The Island Walkers

A Novel

John Bemrose

Metropolitan Books

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A powerful first novel about a family that slips from fortune’s favor and a town broken by the forces of modernity

Across a bend of Ontario’s Attawan River lies the Island, a working-class neighborhood of whitewashed houses and vine-freighted fences, black willows and decaying sheds. Here, for generations, the Walkers have lived among the other mill workers.

The family’s troubles begin in the summer of 1965, when a union organizer comes to town and Alf Walker is forced to choose between loyalty to his friends at the mill and advancement up the company ranks. Alf’s worries are aggravated by his wife, Margaret, who has never reconciled her middle-class English upbringing to her blue-collar reality. As the summer passes, Joe, their son, is also forced to reckon with his family’s standing when he falls headlong for a beautiful newcomer on a bridge—a girl far beyond him, with greater experience and broader horizons. As the threat of mill closures looms, the Walkers grapple with their personal crises, just as the rest of the town fights to protect its way of life amid the risks of unionization and the harsh demands of corporate power.

Superbly crafted and deeply moving, this remarkable debut follows the Walkers to the very bottom of their night only to confirm, in the end, life’s ultimate hopefulness. The Island Walkers is at once a love letter to a place, a gripping family saga, and a testimony to the emergence of an important new novelist.

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rom The Island Walkers:

She sat in the first desk of the window row: a girl in a pale green sleeveless dress, her slender right arm lying on the desktop, motionless except for a small stroking movement of her fingers on the wood. As Joe flung his gym bag under his seat, the teacher offered a bland hello and the girl turned to glance at him. The shock hit him before he knew what the shock was for, as if his body had recognized her before he did, recognized the face from the bridge, the details he had pretty much forgotten.

He opened his book and stared into it, seeing nothing.

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About the Author

John Bemrose

John Bemrose is a contributing editor at Maclean’s magazine, where he writes features, profiles, and criticism. A native of Paris, Ontario, he lives in Toronto; The Island Walkers is his first novel.

John Bemrose


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Available Formats and Book Details

The Island Walkers
A Novel
John Bemrose


Giller Prize - Nominee

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
Metropolitan Books
November 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466857650
ISBN10: 146685765X
464 pages

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
February 2005
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312423698
ISBN10: 0312423691
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 464 pages

From The Publisher

Metropolitan Books

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