Margaret Atwood called Sudbury a symbol of hope during a dinner at Laurentian University Nov. 19 in celebration of her 70th birthday and the launch of her latest novel, The Year of the Flood.
Recalling the exotic, barren landscape of Sudbury she visited as a child, Atwood praised the city for its regreening work.
"When people ask if there's hope (for the environment), I say, if Sudbury can do it, so can you. Having been a symbol of desolation, it's become a symbol of hope."
Five years ago, English professors Shannon Hengen and Susan Glover, along with librarian Ashley Thompson, began hosting parties in honour of the literary icon. They served food based on her novels, held readings, and raised funds to honour charities near to Atwood's heart. Atwood attended for the first time in 2008.
"Thank you, Sudbury. You have delivered beyond anyone's wildest," Atwood said after the crowd delivered a rousing, world premiere of A Birthday Ode for Peggy, a song the audience sang to honour her 70th birthday.
This year she praised party organizers and told the dinner audience that she also chose to conclude her 19-stop world book tour at Laurentian because of Sudbury's ability to reinvent itself.
Atwood served as narrator during the dramatic and musical presentation. Local actors Dan Lessard, Patricia Tedford, and Pandora Topp played the roles of Adam One, Toby, and Ren, respectively. Members of Ariadne Women's Chamber Choir, under the direction of Laurentian professor David Buley, sang Orville Stoeber's hymns specifically written for The Year of the Flood.
The evening was also a fundraiser for three local organizations: the Vale Inco Living with Lakes Centre, the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee, and the VETAC, Sudbury's regreening organization, which is in its 37th year. Atwood noted that this is the only stop on her tour that benefited three organizations.