‘The bright spots, and dark corners…’

Points of Interest: In Search of the Places, People, and Stories of BC
David Beers and andrea bennett (eds.)

Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2024
$24.95  /  9781778401381

Reviewed by Dave Flawse


A blurb on the cover of Points of Interest: In Search of the Places, People, and Stories of B.C. captures the book’s essence: “An insider’s guide to the hot spots, sore spots, bright spots, and dark corners of B.C., a place that never fails to surprise.” –John Vaillant.

After reading this anthology of 30 true stories, it’s clear Vaillant’s description is spot on—it isn’t exactly a beach read, nor is it all grim. For folks familiar with The Tyee’s content—investigative reporting that sometimes brings forward uncomfortable and challenging issues—the dark corners and sore spots won’t come as surprise.

Edited by David Beers and andrea bennett, this anthology was curated from a list 20 years in the making at The Tyee, an online independent BC news magazine founded in 2003. It features some of the Tyee’s narrative pieces, as opposed to the newsy stuff.

Atlin’s Fiona McGlynn reads at Words Out Loud on June 29, 2024 from her contribution to Points of Interest, “Serving the Cranberry Crowd: How bartending in a small northern town convinced me to move there.” Photo Trevor Marc Hughes

A sandwich uses two slices of bread to enclose and hold together its most important ingredients. Likewise, this book’s lightest pieces appear on either end, while the most potent reside in the middle. All of them offer fresh perspectives on topics that swirl around news cycles and the literary landscape.

They are oftentimes told from marginalized viewpoints and sample subjects that define this province, for better or worse: wildfires, old growth logging, residential schools, timber cruising, blueberries, the British-ness of Victoria, craft beer, resistance to dam building, and, of course, salmon.

The lighter content takes on subjects like Lasqueti Islanders sustaining themselves on feral sheep, hawks creating a landscape of fear on Granville Island, the history of a Golden Village, a six-hour journey to the post office, monkey puzzle trees, and fishing in a library.

The chapters move in a geographic circle, more or less, through the province. A town name or other location marker form the title of each story, followed by a subtitle. At the end of each story are quick facts about the story’s location.

The people living in this place called British Columbia love to read about themselves. You can see it in the popularity of memoirs and other nonfiction that focus on place. This anthology succeeds in representing the diversity of cultures and people in the province.

Co-Editor of Points of Interest, David Beers

One benefit to this inclusion of voices is learning new facts about places you thought familiar. Here’s one: while most residents of Cumberland are familiar with its former Chinatown (one of the country’s largest at one time), only a single humble cabin remains. Michael John Lo’s “This is Homecoming,” a story about descendants of Cumberland’s Chinatown may, therefore, come as a surprise to residents. As Lo details, many of the descendants still have attachment to the place, and for decades they’ve been holding an annual reunion in Vancouver.

Those who have scrolled through The Tyee before might already be familiar with a few stories in the anthology. The paper format offers a new way to enjoy them. Online they are accompanied by photos and useful links. Despite these benefits, online is also a world of distractions, and the book won’t send you notifications.

Co-Editor of Points of Interest, andrea bennett

Also, the stories are short, and you can pick it up and read a story when you have a spare moment, wherever you are.

My only critique of the book are the quick facts, which seem to be gleaned from Google searches. They don’t always match in tone and content the in-depth reporting. In the quick facts following the Cumberland story, for example, this reader would have liked to see some mention of the former Chinatown.

If you’re looking to save a buck, you could always read these stories for free online. So why buy this book?

Points of Interest spent considerable time on the BC Bestsellers List—others see value in it. Is it because they want to support The Tyee by buying a copy? Do they want a curated list takes all the fuss out of finding the 30 individual stories? Is it the attractive cover that catches their eye? Maybe all three?

If you’re one of those people who love reading about the province, this title is an essential addition to your bookshelf. If you’re just now dipping your toes into this province’s stories, this anthology is a great BC 101.

Essayist Fiona McGlynn in Atlin before Words Out Loud, June 29, 2024. Photo Trevor Marc Hughes


Dave Flawse

Dave Flawse is the publisher of a Vancouver Island history site, a freelance writer, and an editor. He writes about history, but also other lesser-known, remarkable stories hiding in plain sight. A firm believer in literary citizenship, he promotes and furthers literary arts in British Columbia with the goal of helping this robust and diverse community impact as many readers as possible. Read his portfolio here and visit his website hereEditor’s note: Dave Flawse has also reviewed books by Collin Varner, Cathy Converse, Vickie Jensen, Kathryn Willcock and Kelly Randall Ricketts for The British Columbia Review.


The British Columbia Review

Interim Editors, 2023-24: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board now consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. The British Columbia Review was founded in 2016 by Richard Mackie and Alan Twigg.

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

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