The Maquinna Line: A Family Saga
by Norma Macmillan


TouchWood Editions, 2010. ISBN 978-1-926-74103-1.
Reviewed by Diana Nolan
Posted on 08/06/2010

Fiction: Multi-Cultural; Fiction: historical

Happily for us readers, Norma Macmillan's book, The Maquinna Line: A Family Saga, did not languish in a closet for a generation or two. A few years after her death, Norma's husband, Thor Arngrim, pulled a box from his closet containing her manuscript. Arngrim brought the manuscript to a friend, and ultimately the novel was published.

The book is indeed a saga beginning in 1778 with Maquinna, an Indian chieftain of the Moachat tribe, and his meeting with Captain James Cook on the remote island of Vancouver. Maquinna's appearance figures prominently when later in the novel we meet his proud ancestors during the years 1910 to 1945. Macmillan's vivid descriptions of Vancouver Island and other smaller islands prompted me to consult an atlas to find my bearings.

The verisimilitude of Macmillan's writing is evident in the sympathetic or determined characters she creates who face class and race prejudice, disappointment, adversity, and forbidden desires. There is Stanley, a disturbed teenager who is banished to the out islands; his compassionate sister, Julia, loving one man but marrying another to avoid spinsterhood; and their mother, Adelaide, incapable of showing emotion. Among the upper crust, we meet Eleanor St. John Trevor who lives for the sole purpose of extending her lineage through the Winston Churchill family, but rises to the occasion on a very different level.

One distinction of The Maquinna Line is the setting (the rugged coast of British Columbia) emphasizing the strong spirit of the generations who have lived there. Another is the span of years, which enables the reader to make a connection among the generations. Add a mix of vulnerable characters we come to know and care about. A nod to the history of the island completes the saga.

In the end, there is love—strong love, wrong love, contented love, forgiving love, and long lasting love—all linked to the The Maquinna Line.


Norma Macmillan engaged in a diversified career including writing, theater production, acting, recordings, commercials, and playwriting. She is best remembered for her work in television as the voice of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Gumby, and others. Macmillan grew up in Vancouver and later moved to California with her husband. She died in 2001 at the age of seventy-nine.

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