Following the coast on their summer vacation, the Henrys stop at the beach to break up the monotony of their road trip. Matty and Nat build castles in the sand as Anne and David take turns minding the children. A moment of distraction, a blink of the eye, and the life they know is swept away forever.
Like shipwrecks lost at sea, each member of the family sinks under the weight of their shared tragedy. All seems lost but life is long. There are many ways to heal a wound, there are many ways to form a family, and as the Henrys discover, there are many roads to Atlantis.
"A great read, beautifully constructed."
--Sean Wilson, CBC All In A Day, book panel
"At fewer than 250 pages, this brief novel packs more emotional wallop than many books twice or three times its length"
-- Stacy Madden, Quill & Quire
"I loved this book, it’s depiction of real people who are so thoroughly tied to the world, although there are certainly moments at which they might not want to be. The Road to Atlantis is an engrossing read, the reader swept along by its pace, and as amazed at what time can do as its characters are."
--Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This
Leo Brent Robillard’s The Road to Atlantis is a poignant, resonant tale of a family’s dissolution. In gorgeous, gripping prose, he explores how individuals cope with tragedy and how grief sifts through the generations until it can finally settle and heal. This is a novel that echoes with human emotion and meaning and that deserves to be read.
—Lauren Carter, author of Swarm
An intimate portrait of a family blown apart by a tragic accident—a grievous loss that can never be reversed, only borne. As sensitively as a surgeon, Robillard traces the impact of that terrible moment on each of his characters, and we watch, breathless, as each finds their own way to heal.
—Merilyn Simonds, author of The Paradise Project
- How does grief manifest itself in each of the story’s main characters? How do they respond to tragedy differently?
- How does guilt complicate the healing process for both David and Anne? Does guilt precipitate their breakup, or only hasten the inevitable?
- Robillard has said that his reason for writing is “To entertain. To commiserate.” How does The Road to Atlantis fulfil this goal? Did the novel compel you to read on? Did you empathize with its characters?
- Did you find any of the main characters more compelling than the others? Did you identify with any more easily? Which one(s) and why?
- Each segment of the novel introduces a new narrative character. How do the additions of these perspectives enrich the characterization? The plot?
- In an interview, Robillard said, “We are more likely to be acted upon by forces beyond our control or comprehension than we are to unleash or wield these forces. And yet we are not helpless. We maintain the capacity to choose our actions and reactions to these forces.” The characters in Atlantis make many poor choices in the face of these forces. Did they need to make these choices —and suffer their consequences—in order to heal?
- David shows signs of recovery midway through the novel before he hits rock bottom in “The House On Water Street.” How much of this collapse is his own fault? How much is Anne’s? Are there any other elements at play?
- Why does Anne choose Danny? What push factors exist? Is there any pull?
- What is the impact of the family tragedy on Matty? What influence, if any, might it have had
- Before we meet Larry in the final segment, we have only David’s memories with which to construct him. How does his introduction as a narrative character change your perception of who he is? Why do you think he is included?
- Water is a recurring motif in the novel. What does it represent? How does its connotation change over the course of the novel?
- Why does Robillard introduce the model railroading. What is the significance of David’s fascination with it?
- Robillard’s writing has been characterized as Hemingway-esque— “sparse,” “economical,” “with a keen-edged grace.” What scenes stand out for you as particularly poignant or memorable for their prose?
- Early in the book, David said, “He, and everyone around him, would delineate his history as before and after Nat.” Do you think he feels the same way in the closing scene?
- Did you find the end of the novel satisfying? Did it end as you expected?
Leo Brent Robillard is an author and an educator. His work has appeared in various magazines, journals, and anthologies in Canada and abroad. He is a past recipient of the George Johnston Poetry Prize, the Ray Burell Award for Poetry and the Cold Steel Crime and Mystery Award. He is the author of three Turnstone Press novels, Leaving Wyoming, Houdini’s Shadow, and Drift. He lives, teaches, and writes in Ontario.