P.S. Don’t Tell Your Mother

P.S. Don’t Tell Your Mother is a slice of Canadiana which offers a unique look into the culture of Northern British Columbia. Margo Bates has captured the idioms, slang, and expressions – the very nature of northern life – because she lived it. Readers soon become immersed in the comical, quirky, and irreverent story which chronicles the life of twelve-year-old Maggie Mulvaney and her grandmother Nana Noonan, somewhat of a local legend in the town of Telkwa, British Columbia, Pop. 852.

The rough-and-tumble world of Canada’s frontier northwest in the late 50s and early 60s is similar to small towns and tight-knit neighbourhoods everywhere. One character is always larger than life. In Telkwa, it’s Nana Noonan.

Lots of things get Nana going. Telkwa’s only Jehovah’s Witness tops her list. His high hopes of salvation for Nana equal her intent to remain as she is: hell-bent on being herself. After all, she is an Anglican.

The Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t like Nana’s best friend, Tyee Mary. He is not just trying to impose his religion — he represents an ugly undercurrent in northern and rural Canada in the 1960s — prejudice.

Living 150 miles apart, Nana and Maggie exchange hundreds of letters. Nana tells Maggie that it’s important to be fair to your fellow humans. As long as they don’t drive you to do something foolish. Maggie thinks about the lessons learned at Nana’s knee. She writes back and offers suggestions on how Nana might better deal with the Jehovah’s Witness.

Telkwa’s townsfolk place bets on Nana and the Jehovah’s Witness and when the two will have their next set-to. Cash exchanges hands on a fairly regular basis.

Only two people visit Nana more often than her family: Constable Reems of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regularly drops by to disperse the assembly of onlookers in the alley by Nana’s house, and her ill-fated devotee, who visits her every Saturday, rain, shine, sleet or snow.

One fall day in 1960, the Jehovah’s Witness insults Tyee Mary when they meet in the alley by Nana’s. And Constable Reems wishes he was a betting man when he hears that Nana stands up to prejudice the only way she knows how — using her temper and some fine-tuning from her shotgun.