Thursday, November 1, 2001

The Meeting Place: Colonial Canada

The Meeting Place, the first in Janette Oke and T. Davis Bunn's "Song of Acadia" series, brings to life the days of eighteenth century Canada. In what is now Nova Scotia, French settlers have lived peacefully for over 100 years, in this place they call "Acadia." Years later the English settled nearby, and the European settlers brought with them their feuds from Europe. Though the French and English settlers live within a few miles of each other, neither side communicates with the other, never opening up their world to meet "the enemy."

Set during Acadia of the 1750s, in which the European war between England and France carried over to the frontier, The Meeting Place is primarily a story of relationships and love. Much of the book follows the ordinary lives of two families, one French and one English, and how they meet and come to love each other. Though they have hints and anxious thoughts about the future, about a possible war, life seems to go on peacefully enough for both sides.

Eighteen year old Catherine (Price) Harrow meets a young French woman her age, in a lovely meadow between the two villages. Catherine's study of French years ago finds practical purpose: that she can communicate with the French. Louise (Belleveau) Robichaud and her husband Henri, it turns out, got married the same day as Catherine and Andrew. The two women later experience childbirth at about the same time, and along the way discover many other common interests, including a growing relationship with God through reading The Bible.

Many of the French settlers in Canada, such as in the Montreal area, were of course Catholic. Yet some of the French Huguenots, Protestants, survived the slaughter in France and fled to the New World, settling in areas such as Nova Scotia. Thus The Meeting Place focuses on people with like faith from different countries, rather than deal with the possible Protestant-Catholic conflict. The French Huguenot settlers at Minas are also pacifist, wishing to be left alone; and they refuse to take up arms to defend any government. Unfortunately, the British will only accept the French settlers as friends if they sign such an agreement, pledging their allegiance to the crown of England.

Complicating the immediate situation, Catherine's husband Andrew is a commandant in the British military, in charge of Fort Edward. Andrew already recognizes the French as peaceful people, not the enemy, but holds such thoughts alone among his military peers. Through his wife's friendship with Louise and her family, Andrew finds himself pressed even harder by a military set against those he considers friends.

The Acadian expulsion (1755-1762) in which thousands of French settlers were forced from their homes and literally scattered across the world, separated from each other, occurs near the end of The Meeting Place, setting the groundwork for the story's sequel, The Sacred Shore. As actually happened, the French settlers are loaded onto ships bound for other places where "Frenchies" live, including New Orleans, Charleston, Boston, even back to France; scattered, the English say, so they won't regroup and fight back.

Other books in the "Song of Acadia" series:
  • The Sacred Shore
  • The Birthright
  • The Distant Beacon
Janette Oke website

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