When Jax Vanbeermen can’t be woken one morning, he’s rushed to the hospital and onto life support. The 48-year-old’s devastating diagnosis: stroke. Over four agonizing days, his adoring younger sister, Amelia, and his former lover, Ben Olsen, stand vigil, each buffeted by heartbreak, guilt and by memories, happy and sad, of the man who’d been the centre of their lives. Twelve years ago, Jax, openly gay and the life of every party, and Ben, a shy gay Mennonite cabinetmaker with three young children and an oppositional ex-wife, had fallen in love. After societal and personal pressures, and one unforgivable mistake forced their breakup, neither ever recovered, though they’d recently been finding their way back to each other. Ben realizes that they may never get their second chance, and blames himself. Amelia tortures herself with thoughts of what she should have known or done to change the course of her brother’s life. Facing a potential future without Jax, Ben and Amelia must help each other accept all that will now remain unsaid and find a way forward. Set against the stunning natural backdrop of Ontario’s Blue Mountains and Georgian Bay. They thought they had time.
It was misty, the sun not up yet when I reached the shore. After placing my knapsack carefully on a rock, I stripped off my shorts and T-shirt and jumped in. The water of the bay was cold, only 65 degrees but normal for the island at this time of year. It felt bracing and familiar—yet unfamiliar. When I came up for air, I could smell cedar, algae, damp earth. Usually I loved swimming naked, but today I felt strangely vulnerable. When I reached the large granite rock, I climbed on it and just stood there, shivering a little, gazing back toward the shore. For how long I’m not sure. It was just light enough that I could spot the place at the water’s edge where Jax, Nikko, and I had posed when my camera’s timer snapped that cherished picture. I swore I heard Jax laugh.
I slipped into the water and swam back to shore, climbed out and quickly dried off after gently removing my towel from the knapsack. Drawing a deep breath, I thought about this island near Tobermory Harbour, how it had come to mean so much to my family, and to me. Ordinarily being on Flowerpot soothed me. But the sun, just coming up, was casting a sad yellow haze over the rough and rocky terrain and dulling the green of the trees. Georgian Bay, which a little later this morning would soon show off its Caribbean blues, was now an ominous grey fading out to a deep empty black. As I pulled on my clothes, I squinted up at the small white lighthouse keeper’s house. No one seemed to be up yet. I’d left Amelia and my kids in bed. This was something I needed to do alone.
Picking up my knapsack, I headed for the main path, backtracking up past the house, continuing until I spotted the expansive maple tree. I climbed the eight-foot earthen cliff to another path, which brought me to a smooth flat rock set at a challenging 60-degree angle. If the incline wasn’t daunting enough, the slippery algae made it more so. I remembered coaxing Jax that day. He’d laughed each time he slid back down: “See, I told you I couldn’t do it.” But he was always game for anything. Eventually he’d made it. At the top of the rock, I slowed my pace, and reaching the oak tree where I was to turn left, I stopped for a moment. My chest constricted, and I had to force myself to breathe. Finally, I pushed a branch out of the way, and there it was before me—the cliff, just visible in the mist.
Everyone who has lost someone needs to read this book! [Such] a beautiful story of trials, tribulations, heartbreak and love.
Andrea Koenigs- Barrie.
The author has truly poured her heart and soul on to the pages of this "must read" book.
Heather Ann Macdonald Hanson - Meaford Public Library.
After reading only [a] chapter, I was drawn in and couldn't put it down! A beautiful, well written book about secret love and dealing with loss.
Joanie Anderson- Arizona.
Your book inspired me in many ways and gave me a new outlook on [...] the "so called gender debate"...
Stacey Pifer - Read it again Books, Collingwood.
Angie Vancise is a visual artist and a graduate of University of Toronto’s creative writing certificate program. At a young age she saw herself writing a book. It was a dream she kept hidden from everyone until after her beloved older brother passed, then her dad, then her mom, all in the space of 3 years. All through these tragedies over the past 6 years the only thing that kept her sane was writing, and from there the semi-autobiographical novel Cry of an Osprey was born. She also painted the book’s cover.
Angie grew up in a small former shipbuilding town two hours north of Toronto, Canada, on Georgian Bay. In the early 1800s, six generations ago, the first Vancises emigrated from Holland and began farming in the shadow of the Niagara Escarpment.
Angie lives there still, with her husband and daughter, five cats and two dogs. Animal Speaks, by Ted Andrews, rests next to her bed. Some of her brother’s ashes were released to fly free from Flowerpot Island, off the coast of Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula, a place he had come to love.
She is now at work on two more books – one a mystery (which she has always seen herself writing) and the other a memoir.