells me of how in the dying days of Rankin Street, in 1992, Sean returned to their packed house at Nautical Nellies and whispered to Bob, ‘I just saw the guy we need for our new band. He’s a Doyle from Petty Harbour.'” p 278


Vessel – Sarah Beth Durst

Vessel Book CoverOn The Back: Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe’s deity, who will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her goddess has not come. Her tribe is furious – and sure that it is Liyana’s fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die n the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice – she must die so her tribe can live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate – or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

Why I Chose It: After reading The Legacy Trilogy by Cayla Kluver I wanted to read more of the Harlequin Teen novels – this was first on the list!

The Review:

Right from the beginning of the book I loved Liyana. Here is a girl that, despite not wanting to die, has resigned herself to death for her tribe. She knows that the only way for her goddess Bayla to come to Earth and protect their tribe is for her to give up her body. The book begins on the day that she is supposed to die, and you get to watch her say her goodbyes to everyone that she will never see again. Yet she didn’t hesitate at all before entering into a tribal circle and dancing to summon Bayla, and I really liked her strength.

After being banished Liyana meets Korbyn, and their friendship was quite delightful. I really like the conversations that they have, because you get to learn more about the gods and how they interact. Liyana’s tribe share stories about the gods as lessons, but Korbyn reveals that these stories are based on facts, things that have actually happened among the gods. As someone who loves mythology, hearing stories about a new set of gods was really interesting, and I liked hearing Korbyn tell the stories, while being able to see how Liyana reacts to them.It’s also really interesting because each tribe has a different god that they follow, so as Liyana meets more tribes, different customs are shown and different stories are told. I found it was a very vibrant culture, and I loved that there was a window into the world of the gods to see how they live.

I also really liked the setting for this book. The desert is harsh, but I do find that Liyana sees a beauty in the place that is her home – particularly when she comes back to the desert after being away. Plus there are some pretty interesting critters, like the saltworms, and which were disgusting but cool how they reacted to water. There are also the mystic creatures like sand wolves that Liyana comes across and has to fight for her life against. The wolves were terrifying, but I loved them!

Vessel Cover Close Up

Finally, there’s the magic. The gods have access to magic, and although it’s against the rules, Korybyn teaches Liyana to use the magic too. I liked that the magic wasn’t the main focus of the story, but rather just part of Korbynn’s every day life, and that although Liyana is learning to use it, it does not become the focus of her life but rather a tool she is using to achieve her end goals. I am amazed that Liyana never stops thinking of herself as Bayla’s vessel. Even as her desire to live grows throughout the book, so does her determination to find and restore Bayla. Her inner conflict is huge, but I was so impressed with her strength and determination. This book pretty much has it all; god system, strong culture, magic, interesting landscape, and conflict with other cultures. I would definitely recommend reading it!

Rating: 5 / 5

P.S: I also love that cover! Beautiful!