St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada: Breakwater Publishing, 1994

Waiting for Time is the sequel to Bernice Morgan’s Random Passage, but it does not pick up where the first book left off. Instead, Morgan begins her next part of the story about the Cape Random people in modern Ottawa, a few generations later. Readers of the first book will recognize the name of the first character they encounter, however, because Lavinia Andrews is one of the primary characters in Random Passage. Besides sharing her name, the new Lavinia resembles the old, her distant cousin in that she knows nothing of Cape Random.

The first Lavinia was 17 when she sailed with her family from England to settle in the unknown, isolated place in New Foundland. The second Lavinia was born in Cape Random, but was hastily whisked away while still an infant by her English war-bride mother, when she learned her Newfoundlander husband was killed in the war.

In fish-dependent Cape Random, the men who first settled there had no choice but to learn to fish and the women to “make” fish, or gut, split, salt and dry cod. They often ended one backbreaking fishing season poorer than they were before it started under the slave-like conditions of the early saltfish trade.

The modern “Lav” as she is known, begins “Waiting” as a young child on the day of her mother’s second marriage. Within a few pages, however, she leaps forward to 37, possesses a doctorate, has a live-in relationship, and has upgraded the earlier generations’ backbreaking work of “making fish” with a job as a scientist for the Department of Fisheries.

Since Lav is ignorant of her background, before her mother decides to migrate to California, Lav pries a little family information out of her. She learns her mother, Charlotte, met David Andrews while he was stationed in Portsmouth, married him and sailed for the outport of Cape Random to await his return. David was killed in the war; Lav was born and named after “some old aunt or grandmother who’d died donkey’s years ago….”

Lavinia’s tidy life soon unravels, and she willingly accepts her department’s assignment of a year in Newfoundland. On The Rock, Lavinia is charged with preparing a report on a fisheries zone that will serve as a model for other zones and the future, for an Oceans 2000 project. She settles uneasily into her new surroundings and slowly grows accustomed to her quirky graduate student-assistant, Mark Rodway. One day she is surprised by the announcement that higher-ups from Ottawa are descending on her office within days, disturbed by a preliminary fisheries report issued by her office.

When she finds and reads the report, which predicts the demise of the cod fishery and recommends closing the fishery entirely to save what is left of the resource, she recognizes it as the work of Rodway. Here Morgan brings the reader into the highly political, convoluted world of fisheries science, delivering a fictionalized account of the very real demise of the once-fabled Newfoundland cod fishery.

Morgan’s believable characters portray their fictional version of the real events in ways that would challenge a non-fiction, or ‘true’ version.

Much of the fisheries part of the plot is based in reality. Before the real moratorium was imposed on cod fishing in Newfoundland in 1992, three scientists had issued a dissenting report from the official Department of Fisheries stock assessment report. The three dissenters said the resource was overestimated by 100 percent, but their report was suppressed by DFO, and the fishery was issued a quota that fishermen couldn’t catch. In mid-season, the quota was halved but fishermen still couldn’t catch the reduced amount.

Terrible catches finally caused an abrupt shutdown in July of 1992 and the resource has not recovered yet and the social and economic impacts on the province of Newfoundland and Labrador are inestimable.

Readers familiar with the Newfoundland situation or with fishing issues in general will enjoy this behind-the-scenes peek at the workings of a fisheries agency. Even those with no interest in fisheries can appreciate how working lives are affected by office politics and sometimes, the lives of many others – in this case the 20,000 provincial residents who were unemployed overnight when the moratorium was imposed.

But Morgan doesn’t let her first story wither away in the glare of modern issues. Lavinia must still find her way back to Cape Random, where the earlier Lavinia’s diary awaits her. Waiting steps back in time and takes the point of view of one of the original characters, Mary Bundle, who lived to be 97. Mary’s great-granddaughter, Rachel, has been charged with reading old Lavinia’s journal to Mary and writing down Mary’s version as well. Rachel makes her own additions. Some Cape Random mysteries left over from the first book are solved, some loose ends are finally tied up, others unravel. But the Cape Random story comes full circle and the fisheries story ends as it really does – with angry fishermen pounding on a locked door as the minister announces the cod moratorium.