Review: ‘La Naufragée du Lac des Dents Blanches’, by Patrice Gain

Written by Patrice Gain, and published by Le Mot et le Reste in 2016, La Naufragée du Lac des Dents Blanches explores serious issues both within France and Canada in a delicate and quite remarkable manner. Patrice Gain takes the dreadful and long-standing issues of the European refugee crisis, and treatment of indigenous Canadians, and intertwines them with a beautiful story of friendship and aid that restores hope in humanity.

Within the first few chapters of the story, we meet the narrator and his friend Elias, two old Breton fishermen recovering from an almost fatal shipwreck in waters just off Belle-Île, a small island in Brittany. Having been hailed local heroes, the town mayor offers to let them recuperate in his mountain chalet in the French Alps where they meet mountaineer, Leon. A few days into their séjour in a chalet on the edge of Le Lac des Dents Blanches, the three men discover Saamiya washed up on the shores of the lake and after the trio take her in, she recounts her horrific story. Saamiya is a refugee from Somalia who decided to flee her country with her small daughter in tow after the killing of her sister. As Saamiya’s story unfolds, we learn that her daughter was kidnapped by a Swiss children’s organisation in Tripoli, it is this terrible act that has bought Saamiya to the Swiss border: the search for her daughter. The group immediately decide to offer their aid, and embark on a long journey through mountains and snow, across borders and oceans, all in order to find Sahra.

This wonderful story unfolds alongside Gain’s vivid descriptions of the snow and the sea, two imminent forces that appear throughout the book. This makes for an easy-to-read yet wonderfully immersive tale where the incredibly eloquent and beautiful images of the snow and the sea offer a striking juxtaposition to a heart-wrenching story of horror and loss. In perhaps a somewhat divisive time, this story brings together an unlikely group of people, two old fishermen, a retired mountaineer, and Somalian refugee, as they embark on a very unlikely journey. The story explores two areas of modern day division, that of the refugee crisis, and though perhaps on a smaller scale, that of the segregation of indigenous Canadians. La Naufragée du Lac des Dents Blanches takes these two issues, and offers a rhetoric that one is not used to seeing in relation to these issues, one of union, co-operation and friendship, a refreshing perspective, especially in a time when the world feels more divided than ever before. Gain manages to show that no matter what differences exist between countries and communities, unity and friendship is possible.

La Naufragée du Lac des Dents Blanches left me with a warm feeling of hope, and a renewed sense of faith in humanity.

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