New Brunswick scores shout-out in new Margaret Atwood bestseller

New Brunswick scores shout-out in new Margaret Atwood bestseller

It was past midnight, and Saint Johner Karen McLean was burning through The Testaments — Margaret Atwood's hotly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. 

She was shocked to find the setting of the final chapter strikingly familiar. 

"I started recognizing place names," she said. "I saw the words Bay of Fundy. I was like, 'Yes! This is local!'"

Midway through the final chapter, she "literally fist-pumped the air."

George Kraychyk / Hulu / Julia Wright / CBC

"The very end takes place on Campobello Island," McLean said. "Campobello is where two of the main characters wind up at the end of the book."

Without revealing too much, the writer and educator said the island, which is part of Charlotte County and connected by bridge to Lubec, Maine, is portrayed in a "positive" way. 

"Atwood is world-renowned," said McLean. "To have our little corner of the world featured so positively, and so prominently, in such a blockbuster is exceptional."

Julia Wright / CBC

"It's really exciting."

It's a big shout-out for a little island, which has a permanent population of just 850. 

The Testaments made headlines earlier this month, when Amazon inadvertently leaked several hundred copies before its Sept.10 release date. 

The novel has topped both Amazon's U.S. and Canadian bestseller lists, been short-listed for the U.K.'s Man Booker Prize, and long-listed for the Giller Prize.

The plot picks up 15 years after the end of The Handmaid's Tale — Atwood's 1985 sci-fi novel set in the dystopian Republic of Gilead. 

It's a "lighter read" than The Handmaid's Tale, according to McLean, narrated by three different women: Aunt Lydia, a main character from The Handmaid's Tale, Agnes, a young woman in Gilead, and a young Canadian woman named Daisy. 

Kate Johnston, manager of marketing and visitor services at Roosevelt Campobello International Park, which preserves the summer home of late U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family, called the literary salute "pretty cool."

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While she hasn't yet read the new book, "I have read The Handmaid's Tale," she said.

"Margaret Atwood has been pretty upfront about the fact that she is inspired by the events that have been happening in the United States."

"Campobello is such an interesting place — so Canadian, but at the same time it has such a tie to the United States."

McLean said that in the context of the plot, Campobello Island is the "perfect" setting for the novel's conclusion. 

Stephanie Jenzer/CBC

"It's definitely going to add awareness of our wonderful area," she said, adding that she's planning her first visit to Campobello Island after reading the book. 

Perhaps most exciting for fans of the hit TV series based on The Handmaid's Tale is that The Testaments is also being adapted into a television drama. 

No word on whether the conclusion will be shot on Campobello, which seems to be having a bit of a media moment right now. On Tuesday, the Island was featured on the CBC show Still Standing with comedian Jonny Harris.


"I hope that anyone who enjoys The Handmaid's Tale or The Testaments will want to come and see Campobello," Johnston said.

"It obviously plays a big role in the Roosevelt history — and a big role in the history of international relations."