The Last Crossing


394 pages
ISBN 0-7710-8737-3
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is chair of the English Department at Laurentian
University and the editor of Arachne, Laurentian University’s
bilingual interdisciplinary journal of language and literature.


Guy Vanderhaeghe’s fourth novel marks a new stage in the author’s
multidimensional representation of family life. In his earlier stories
and first two novels, My Present Age (1984) and Homesick (1989),
Vanderhaeghe poignantly and hilariously explores the nitty-gritty of
often-problematic domestic situations. In The Englishman’s Boy (1996),
and now The Last Crossing, he expands family relationships, making them
deeply resonant vehicles for his epic-scale project of bringing to
imaginative life crucial moments in Western Canada’s past.

Family is the original crucible for human interactions. The
19th-century British Empire was represented as a large family headed by
Queen Victoria. Both the nuclear family and the Empire are sites for all
kinds of intimate crossings: of the parents’ blood and cultural
backgrounds; of the arrangement of shared space; of the family
members’ mutual and contested aspirations. Even the individual
characters seethe with life on account of the crossings that constitute
their identities: being Métis, being a Civil War veteran, being an
emigrant from Europe, and so on.

In The Last Crossing, Vanderhaeghe emphasizes the distances—long and
short—involved in the characters’ relationships. Emotionally, the
novel ranges from the icy formality a Victorian father displays toward
his sons to the instant and lifelong love relations of people separated
from each other by class and by national, ethnic, and cultural barriers.
At one point, the novel’s central character says to a young writer,
“Follow your passion.” Vanderhaeghe clearly heeded that advice when
he wrote this moving work of fiction.


Vanderhaeghe, Guy., “The Last Crossing,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,