Margo Bates' debut novel brings to life the rough-and-tumble world of Canada's frontier northwest in the late 50's and early 60's. Telkwa is not much different from other small towns or tight-knit neighborhoods across North America. There is always one character or curmudgeon that is larger than life about which the townsfolk enjoy hearing stories. In Telkwa, it is Nana Noonan. Readers are immediately drawn to the small-town goings on through the hundreds of letters to her granddaughter, Maggie Mulvaney.
Maggie likes it that Nana is Irish, but she has a temper. There are lots of things that get her going. Telkwa's only Jehovah's Witness tops her list. "That Damn Jehovah!" is the incessant phrase in the hundreds of letters Nana sends Maggie. Living 150 miles apart, Nana and her letters show Maggie the human aspects of life. The Jehovah's Witness is hell-bent on saving Nana. His high hopes on salvation equal her intent to remain as she is: hell-bent on being herself. After all, she is an Anglican.
To Nana, the Jehovah's Witness is not just trying to impose his religion - he also represents an ugly undercurrent in northern and rural Canada in the 1960's - prejudice. He doesn't like Nana's best friend, a native Indian named Tyee Mary.
In this humorous and touching tale, Margo shows how her Nana stands up to prejudice in the north. She does it the only way she knows how - using her Irish temper and some fine-tuning from a shotgun.
Nana tells Maggie it is important to be fair to your fellow humans. As long as they don't drive you to do something foolish. Maggie thinks about the lessons learned at Nana's knee. She writes back and offers suggestions on how Nana might better deal with the Jehovah's Witness.
The townsfolk place bets on Nana and the Jehovah's Witness and when they will have their next set to. Cash exchanges hands on a fairly regular basis.
Only two people visit Nana more often than her family: Constable Reems of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and her ill-fated devotee, who visits every Saturday, rain, shine, sleet or snow. Nana and the Jehovah's Witness reach a stalemate one fall day in 1960. Nana, her Irish temper and accuracy with a gun get the better of her. And "That Damn Jehovah."
Gloria Macarenko, Anchor at CBC Television News, praised the book: "I love the way Margo Bates captures the essence and eccentricities of life in a small northern town, as she highlights the conspiratory relationship between a young girl and her kooky grandmother. As someone who grew up in the north, I can relate to the quirky and comical scenarios that are so much a part of small town life. Everyone needs a bit of Nana in their lives!"