Robert Everett-Green’s Winnipeg Connection

I haven’t lived in Winnipeg, but my father grew up there and I have visited many
times. My grandfather, who I never met, worked for years at the complaints desk
of the Eaton’s store downtown. That must have been one of the softest jobs at a
company whose slogan was “goods satisfactory or money refunded.”

Jasper, the 12-year- old narrator of my novel In a Wide Country, sees Winnipeg as
a stable place where he can try to sort out the puzzles presented to him by the
grownup world. His mother Corinne’s boyfriend, a builder and local history buff,
seems willing to stand in as the father Jasper never knew. But Corinne is bored
with the relationship, and with the city. During a weekend away, she abruptly tells
Jasper that they’re not going back to Winnipeg, that they don’t need the stuff
they left behind, and that from now on they’re “fancy-free.”

Jasper has no use for this kind of freedom. He spends the rest of the book
struggling with its disruptive effects, and forms an ideal image of Winnipeg as his
lost home.

Before leaving Winnipeg, Corinne swipes a clerk’s desk bell from the Eaton’s
store, just for sport. My grandfather would not have approved.