Castaway Culture – on my desert island

Randy Penney at St. Francis Memorial Hospital

The news that I had been asked by the Current to share my Castaway choices brought a round of laughter from my family. “If you were cast away on a desert island what books or music would you want,” is a regular question for new guests at our dinner table. In addition to books and music, we will also ask about a favourite meal and beverage.

I would bring the following books with me:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. This novel takes place in India and centres around four characters from varied backgrounds. Mistry won the Giller Prize in 1995 for this book and it was shortlisted for the Booker. A true masterpiece. His other novel, Such a Long Journey, is equally good.

Cider House Rules by John Irving. This novel revolves around Home Wells who was raised in an orphanage in Maine and has become the protege of Dr. Larch who is the physician and director of the orphanage. I have been a fan of John Irving’s work for so many years and believe this novel is his best.

The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin. The novel takes place in Ireland in the 1990s with three women (sister, mother, grandmother) caring for Declan who is dying of AIDS. Shortlisted for the Booker, it is a moving story of love and emotion. Toibin is a gifted author who has also written other wonderful novels including Brooklyn, The Testament of Mary and The Master.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This novel set during the Vietnam War is a collection of linked stories about a platoon of soldiers. It is very well-written.

My list would not be complete without a Canadian-born author. Selecting just one would be the problem. From Guy Vanderhaeghe, Wayne Johnston, Andrew Pyper, Anne Michaels to Camilla Gibb, there are so many wonderful and talented Canadian authors. With that said, I would select Sweetland by Michael Crummey. Newfoundland has produced great writers and Crummey is at his best with this novel about resettlement.

For musical selections: True to my Canadian roots, I would certainly have The Last Waltz by The Band, Jackson Browne Solo Acoustic and, most importantly, a copy of a beautiful CD recorded by our daughter, Sarah.

For what it’s worth, I would probably be listening to something by Mary Chapin Carpenter, dining on a wood-fired pizza and sipping a nicely chilled Pinot Grigio – all the time wearing fifty-plus sunscreen.

About the Castaway: Randy Penney has been the CEO of the Renfrew Victoria Hospital and St. Francis Memorial Hospital for the past 28 years. In addition to this role, he is also a Surveyor with Accreditation Canada and has served on numerous National Healthcare Boards. He and his wife, Ellen, live in Renfrew and have three adult children, Christopher, Sarah and Catherine.

One Comment

  1. Esmond Vallquettei

    My family has had the tremendous pleasure of playing this game at the Penney Family home. Randy and Ellen love to entertain and their easy way of having everyone feel special and at home is a true pleasure.

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