Presenting Joe Howe’s Ghost by Bretton Loney

“It’s not every day that a spirit who looks like one of the most famous Nova Scotians in history wishes you good evening.”
― Bretton Loney, Joe Howe’s Ghost

We had a very successful and fun book club meeting on Wednesday, June 19th with special guests Lorelei Nicoll- MLA Cole Harbour-Dartmouth, and Bretton Loney who presented Bretton’s book Joe Howe’s Ghost. The night started like our regular meetings do. Our members presented their books to the group and when finished, they placed them in the basket. Then came Joe Howe’s Ghost.

Some background: Joe Howe’s Ghost finally reached the top of my TBR pile in October 2023. I thought it was an incredibly interesting read. Having the ghost of one of Nova Scotia’s most famous historical figures, appear to Erin (the lead character) and discuss his life as a journalist and his fight for free speech, then his life in politics and the fight for responsible government. It brought history to life for me in a very creative way. The unique challenges that Erin faced in modern-day politics as a mother and woman brought to mind Lorelei Nicoll. Lorelei is not only a supporter of the store, but she is also the MLA for Cole Harbour-Dartmouth. I loved the descriptions of the interior of Nova Scotia’s Legislative Library that were written in the story and Lorelei gets to see it regularly. So when I finished the novel I forwarded my review to her. Intrigued by the book’s concept, it wasn’t long before Lorelei came in for it.

Lorelei Nicoll- MLA Cole Harbour-Dartmouth

A couple of weeks into the new year, Lorelei, messaged me to say thanks for bringing to her attention Joe Howe’s Ghost. The last couple of paragraphs of the book written by Brett “were as if I wrote it myself. The first term female MLA Brett wrote about could be me.” A couple of weeks later she contacted me again asking if we could have a book event on Joe Howe’s Ghost. That we could “merge our worlds” and “promote his book”. “While fictional, it is a good reflection of how the provincial government and the legislature function.” We brainstormed for a bit and decided that it had to happen after the Spring Session of the Legislature and that we would have her come to our book club and present it as we do for all our book club books. We then invited the author himself to join us.

Lorelei Nicoll & Bretton Loney

The Book Blurb: Erin Curran is a rookie Government MLA when a startling encounter with the ghost of Joe Howe, Nova Scotia’s most famous politician and journalist, changes the trajectory of her career and her life.

Howe has been silently walking the halls of historic Province House for more than 150 years and Erin is the first living soul he has spoken to in all that time.

At first, it is Erin who learns from Howe, the master politician and communicator, who brought responsible government to Nova Scotia, defended free speech and bitterly opposed Confederation.

But as their friendship grows, Howe gains an appreciation of our times as Erin faces the trials of today’s politics and the unique challenges facing female MLAs—from sexist colleagues to misogynist social media trolls.

Joe Howe’s Ghost is a reflection on Howe’s tumultuous political era and of provincial politics today, and an exploration of the personal struggle between the desire for political power and upholding heartfelt personal convictions that are common to both.

The consensus of the night was that most Canadians and even Nova Scotians know so little about Joseph Howe, one of Nova Scotia’s most important and admired politicians, journalists, and writers to have shaped what Nova Scotia is today. However, many people only know of him as a street name in Halifax. Lorelei even asked how we could get copies of Joe Howe’s Ghost into Junior and High Schools. It was also noted that Bretton wrote an impressive female lead character, something male authors often struggle with achieving.

Future goals for Joe Howe’s Ghost: Lorelei is arranging a tour of Nova Scotia’s Legislative Library for our Book Club members and any other friends of Dartmouth Book Exchange interested, sometime in September. We hope that Bretton can also do a short reading of his book in the library. In the meantime, we plan to do a Summer Author Reading Pop-Up at Joseph Howe Park in front of the Alderney Library with Bretton. Anyone interested in attending is welcome (date TBA) and we will be sharing the reading on our store’s Facebook page. We are also going to see about setting the wheels in motion to get Joe Howe’s Ghost into the local schools.

Joseph Howe Park

On a side note: I am pleased to say that we had a few new people that came to our book club meeting and they mentioned at the end of the night that they plan on returning to our next meeting. We meet on the third Wednesday of every month except for December, when we meet on the second Wednesday. Everyone is always welcome to come and observe, but only those who bring an Atlantic Canadian book to present can leave with a book.

*I just finished Joe Howe’s Ghost before an upcoming Book Club event. It was a great read weaving History, Politics & Fiction creatively together…It refreshed my Jr High History and I enjoyed learning so many new facts about such a proud Nova Scotian who shaped our political history. Thoroughly enjoyed!- Book Club Member

*History buffs, especially of Nova Scotia, and those with even the slightest interest in politics would enjoy reading this novel.- Sue Slade