The subject of Michael Winter’s novel The Big Why (Anansi) is Rockwell Kent, who was an accomplished artist and book illustrator during the 1930s and who was fascinated by the far north. The Big Why begins when Kent arrives in the isolated coastal village of Brigus, Newfoundland, in 1914 and continues until he is deported the following year, after being accused (unjustly) of spying for Germany. In 1914 Newfoundland was “a small island country off the coast of Canada,” and to Kent, who had left New York City in an attempt to start a new life, it felt like going “northeast of everything.” In his book he describes the beauties and the harshness of life in a Newfoundland outport and the difficulties faced by an outsider. When historical fiction is written in the fictional first person, the reader too often fails to be persuaded by the narrative voice: a young protagonist seems wise beyond his years or behaves with an unlikely consistency. This is not the case with The Big Why. Winter convincingly evokes a young, ambitious, headstrong artist, a stubborn idealist who struggles to reconcile his idealism with reality and tries to find a balance between his private and public selves. The question—the big why—that Kent wrestles with throughout the book is an appropriate one for someone driven to live life fully; I won’t spoil the reader’s pleasure by revealing it here. Michael Winter writes with an assurance that belies his relatively modest output, and with The Big Why it feels as though he is really beginning to hit his stride.