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10 Ways to Experience Atlantic Canada on Stage, on Screen, and on the Page

♫ "Welcome to the rock! If you come from away, You'll probably understand about a half of what we say!" ♫

The literature, films, and music that take you to Canada’s rugged Atlantic coast weave epic family sagas, tell tales of young girls as inventive as they are brave, and depict true stories about finding humanity, grace, and even humor against all odds. Here’s what to watch and read to feel transported to the beautiful landscapes and the small towns of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House Canada
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Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

This sprawling, multi-generational saga follows the lives of the Piper family, whose lives are as stormy as their Cape Breton Island home. The novel, set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, chronicles how secrets, tragedy, and ambition have woven the complex bonds that tie the members of this troubled clan together. Though frequently intense the novel is able to balance its weightier themes with a surprising (though dark) level of humor.

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PHOTO: Nimbus Publishing
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Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This beloved children’s book tells the story of an orphan girl named Anne who’s mistakenly sent to two adult siblings who had intended to adopt a young boy to help out around their farm on Prince Edward Island. But the imaginative and plucky Anne soon wins them over. Anne of Green Gables (and the numerous sequels that follow) account her many adventures as she explores her newfound home.

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PHOTO: Bloomsbury Publishing
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The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

After the deaths of his parents and his late, abusive wife Quoyle agrees to his aunt’s suggestion that he and his two daughters move from upstate New York back to their family’s ancestral Newfoundland home. In the small, coastal town Quoyle finds a job reporting on the comings and goings of the ships in local port as he works to figure out what it means to start his life over.

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PHOTO: Simon & Schuster Canada
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Star in the Storm by Joan Hiatt Harlow

Maggie loves her dog, a Newfoundland named Sirius, more than anything. So when her small town on the coast of Newfoundland outlaws all non-herding canines Maggie and her family decide to keep Sirius’s presence a secret. But when a steamer wrecks during a terrible storm she’s faced with a difficult choice, because although Sirius is able to rescue the people on the steamer revealing his presence could cause her to lose him forever.

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PHOTO: Matthew Murphy, 2018
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Come From Away

In the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 38 planes were grounded in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador. This Broadway hit tells the true story of the 7,000 stranded passengers and crew and the generosity of the local residents who opened up their homes (and their hearts) to the unexpected visitors.

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PHOTO: Justin Hall/2005 National Film Board of Canada
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My Ancestors Were Rogues and Murderers

Anne Troake, a filmmaker from Newfoundland, explores her owns family history with the controversial practice of seal hunting in this 2005 documentary. Troake explores how the practice initially attracted controversy and, via interviews with family members, works to dispel what she sees as misconceptions about the nature of the hunt.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Mongrel Media
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Maudie

Based on the life of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis, Maudie follows its titular character as she strives to make her own way in the world in spite of the fact that her family views her as practically helpless. It’s not long after she takes a job working as a live-in housekeeper for a gruff fish peddler that she starts to be recognized for her vibrant, cheery paintings.

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PHOTO: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo
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High Tide at Noon

When a young woman named Joanna returns to her home, a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia where most of the residents work as lobster fishermen, she finds herself faced with three suitors. She dismisses the arrogant Simon and just-a-friend Nils in favor of the sensitive Alec who goes on to gamble away their savings, forcing the impoverished Joanna to flee to the mainland, leaving her beloved island home behind.

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PHOTO: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo
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The Grand Seduction

In this 2014 comedy, a small Newfoundland fishing community must find a local physician in order to land an important contract that would bring much-needed jobs to the underemployed town. So when a doctor arrives for a temporary residency the locals come together in order to entice the doctor to become a permanent resident of the town.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Emotion Pictures
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Cloudburst

This raucous road comedy follows Stella and Dot as they make their way to Canada after Dot’s granddaughter tricks her into being put in a nursing home. With an APB out for their arrest, the pair hightail it north, where same-sex marriage is legal, in order to legalize their 31-year relationship. Along the way, they pick up a Nova Scotia-bound hitchhiker and the unlikely trio bond along the way.