BERWICK, NS - It’s a fictitious story but one that draws greatly upon the historical context of the apple industry and transformations that have actually occurred on family farms.
Author Barry Corbin of Berwick said that his first novel, The Girl at the Top of the Tree, focuses on the challenges faced through multiple generations on a family apple farm in the Annapolis Valley and the farm’s evolution during the time frame of 1946 to 2008.
“Of course, weaved in is this love story between Byron, who takes over the farm, and a girl who has Dutch ancestry, so there is that aspect of those Dutch immigrants that came after the Second World War and established farms here as well,” Corbin said.
The Berwick town councillor said he reads a lot and recognizes that many of today’s novels focus on super heroes and super situations that are larger than life. He wanted to focus on every day heroes who face every-day challenges while sustaining a good quality of life for their families. The story focuses on the decisions and changes Byron Corbett must make to ensure the survival of the family farm.
Corbin said the title of his novel was inspired by a poem, Girls Are Like Apples, that he includes near the front of the book. It draws the analogy that, just as the best apples can be found at the top of the tree, the same is true for girls.
Boys might be afraid to reach for the good ones out of fear of falling and getting hurt. In Corbin’s book, Byron wasn’t afraid to reach for Anna, the girl at the top of the tree.
Corbin draws from his own life experience to a certain extent, having lived on a farm in Lakeville that his father helped manage. Although his father later found employment in Kentville, the family kept living in Lakeville.
As a teenager, Corbin worked on neighbouring farms. He was always fascinated by how hard farmers work and how little reward there is in exchange. He would often wonder what kept farmers going but later realized that the lifestyle is in their blood.
Corbin moved away to attend university and went on to a career as an educator but he would often come home to visit his parents. It amazed him to observe just how much farming had changed from the post-war period to the first decade of the new millennium. Many smaller family farms had disappeared or evolved into larger operations.
The novel was three or four years in the making. Corbin said it all started after a conversation with a friend that he attended high school with who had also grown up in a farming area but left for educational and professional purposes. The friend asked Corbin if he’s ever thought about what might have happened if he hadn’t had the chance to attend university and had no other choice but to stay home and work on a farm.
Corbin described this as “the trigger point” for his novel. Byron, the hero, graduates from high school in the mid 1960’s and is destined for a university education. He doesn’t really care for farming and has had many disagreements with his father, who wants Byron to take over the farm.
However, circumstances dictate that Byron is obliged to take over the farm for the sake of the family. The story examines how this impacts his life and, reflecting on things as an older man, whether or not he missed out by not having the opportunity to attend university.
Corbin has written a number of curricular pieces, including co-authoring three geography text books that are used throughout eastern Canada. Corbin also authored a book entitled “Unleashing the Potential of the Teenage Brain: 10 Powerful Ideas” that focuses on the neuroscience and neurobiology of the teenage brain. However, aside from some short stories, The Girl at the Top of the Tree is his first foray into fiction.
Corbin worked with Quarter Castle Publishing to have the novel edited but it is essentially a self-published work. It can be purchased online through the websites Amazon and Lulu in traditional form or as an e-book.
Corbin has an official book launch coming up at the Berwick Library on Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. He plans to attend local markets and craft sales to promote the book leading into the Christmas season and he hopes to make it available in bookstores. He also hopes to make copies available at Berwick Town Hall.
To purchase a copy from Corbin, email email@example.com or phone 902-538-8378.