Fritz Stehwien: A Retrospective
Landscape Art Publishing / 18 September 2015

Fritz Stehwien: A Retrospective by Barbara Stehwien Published by Landscape Art Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $9.95 ISBN 9-780991-964918 The softcover book Fritz Stehwien: A Retrospective, originally published in 1993 and later released with an updated biography, was a family affair. The book-not unlike a gallery catalogue produced to accompany a major artist’s show-is prefaced by introductions to the German-born artist’s life and work by daughter Barbara Stehwien and daughter-in-law Nancy Robinson-Stehwien. What follows is 20 attractive pages of black and white and colour images of the prolific artist’s work, including landscapes, portraits, and still-lifes. First, the man. In the introductions we learn that Stehwien was the quintessential artist, always ready to capture the spirit of what was around him, and as such he lived a full and interesting life. “I have not known him to go anywhere without his materials,” his daughter writes, adding that if he didn’t have everything that was required, he would “improvise using the back of painted or printed matter, even restaurant napkins.” She says he would use “any old pen rather than lose an important moment.” The use of “moment” here lends a clue to the value the subject of this book saw…

Wild Rose
Uncategorized / 18 September 2015

Wild Rose by Sharon Butala Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $21.95 ISBN 9-781550-506365 After completing Sharon Butala’s epic new novel Wild Rose, I closed the book and thought: This is why she’s on CanLit’s “A” list. If you’re in the mood for getting completely swept up in a female pioneer’s adventure–and this means fully empathizing with the young Québécois idealist, Sophie, as she sets out in 1884 for the West and the freedom it signifies–then buckle up, because Butala assuredly leads readers back in time to a landscape where “the sun [pours] itself over everything: horses, the hats of the men, the few women’s entangling skirts, the children’s round eager faces, the …already weathered false-fronted buildings, piles of all kinds of goods on the ground from walking plows to stained sacks … to the teams of horses, the train itself …”. Butala has a masterly way with landscape, making it, too, feel like a character you enjoy spending time with. Given her many years of living on the Prairies-plus the fine craft she’s already demonstrated with sixteen highly-revered titles, including GG-nominated fiction and nonfiction-she comes by this gift honestly. This is a writer who’s experienced “a…

The Other Place
Serimuse Books / 18 September 2015

The Other Place by Regine Haensel Published by Serimuse Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $12.00 ISBN 978-603-8919-58-3 Regine Haensel’s first collection of stories, The Other Place, is so easy to read, one need only invest a few hours, yet the compelling linked stories and their credible protagonist – Greta, a young German immigrant – remain with the reader in the way one can still feel the warmth after a good friend has been to visit. Firstly, the book is physically enjoyable to read. The double-spaced lines are literally easy to see, and the paper used is noticeably whiter than in most books, so the black print stands out. This is rare and especially welcome. The attractive cover features multi-coloured circles (slightly reminiscent of a Spirograph design) against a lime green background, and offers no clue – not a bad thing! – as to what’s inside: nine stories about introspective Greta’s often difficult assimilation into a small prairie community. In her words, she “Wanted to get good at forgetting sad things.” I believe Saskatoon-based Haensel has drawn deeply from her own personal experience, as a quick internet search reveals that she was born in Germany and moved to Canada in…

250 Hours
Coteau Books / 18 September 2015

250 Hours By Colleen Nelson Published by Coteau Books Review by Justin Dittrick $12.95 ISBN 9781550506419 250 Hours by Colleen Nelson is a young adult novel that introduces readers to social issues creating divisions among Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Canadians, while depicting how these issues manifest themselves in the problematic relations marked by discrimination, role-reduction, and conflict. However, while it is classified as a young adult novel, non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal Canadians of all ages will find in its pages a compelling representation of the social and economic realities all Canadians experience in reservations and in small town communities. The assumption that should be made is that many Canadians, like Sara Jean’s Gam, were educated in only a partial history of the residential school system, and may not realize that this school system amounted to a form of cultural genocide. The fallout of this school system is richly depicted in Jess, who grew up without a father and faced discrimination, as well as in Jess’s father, Gus, who returns home with liver cancer, having lived a life attempting to cope with his past with alcohol. The novel also depicts the conflict non-Aboriginal Canadian women experience within their own culture, particularly the conflict…

The Birthday Books
Hagios Press / 18 September 2015

The Birthday Books by Joanna Lilley Published by Hagios Press Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 9 781926 710334 $18.95 Joanna Lilley’s short story collection, The Birthday Books, promises readers an unforgettable trip to the threshold of becoming that exists on no map, but in individual minds and social consciousness, along the boundary of the familiar and the unknown. Many of the stories in this collection mark time and place one beat prior to personal transformation, within circumstances that distort, clarify, or enhance the lenses used to peer into the self, others and into the past. Many of the characters in this collection are on the edge of something momentous. The stories are parsimonious and elegant, at once mystifying and perspicacious, the images formed from spaces teeming with anguish, euphoria, uncertainty, curiosity, and rare beauty. In her characters’ attraction to the North, in “Rearranging Rainbows,” “Silver Salmon,” “Magnetic North,” “Carbonated,” and “The Ladies of Marsh Lake,” Lilley composes a convincing testament to the North’s magnetic powers, what makes this harsh and challenging environment so alluring to the imaginations of those desiring a break from modern existence or individual circumstance. Readers will be enthralled with Lilley’s character’s wanderlust, with how their thoughts,…