Bruce McLean, 91, grips his favourite photo of himself and his wife, Pauline St-Pierre Dion, whose battle with Alzheimer’s inspired his first novel, The Manana Treehouse. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Bruce McLean, 91, grips his favourite photo of himself and his wife, Pauline St-Pierre Dion, whose battle with Alzheimer’s inspired his first novel, The Manana Treehouse. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

91-year-old Saanich man publishes first novel based on wife’s Alzheimer’s experience

Former journalist Bruce McLean ‘on cloud nine’ after making fiction debut

It’s rare to find someone in their 90s still chasing career goals but this fall, 91-year-old Saanich resident Bruce McLean made his debut as a novelist.

On Sept. 15, The Manana Treehouse was released and McLean, a former journalist, checked publishing his first book off the to-do list.

The novel took McLean some eight years to write and was inspired by experiences with his late wife, Pauline St-Pierre Dion, who spent her last seven years with Alzheimer’s before her death in 2012.

READ ALSO: Rolling closures on Pat Bay Highway for filming in Saanich, Sidney

The Manana Treehouse centres on Connie Kish, a professional children’s storyteller who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but remains wry and imaginative while helping her husband, Max, come to terms. The pair navigate the highs and lows of their relationship as they face her diagnosis – finding a new dynamic that’s both playful and loving.

Like the book’s main character, McLean said his wife took her diagnosis “very bravely.”

The book title comes from a story within the story: Kish slips into her own little fairy tale throughout the book and comes across the manana treehouse – a place of healing and possibility, McLean explained.

READ ALSO: Metchosin sisters paint pictures for veterans

From the 1950s to the late ’80s, McLean worked at several newspapers in Toronto and Vancouver.

“All along I aspired to do more,” and try other writing styles, he said, noting that he started a few other novels but felt this story rooted in personal experience would be the one to “hit pay-dirt.”

McLean added that writing about what he and his wife shared became a way to “digest and get through it.”

READ ALSO: Island family gifts $160,000 toward building accessible outdoor programs in Saanich

In February, McLean received an email from Thistledown Press saying that the book was approved for publication.

It was “one of the biggest moments of my life. I was on cloud nine,” he said.

The moment when he was finally able to see his book “between covers” was another thrilling part of the process for McLean because, after starting his writing career on a typewriter, a project doesn’t feel real for him until it’s in print.

READ ALSO: From Nanoose Bay to the bookshelf, Howard the Gnome is now a children’s book

McLean, who finished his career at the Vancouver Sun/The Province in 1989, said he prefers journalism to fiction because of all the human interaction but said creative writing has its draws.

“There’s another kind of thrill in writing fiction because it’s with you all the time,” he said. While it can be tough, there’s nothing better than when the writing is going well, he added with a chuckle.

McLean noted that his daughter, Moira Chambers, helped him throughout the process and acted as his press agent. The Manana Treehouse is available at Munro’s Books, on the Bolen Books website and on Amazon.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

authorSaanich

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

Greg Chow is the 2021 Local Hero of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fighting fire a family affair for Colwood Assistant Chief Greg Chow

With 38 years of service, Greg Chow is the 2021 Hero of the Year

This rendering shows plans for the new “flyover”overpass connecting northbound traffic on Highway 17 heading west on Keating Cross Road. Plans currently seeking public input propose two options for the median along Keating Cross Road. Option 1 will prevent left turns onto Tamany Drive and Buena Vista Road. Option 2 (seen here)will allow for left turns onto Tamany Drive and Bujena Vista Road. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Public asked for comment on proposed overpass for Pat Bay in Central Saanich

New flyover overpass proposed for Highway 17 and Keating Cross Road

A pedestrian pushing two children in a stroller was struck by a driver while crossing a Highway 1 off-ramp at Burnside Road West on Feb. 24. (Google Streetview)
UPDATED: Pedestrian with two children in stroller struck in Saanich crosswalk after driver failed to yield

No serious injuries reported, driver issued $167 ticket under Motor Vehicle Act, police say

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Most Read