On Island

Life Among the Coast Dwellers

By (author): Pat Carney
ISBN 9781771512107
Softcover | Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Book Dimensions: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
304 Pages

About the Book

#1 BC bestselling book of 2017
Winner of the 2018 BC Book Prizes’ Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice Award

A collection of stories chronicling the characters and dramas that capture life in small coastal communities.

In this story collection, Pat Carney follows the rhythms of day-to-day life in coastal BC. Featuring a revolving cast of characters—the newly retired couple, the church warden, the musician, the small-town girl with big city dreams—Carney’s keen observations of the personalities and dramas of coastal life are instantly recognizable to readers who are familiar with life in a small community. With her narrative of dock fights, pet shows, family feuds, logging camps and the ever-present tension between islanders and property-owning “off-islanders,” Carney’s witty and perceptive voice describes how the islanders weather the storms of coastal life.

Carney writes evocatively of the magical landscape of the British Columbia coast, where she has lived and worked for five decades. At the same time, she addresses the less-idyllic moments that can also characterize coastal life: power outages, winter storms, isolation. On Island brings the West Coast landscape—human and natural—to life, and gives islanders and mainland dwellers alike a taste of what it means to be “on island.”

About the Author(s)

Pat Carney was a journalist, educator, and former Member of Parliament, cabinet minister, and senator. She was awarded the Order of Canada for her leadership role in these fields. Carney is the author of Trade Secrets: A Memoir (Key Porter) and On Island. She lived on Saturna Island in BC’s Gulf Islands.


“Carney has a great eye for detail, a charming writing voice, and she does a nice job of chronicling all the island characters, and the highs and lows of life on the Gulf Islands. People who visit regularly will recognize the daily dramas, like bats making their home in the church.” —Tara Henley, CBC’s On the Coast

“On Island: Life Among the Coast Dwellers tells the tales of people we all recognize. . . . Carney’s writing style is engaging, wry at times. Her journalism experience has honed her ability to choose the mot juste and add the telling detail.” —BC Magazine

“Charming and wry . . . Carney demonstrates both the benefit and drawback of life in a relatively isolated and small place, and they are the same: everyone knows everyone.” —Vancouver Sun

“Throughout Carney’s active and varied life, she has gained a unique perspective of human nature and the interaction of people of every age and occupation and she’s done it without ever losing her ability to observe life through a lens of wry humour . . . On Island is a clear reflection of that fundamental ability. It also, once again, establishes her as a light-hearted and insightful author whose observations of life on a anonymous west coast island perfectly capture island life.” —Peninsula News Review

“Pat Carney can now add “adept fiction writer” to her impressive catalogue of credentials. These stories about the pleasures and perils of life on an unnamed island are fond, wry, funny, and delivered in a tone that’s both confiding and arch. On Island gave me much pleasure. I hope there’s more to come.” — Bill Richardson, CBC radio host and author of Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast

“Islanders like to think of ourselves as uniquely and happily distant from some of the constraints that bind mainlanders. Pat Carney’s On Island collection of short stories will leave you wanting more. Possessed of humour and whimsicality, Pat’s years in public life inform a compassionate and realistic portrayal of our distinctive Pacific Island ethos.” —Iona Campagnolo, 27th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia

“A lively, engaging collection of island stories, full of deftly observed characters, most of whom would be wonderful to meet walking among “the Coast Dwellers.” A wonderful read from a very talented writer.” —Anna Porter, award-winning author and publisher of Key Porter Books

On Island is a delight from stem to stern. Who knew that Canada’s one and only Pat Carney, consultant, businesswoman, journalist, MP, Cabinet Minister, protector of lighthouses, and Senator, could also produce fiction so light-footed, nimble and lively? Carney’s stories are of life on an island not unlike Saturna Island, where she spends much of her time, and all of them “happened somewhere, sometime, on British Columbia’s coast”. Each tale is astutely and deftly told, and the collection as a whole offers readers an overview of and insights into a beautiful place and the people who make it home.” —Anne Giardini, author of The Sad Truth About Happiness and Advice for Italian Boys