Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Unforgiving Tides by Ross Pennie, reviewed by Karen Payton


A while back, I attended a workshop about writing memoirs. I met a writer named Ross Pennie who shared his personal story of being a young, Canadian doctor on the remote island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. In his book, The Unforgiving Tides, Pennie documents the two years he spent on the island as a volunteer with CUSO helping to cure and heal the varied ailments of the local Indigenous peoples.

Based in the remote village of Kokopo, Pennie provided medical care at a Catholic Mission hospital and worked under the severe and ever-present eye of a German nun named Sister Permina. Working with only the barest of medical essentials, and competing with island voodoo and bush medicine, Pennie attempted to administer medical care to both a gentle and, at times, violent and cannibalistic peoples.

Ross Pennie
Pennie’s writing is filled with description creating vivid images that allow you to join him in the hospital operating room or on a jungle trek to track down a source of typhoid fever. He laments the pain of losing patients (particularly children) and openly shares his frustration with hisattempts to provide even basic medical care in a primitive environment.

The memoir ends leaving the reader hanging—until you read the epilogue written by Pennie’s son. This felt like an awkward shift in narration at first, but the epilogue provides closure and points to a sense of serendipity in our world. I was left just a little bit awestruck.

A recommended read if:
·         You like creative, non-fiction
·         You have considered doing international volunteer work
·         You’re at all interested in different and remote cultures

Note: Ross Pennie will be the guest speaker at a Writing Your Life and Other True Stories workshop, Saturday, June 23, in Mississauga. Details here.

Karen Payton is a freelance editor and writer. The majority of her time is spent editing non-fiction and business publications but she does manage to carve out some time for creative writing...and lots of reading! You can follow Karen on Twitter here.
This review was originally posted on Karen’s blog: The Two Minute Book Blog. Check it out here.

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Cambridge, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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