Patchwork Society


A sweeping tale of life in Sault Ste. Marie from the 1930s through the Second World War.

Clara Durling and her teenage daughter, Ivy, move to Sault Ste. Marie in 1932, where Clara is starting a job as head nurse at the local residential school. As Clara adjusts to life in the Soo, she discovers the town is a many-layered society.

Clara works with Indigenous children who have been ripped from their communities and now live frightening, lonely lives in a crumbling building. While Clara struggles to deal with the despair at the school, Ivy makes a friend from the working-class Italian community and has a brush with the bootlegging underworld.

After high school, Ivy heads to nursing school in Montreal but finds society’s expectations for young women do not foster their self-reliance. As Ivy struggles with sexism and societal norms, she and Clara seek to bring humanity to those living at the margins of society.


Sharon Johnston portrays her true-to-life characters through good times and bad, during the 30s and 40s in the Soo. Most importantly, she writes with honesty, respect, and a good measure of love.

Frances Itani, author of Tell

In her matter-of-fact style, Sharon Johnston creates an engaging narrative of life in and around Sault Ste. Marie as witnessed by her grandmother, recounting her reports of the daily experiences of First Nations children in residential schools — housed in condemned buildings, forbidden to speak their language, lacking proper healthcare, stripped of their identity. Patchwork Society is a must read for those who want to know about the damaging legacy of the past which underlies the situations we all face today.

Roberta Jamieson, President and CEO, Indspire

Set in the expanding city of Sault Ste Marie, Patchwork Society portrays the myriad peoples, immigrant, Native, and White, who are banding together to try to create a new society. Gripping and heartbreaking!

David Staines, literary critic and professor at University of Ottawa

Patchwork Society is an authentic and rather jarring account of ‘the Soo’ — it describes a community bound together by the beauty and isolation of the north; yet reveals a complex (patchwork) society, defined by the social, cultural and economic diversity of a unique and resilient town.

Karen Jurjevich, Principal, Branksome Hall

A thrilling and thought-provoking examination of systematic racism, gender-based bias, and small-town culture, Patchwork Society is page-turning historical fiction that will both illuminate and entertain.

Open Book

A brilliant novel of life, politics, treatment of Indigenous children, and systemic racism... Highly recommended.

Historical Novel Society

About the Author

Sharon Johnston

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Sharon Johnston photo

Sharon Johnston

Sharon Johnston has received five honorary degrees for her work in mental health awareness and has served for five years as an Honorary Captain (Navy) for the Military Personnel Command. She lives on a farm near Ottawa.