A lot of times when you read a book, you can pinpoint a type of writing that the book somehow represents. Certain aspects of certain books make them typical of a genre or a style of writing. Sometimes, though, the writer is able to incorporate elements into his or her work which make that work unique, crossing boundaries and transcending genres. Such is the case with Ellison Robertson’s The Last Gael. In this collection of short stories, Robertson takes on the role of historian, poet and storyteller, seamlessly mingling different elements into the story. The stories in this book are primarily set in and around Cape Breton in communities which are familiar to anyone who’s traveled the island. The characters in these stories are like people we’ve met and people we know and are described from what, at times, seems more like memory than fiction. The people we meet in these pages could easily live within a few hours or a few minutes of our own homes. The events in their lives certainly wouldn’t change the world but are very believable and often deeply personal; there-in lies their power. Themes of dead-end jobs, separation from family, death of loved ones and a loss of history are as apparent in these stories as they are in the communities of our own home. Ellison seems able to reveal a single event in the life of a character which seems indicative of that individual, and an entire people’s way of life. This familiarity between reader and character uplifts and devastates us as we witness and, in a sense, live through their success and failures alike. From the pitiful and depressing comedy of “Oh Oh Oh” to the emotional strain and destruction of “Entrepreneurs”, The Last Gael is gripping, powerful and timeless from cover to cover.