“The land breathes life – of the ancient times when the first tipis stood over those stone rings, of the days when five children romped over the hills and fields, and of a time when those children, now grown to middle and older age, came home again.” So writes Joyce Olesen in the last chapter of her memoir. It is a wonderful journey she takes us on, with evocative writing that brings the 1950’s of a farm family to life for the reader.
Olesen was born and grew up in southwest Saskatchewan, and has lived in various parts of Canada, including British Columbia, New Brunswick and Alberta. For the last forty-two years Swift Current has been her home. She is a member of the Prairie Quills writers’ group.
The book takes us all the way back to Norway in the late 1800’s, where Olesen’s paternal grandfather and grandmother were born. “…I touched the big rock near her old home and thought about her as a young woman …” We follow the young people to the United States, and in 1915, to Saskatchewan. The family eventually ends up on a farm near Aneroid, where they farm and rent Box 113 at the post office. Nøstbakken, the family name, derives from the Norwegian words for boat house and small hill. Hence, the title of the book.
One of the strengths of the memoir is the author’s ability to take the reader into stories of family life, with lively details of the fascinating characters that people the community. Readers will be captivated by the creations of the father – musical instruments including a square fiddle, a washing machine, and a merry-go-round. Chuckle at the humour of her mother and outings in their rattletrap old car. Enjoy the stories of relationships with animals that were often named after friends and family: “On our farm cows were considered people.”
Throughout the book, Olesen shows us children who “were fortunate in our parents’ encouragement of our grand and glorious play. All the freedom to let our imaginations run riot was the kernel of our endeavours as adults.”
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