there was this line in Heave, maybe twenty-five pages in: Anne of Green Gables does the Big Time.

i read that line and exhaled a great, dramatic sigh and thought, there it is. the adolescent dream of a proper PEI girl.

the protagonist, she’s in London. a girl from the Maritimes, twenty years old and drunk as a sailor. quite profane, also high, and busy passing out in a graveyard. but in London.

when i was a sensitive foolhardy kid dying to be absolutely anywhere else on the planet but here where god and parochialism had planted me, far too big of head for the world i knew but far too small and provincial for anywhere else, i dreamed of London. i had barely been to Moncton, but i read everything about London i could get my grubby paws on. Boy George lived there. David Bowie lived there. actual straight men apparently lived there too, but they were not much on my radar when i was thirteen. i read and i hungered and i dreamed, because my horizons had suddenly outgrown Anne of Green Gables and i had no clue what came next.

had i read Heave at thirteen, i might not have needed to live it all quite so messily. but since i did, reading Heave was like finding a fictional kindred spirit.

not that Heave is meant for thirteen-year-olds, by any means. it ‘s the coming-of-age story of a quirky, singular, imaginative girl-woman, struggling to find her place in the richly cloistered, old-fashioned world of her Maritime hometown…and alternately, in the wide-open anonymous wonderland of danger and self-destruction that a city like London can be when all you have to hold you together is other people’s stories of who you are.  Heave is the story of a deeply-rooted Maritime sense of place and an even more deeply-rooted sense of culture and hierarchy and everybody in their place that anyone who has ties to this part of the world will recognize. Heave is ripe with characters, just like Rachel Lynde and Mrs. Blewitt, and with pathos, just like Matthew dying. except that its heroine, Seraphina, is very much an adult. she has a drinking problem. and a bit of a wedding problem, it turns out. she is Anne of Green Gables coming of age in the Big Time of the confusing late twentieth century, in a darkly rollicking story that is, in the end, a love letter to these small Maritime worlds that shape so much of who we are.

Christy Ann Conlin of Berwick Nova Scotia published Heave in 2002. a bestseller then, it made CBC’s Canada Reads Top 40 this past fall. it’s enjoying its revival quite nicely, thank you, as evidenced by the fact that three separate book clubs in Charlottetown ended up reading it this winter.

if you haven’t read it, you should. if you’re in PEI – or can hie thee hence to our pastoral province in four weeks’ time – then this post is especially for you.

next month, Christy Ann is coming to PEI. she’s doing a writer’s workshop with the PEI Writer’s Guild. she’s doing a reading from her new YA novel Dead Time at UPEI the evening of May 21st, in the illustrious company of her fellow Bluenoser Kate Inglis of sweet|salty and The Dread Crew, beautiful PEI poet Yvette Doucette, and, erm, moi. i’ll be reading from Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011, in whose merciful-Jesus-it’s-a-book pages mah words are being published as we speak. i will be the one swooning, like Anne of Green Gables in the Big Time.

but. but.

book clubs make reading go round. so three book clubs were reading Heave. and members of the three clubs – one of them mine – got to talking on Twitter. somebody said, we should all get together! then somebody said, we should invite Christy Ann! then i said, let’s open it up and invite everybody!

social media, you’re fun. or i’m mad. possibly both.

i talked to Random House/Doubleday, Christy Ann’s publisher for Heave, and they kindly agreed to sponsor her trip.

i talked to D.B. Brickhouse, the newly renovated and swanked-up Off Broadway, already one of Charlottetown’s loveliest restaurants, and they generously agreed to offer their warm and lovely loft space, all exposed-beam and brick, for the event.

i talked to the PEI Writers’ Guild, and they sweetly offered up a sponsorship that will buy some nibblies for the evening.

i talked to Christy Ann, and she said she’d love to.

so. Friday, May 20th, at 8pm in the loft of D.B. Brickhouse on Charlottetown’s historic Sydney Street, an evening of good stories and good discussion and good company and probably lots of laughter and irreverence – a #citybookclub for Heave. good wine will also be for sale. all over the age of nineteen are welcomed, open arms.

please come. join us. we want to make it the book club we always wanted to go to.

and…so you can dive into the story of Seraphina Sullivan, late-twentieth century Anne of Green Gables, and get ready for this glorious soiree, we have copies of Heave for giveaway. four of them, to four commenters on this post, who will be randomly selected by my impartial yet helpful offspring this coming weekend.

all you need to do is leave me a quick story. about books, or London, or what place means to you. or whether you think Anne of Green Gables might have ended up with a substance abuse issue had she grown up a hundred years later. or what you’d like to see at a public #citybookclub. or just a nice loud I WANT ONE. whatever. all welcome. locals who can come on May 20th? especially so.

tell your friends. see you there.