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Fiction Nature & The Environment


A Novel

by (author) Des Kennedy

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
Nature & the Environment, Literary, Small Town & Rural
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

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This is the spellbinding story of six young dreamers who set out from Vancouver in the seventies to haphazardly establish a back-to-the-land commune on a small island in the Salish Sea.

Against all odds, the dream endures for half a century through fierce internecine squabbling, occasional community uproar, births and deaths, disasters in animal husbandry, the War in the Woods, RCMP raids and the blandishments of oily developers. But throughout it all what abides is the land itself, its gifts and spirits and seasonal graces. A story within a story, the tale is told by the commune’s sole remaining occupant to an enigmatic stranger. Herself a recent urban exile exploring the ways of rural living, she succeeds in coaxing him through his rememberings away from grief into renewed life.

Des Kennedy brings his signature humour and intimate knowledge of gardens and woodlands to this engaging novel. Throughout Commune, Kennedy poses the big questions—how do we best live our lives? Build community? Create a new paradigm for raising kids, growing food and honouring the genius of our place?

About the author

Des Kennedy is a novelist, essayist and veteran back-to-the-lander. The author of nine previous books, in both fiction and non-fiction, he has been three times nominated for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. He’s contributed many articles on environmental issues, gardening and rural living to a wide variety of publications in Canada and the United States, and has been featured on numerous regional and national television and radio programs. A celebrated speaker, known for his passion and irreverent wit, he’s performed at conferences, schools, festivals, botanical gardens, art galleries, garden shows and wilderness gatherings. Active for many years in environmental and social justice issues, he was an organizer of the successful civil disobedience campaign in Strathcona Provincial Park in 1988 and was recognized as a key supporter in the struggle to save Clayoquot Sound. In the ’70s and early ’80s, he lived and worked with two First Nations bands attempting to defend their traditional territories in north-central B.C. against industrial clear-cutting. In the ’90s he was a founding director of a successful community land trust on Denman Island. Des and his partner Sandy live a conserver lifestyle in their hand-built house surrounded by gardens and woodlands.

Des Kennedy's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Commune takes readers back to what I used to think was a simpler time and way of life. But this gem of a novel has helped me understand that the 1970s were just as complicated, challenging and beautiful as the decades since. Thanks to Des Kennedy’s pitch-perfect prose and diverse cast of memorable characters, I was right there on the farm with the other dreamers, as I turned the pages well into the night and the next morning, too. Kennedy is a gifted storyteller. ”

Terry Fallis, two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour

“Des Kennedy's Commune is a gorgeous ode to dreams and their dreamers, a story of sex, soil, and sacrifice. Told with narrative verve through quicksilver prose, Commune conjures an agrarian idealism that feels increasingly relevant to our troubled world, rendering a uniquely BC experience powerfully universal. I loved every glorious page.”

Michael Christie, author of <i>Greenwood</i>

“Des Kennedy reaps a harvest of delights in a gleeful, fictional memoir that explores the joys and woes of going back to the land in the 1970s. Des's love, respect, concern and hope for the natural world shine through his expressive yet playful prose. ”

William Deverell, author of <i>Stung</i>, finalist for the Dashiell Hammett Prize