Beginning with the dramatic events surrounding his birth, Ferguson recreates adventures involving life-saving encounters with indigenous medicines, stolen hockey sticks and a boy lost in the woods in his book, "Village of the Small Houses" (CAD, $29.95).
In 1959, just one step ahead of the law, Ian Ferguson's parents left Edmonton and ended up in Fort Vermilion, 846 kilometers due north. It was meant to be a temporary move. Ian's father lasted 10 years before he made his escape; his mother remained until recently.
Fort Vermilion, once a fur-trapping frontier town, was predominantly aboriginal, the third-poorest community in Canada. Like their neighbors, the Ferguson kids—Ian and his six brothers and sisters—grew up without indoor plumbing, central heating or electricity. They lived closer to the Arctic Circle than to the American border. Without the influences of television or radio, Canada was a dream to them, as faraway and exotic as England or Australia.
Readers will meet an intriguing and compelling cast of characters, from Lloyd Loonskin to Dr. Nundy, the semi-retired microsurgeon from Bombay, along with the entire Ferguson clan.
When Ferguson finally escaped Fort Vermilion, he made a startling discovery: Canada was not his home. He still felt like he was visiting. From that sense of confusion came his appealingly idiosyncratic way of looking at the world.
Funny with sad bits—and sometimes the other way around—Village of the Small Houses is an unforgettable story that lives somewhere between Angela's Ashes and Who Has Seen the Wind. It will catapult Ferguson to center stage in Canada's non-fiction firmament.