Bridgewater author chronicles life at sea off Blue Rocks for YA readers

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Rhian Calcott, author of The Last Goin&#8217; Off.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>The book&#8217;s jacket cover reflects a painting by Lunenburg artist Jay Langford.</p>

As the fifth annual Lunenburg Literary Festival (Lit Fest) kicked off on September 24, a writer from Bridgewater was preparing to launch her debut Young Adult (YA) novel.

Rhian Calcott's The Last Goin' Off was on the roster for a launch at the historical Saint Barnabas Church in Blue Rocks on Sept. 26.

The setting was appropriate considering the historical fiction novel is set in Blue Rocks and Lunenburg, and the sea is what inspired Calcott to write the tale.

"Just living here on the South Shore you get a real sense of the past not being that far away," Calcott explained to LighthouseNOW.

She specifically chose to direct that message to YA readers, "just kind of hoping that I could share that sense of the history with younger people."

Being by the ocean and thinking about what challenges people faced in making a living served as further inspiration, according to Calcott. Her husband's grandfather and uncles were fishermen in the Yarmouth area. "It's a hard, hard life," emphasized the writer.

The book is published by Nevermore Press, while the cover was created by the Lunenburg artist, Jay Langford.

Set at the turn of the 20th century, The Last Goin' Off is a story of sacrifice and discovery. It chronicles the misadventures of 14-year-old Aaron Conrad, who finds himself the reluctant head of the household and breadwinner after his father and older brother are lost at sea.

His dream to continue his education beyond the Lunenburg Academy is on shaky ground as he's forced to work as a fisherman, aboard the same boat that claimed the lives of his family members.

Calcott wrote the story in the first person, although she acknowledged that not everyone likes to read first person style. "I just find, for myself as I'm writing in first person, that it's kind of easy for me, easier for me to be inside that person's head, my character's head."

Calcott is contemplative as to what underlying message the book offers YA readers. She noted that things don't go as the protagonist would like, but by the end of the book he is " less resentful about what he has to do ... I think he kind of grows up a bit."

Born in PEI and raised in Berwick, Nova Scotia, Calcott has lived in Bridgewater since 1979. She has a degree in English literature from Mount Allison University and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Dalhousie University. She practiced law for 10 years with Nova Scotia Legal Aid, before leaving the legal profession to stay at home and raise her four children.

Her short stories have appeared in The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction (2007) and A Maritime Christmas (2008).

Calcott now is considering writing another "rurally set" novel.

"And local to the area. I think it's kind of nice for younger people to read a bit about their own," she said.

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