Published Jan 2014
A richly textured novel of idealism and romance, Once We Had a Country re-imagines the impact of the Vietnam War by way of the women who fled to Canada with the draft dodgers.
It’s the summer of 1972, Maggie leaves the United States to settle with her boyfriend, Fletcher, on a farm near Niagara Falls. They’ve made the journey to keep him out of the draft, but they also have loftier plans – to start a commune and work the land. As the summer passes, Maggie is haunted by the lack of word from her father, a missionary in the war-torn jungle of Laos. Then the US government announces the end of the draft, and Fletcher faces pressure from his family to return home. More people arrive at the farm, but they aren’t who anyone expected. Tensions threaten the commune, the neighbours are suspicious, and Maggie finds herself negotiating the gap between the ideals and reality, between who people want to be and who they actually are.
Then Maggie receives word from Laos that her father has disappeared. Suddenly, her future depends not only on keeping everyone together, but also on discovering the truth about her father’s actions and beliefs in the days before he vanished.
Once We Had a Country returns us to an era we thought we knew and compels us to consider the courage of our own convictions as well as the depths of our desire for a meaningful life. It cements Robert McGill’s standing as a writer of rare and exceptional talent.