Antigonish native Michael Palmer had his second book published earlier this fall.
The Leaf Cutter was released around the first of September and Palmer, the son of Lou and Mary Palmer, who now lives in Calgary with his wife and three kids, noted the book “in a nutshell” is a story about the relationship between two men who meet in a hospital room.
“One guy in his early 20s, the other in his late-70s, early-80s … they meet in this hospital setting from these two separate accidents,” Palmer said.
“They end up being roommates for a little bit with rehab and all of that and ingrain themselves on each other in different ways. The young guy is trying to find himself in life and the old guy has found himself so he is trying to impart life lessons on the young guy and, to do that, he goes back into his life – back to when he was a photo recognizance pilot from Ireland. He tells his story about when he was shot down over France and tried to make his way back to Ireland through the French resistance. There is tragedy, there is redemption and both stories mesh in the final chapter. There is a lot of mystery resolved and there is some blindsides … all of that fun stuff.”
Palmer’s writing career could be described as a little bit of a blindside itself since he studied business at StFX and graduated with a business degree.
“I never really took any writing courses in my life other than grade school,” he said. “But I always enjoyed English growing up and I always did well in my English courses. I should note; two big role models for me back in grade school were two teachers. One was Liz Chisholm and the other Mike Marenick. Mike was my favourite teacher of all; he just seemed to bring out the passions with his students. I kind of found my way through him in school … I really loved reading after his classes.”
In talking about The Leaf Cutter story, Palmer said it was around in some form even before his first book, Dark Side of the Sun which was about his grandfather in the Second World War.
“I was watching a movie one night, I forget what movie it was, it was about 14 years ago now,” he said. “And I just remember it didn’t end right. I thought ‘geez, it should have ended this way’ and then I started thinking, if I were to write a story how I would want it to end and how would want it to begin. I started thinking, what kind of a story could I piece together myself … so I started piecing together this story.
“So this idea came up about 14 years ago. Originally it was four boys, a kind of a coming of age type of storyline, but over the years it started to evolve into more of a relationship between an old man and a young guy and life lessons taught.”
It was shelved in 2003 while Palmer focused on his grandfather’s story. That was originally just something he envisioned writing for his family but when it ended up getting published, it spurred his drive to return to the relationship story.
“I probably wouldn’t have gone back to it if my grandfather’s book didn’t get published,” he said. “So, yes, when that one was published, and was in Chapters, Indigo, all across Canada, and covered in newspapers, it really got me fired up to continue on with this hobby, this writing hobby,” Palmer said.
“So then when I jumped back into the novel it was with vigour and I really went through it … I added a lot more meat to it and changed things around. I really put in a lot of focus and importance in that novel and, lo-and-behold, the publisher said he would publish that one too and that’s where we are.”
Set in the U.S. in the 1990s with flashbacks to France and Ireland during the Second World War, the locations didn’t stop Palmer from injecting a little bit of his hometown in the novel. He talked about being a big Beatles’ fans and how they would add a lot of hidden and dual meanings into their song writing.
“I love that kind of thing so I thought with this novel, I’m going to do the same thing,” he said. “I’m going to put in a lot of anagram words, dual meanings and all that sort of thing.
“At the same time, I thought, I really enjoyed my years growing up in Antigonish and the Maritimes so I would also put in an ode to my roots … put in a lot of hidden references to Antigonish even though half the story is based in Maryland, the U.S. – that’s where the hospital is situated – and the other half is in France and Ireland. So there are some factitious settings in there and within those factitious settings are a lot of place names and character names of people and friends I knew from Antigonish and from P.E.I.”
The book is available at all major bookstores and for more on Palmer and his writing, visit his website at www.michaelandrewpalmer .com.