The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild
Hagios Press / 31 October 2013

The Survival Rate of Butterflies In The Wild by Murray Reiss Published by Hagios Press Reviewed by Jackie Blakely $17.95 ISBN 978-192671020-4 The Survival Rate of Butterflies In The Wild by Murray Reiss is a hauntingly beautiful book of poetry, influenced largely by Reiss’ childhood memories of his Jewish family’s struggles – not only with their new life in Canada, but with living with the knowledge that they survived the horrors of the holocaust in Poland, while family members perished. Sadness and an aching longing are sewn into the themes in Reiss’ poems. His work depicts the emptiness felt by his grief-riddled father, shown by the silence that existed in their relationship. This silence held the pain and guilt that Reiss’ father could not bear. Unanswered letters and postcards that never came are recurring themes that illustrate the profound sense of loss his father felt; but more dramatic still is the sense of Reiss’ shame at having survived at all. In the title poem, “The Survival Rate Of Butterflies In The Wild”, Reiss uses a walk through a butterfly park as an analogy to the life of a Jewish person, and in particular, his own life. Reiss writes of opting…

Herstory 2014
Coteau Books / 31 October 2013

Herstory 2014: The Canadian Women’s Calendar by The Saskatoon Women’s Calendar Collective Published by Coteau Books Reviewed by Jackie Blakely $15.95 ISBN 9781550505566 Herstory 2014: The Canadian Women’s Calendar offers a wonderful collection of stories highlighting the achievements of Canadian women throughout Canadian history. Each vignette in the calendar is crafted to bring to life each woman’s experience and influence, through thoughtful reflections on each of its subjects. From writers to artists and athletes, this compilation of women’s history is proof of the strength of Canadian women and their involvement in creating a great nation. This book is so much more than a functional calendar. It is a documentary of women’s stories that might otherwise be lost over time. Stories such as that of Annie Hanley, the first female council member in Nelson, British Columbia, a nurse, a teacher, a writer and a scholar, populate the pages and bring to life a Canadian history rich in feminine energy. The women profiled in the calendar come from all walks of life and various nationalities and backgrounds. Their impacts are felt from Canada’s historical inception to present day, and their stories are told to highlight their contributions. Stories are accompanied by photos…

Saskatchewan Architecture: A Visual Journey, 1930-2011
University of Regina Press / 29 October 2013

Architecture of Saskatchewan: A Visual Journey, 1930-2011 by Bernard Flaman Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $49.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-250-2 Saskatchewan is more than a land of living skies and gorgeous sunsets; it also comprises the buildings that dot our prairie landscape and adorn our cityscapes. Architecture of Saskatchewan: A Visual Journey covers the period from the 1930s to the new millennium as a companion volume to Historic Architecture of Saskatchewan, published in 1986, which focused on Saskatchewan’s early heritage buildings. An architect in the field of heritage conservation, Bernard Flaman wrote the introduction to each chapter and the text accompanying the photos. A man of few words, he introduces the chapters, then lets the photos speak for themselves. Flaman uses both black and white and colour images. He took many of the photos himself, supplemented by archival sources and other photographers. This 179-page hardcover coffee table book often shows multiple images of the same structures, displaying the changes or additions that have taken place over the years, or simply showing the buildings in different seasons or at different times of day. The photos create some strange images, especially if one adds a little imagination. The Saints…

The Path to Ardroe
Thistledown Press / 25 October 2013

The Path to Ardroe by John Lent Published by Thistledown Press Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 978-1-927068-01-4 John Lent’s novel, The Path to Ardroe, offers a sustained, polymorphous meditation on understanding and accepting oneself, as seen in the shared memories, thoughts, and experiences of several Canadians. It offers a tapestry consisting of four strands of narrative, including those of three characters approaching mid-life, which are told in the first-person, and one of a young woman in her early twenties, which is told in the third-person. Lent’s approach in this terrain is balanced and focused, each character’s situation being sufficiently engrossing to make the experience effortlessly contemplative, highly observant, and satisfyingly rich with detail and personal insight. It is not only an enjoyable novel to read, but to sustain in the mind, as each perspective differs in its orientation to the landscape, the present, and the past, making the strands of selves form the parts of a distinct chord, the hum of the chord being unique and enjoyable, in itself. The Path to Ardroe is a novel of the themes that recur and reverberate across lives and generations, showing their tendency to enter and enrich the texture of human thought and…

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life
University of Regina Press / 24 October 2013

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life by James Daschuk Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-296-0 Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life exposes the seamier side of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald’s National Policy. As the subtitle implies, this book offers startling new insights into the plight of First Nations people and the politics that caused it. Author James Daschuk is an assistant professor of health studies at the University of Regina. Focusing on the medical histories of First Nations people in western Canada, he shows how diseases like smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis, and scarlet fever ravaged the native population. Daschuk’s reinterpretation of Canadian history is a rude awakening to those who believe Canadian attitudes towards aboriginal people were much more humane than their American counterparts. In detailing the politics of persecution and the systematic starvation of natives by withholding rations, Daschuk’s analytical narrative cuts through highly complex issues like a scalpel through skin. He shows that some Indian agents, appointed by the federal government to feed indigenous people, were not exactly men of strong character or high moral values. When…

Tomorrow It Will Be Fine
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 October 2013

Tomorrow It Will Be Fine by Joseph Vida Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 978-1-927371-34-3 It should be said at the outset that Joseph Vida’s Tomorrow It Will Be Fine is an outstanding achievement. It is entertaining and absorbing, socially conscious and sure-footed, linguistically extravagant and methodically plotted, sprawling and detailed, witty and trenchant. Its themes are so engrained in Canadian consciousness that the novel’s title can be read as prophetic of the eternal wish and frustrations of immigrants anywhere. Vida has a fine ear for the dialects of both the transplanted and native. His observation of social attitudes and tendencies and his depiction of idioms and jargons are spot on. Yet, the novel goes a little further than that, a little deeper. Few Canadian social novels read like a symphonic work. Joseph Vida’s does. At its heart, the work is a social novel set in Toronto, which is experiencing a boom after the Second World War. It’s protagonist, Endre, is a Hungarian immigrant seen at an anxious, but illuminating, time in his life. He is beginning to tire of working job after job without any reason to expect a better future. He has suffered…