Our Lamps Were Heavy
DriverWorks Ink / 24 January 2013

Our Lamps Were Heavy by Eleanor A. Sinclair Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $14.95 ISBN 978-0-9879643-3-5 A diary is a good thing to keep; you never know when it might come in handy. Eleanor Sinclair uses extracts from a diary she kept as a nurse in training as the basis for her book, Our Lamps Were Heavy. A retired registered nurse, Sinclair relates the sharp learning curve she experienced as a teen in the 1950s while in training at the Holy Family Hospital and School of Nursing in Prince Albert. She soon learned there was more to nursing than wearing a white uniform. This book is not for the squeamish. While assisting in a delivery, Sinclair witnessed both mother and baby die in childbirth. Then she had to carry the stillborn child to the morgue and clean it for burial. Her narrative slows somewhat when she uses medical terms, but is most lively when she quotes from her diary: “I copied doctor’s orders wrong today and had a baby girl to be circumcised tomorrow. Did I ever get teased.” Sinclair supplements her text with three dozen black and white photos taken while she was training. All the…

Glacial Erratics
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 January 2013

Glacial Erratics by Peter Sarsfield and Kim Mann Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN 378-1-894431-72-9 A current of migration compels this partnership of poems and pictures from writer Peter Sarsfield and photographer Kim Mann — the book captures animals in movement, seasons in change, and landscapes etched by shadows that, with the lift of a page, allude to lengthening and contraction. Between photographs, poetic offerings travel between the Canadian North and southern prairies, tracing avenues of time and maturity, circling anchor-stones of hope and regret. The collection’s title, ‘Glacial Erratics’, refers to boulders deposited by the ice sheets that once covered our prairie landscape. These provide evidence of our geographical heritage, offering themselves as touchstones to a history of dramatic change. And yet they are accidental legacies, monuments borne of glacial fatigue, of failure and release. These poems echo their title. Read separately, it would be difficult to thread them to a theme. But linked and grounded by Mann’s photographs, they plot a journey. A raft of incidents, a life’s hopes and lessons. There is a risk in this trust of fate to organize the poems, which Sarsfield alludes to in ‘message found’:…

Ducks on the Moon
Hagios Press / 16 January 2013

Ducks on the Moon by Kelly Jo Burke Published by Hagios Press Review by Regine Haensel $18.95 ISBN 978-1-926710-07-5 Ducks on the Moon takes the reader into a multi-media experience that is part one-woman play, part self-help book. Kelly Jo Burke is an award winning Regina playwright, poet, director, documentarian and broadcaster. She is also the parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder, a combination that makes for a readable, informative and emotionally engaging book. A few pages in, we are caught by a side note: “A flavor like mustard, if tolerated, can mask many tastes and textures that are sensorially unacceptable to the child.” This captures the strange, wonderful, and demanding world that parents and others must enter if they are to live with, love, and help a child with autism. Burke’s one woman play takes us through the emotional highs and lows of giving birth, of discovering something is different about this child, and then into the long process of getting a diagnosis. After that comes the frustration of trying to find help, and learning how to cope with a life that will never be normal. One of the parents says, “It’s got its ups and downs…

Outcasts of River Falls
Coteau Books / 11 January 2013

Outcasts of River Falls by Jacqueline Guest Published by Coteau Books for Kids Review by Sandy Bonny $ 9.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-480-4 In her third novel for young adult readers, sequel to the award-winning Belle of Batoche, Alberta-based Métis writer, historian, and literacy advocate Jacqueline Guest combines her passions, rewarding readers with a fast-paced coming-of-age adventure. Her spirited teenaged protagonist, Kathryn, has grown up in the care of a father who ‘passed’, hiding his Métis heritage in order to integrate with English society in Ontario. Suddenly orphaned and barred by financial circumstances from the boarding school where she has spent her happiest years, Kathryn is horrified to discover that the aunt into who’s care she has been entrusted is not, as her father’s stories had lead her to expect, a wealthy ranch heiress, but rather a half-breed spinster marooned in Alberta without title to so much as the land beneath her ‘shack.’ Landless and excluded from both the Constitution and Indian Act, the Métis community built in the ‘ditches’ adjacent to River Falls has been forced into self-sufficiency. They supply their own medical care with expertise that is sought after by local settlers, school their children at home, and draw much…