Size of a Fist
Thistledown Press / 22 January 2016

Size of a Fist by Tara Gereaux Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $12.95 ISBN 978-1-77187-059-7 I recognized the anonymous town in first-time author Tara Gereaux’s teen novella, Size of a Fist. The mill’s closed, there are “many boarded-up shops,” and abandoned homes. I know this town because I was raised in a number of small towns that echo it and I’m familiar with many more, and because I could relate not only to the physical aspects of the town’s decline, but also to the disreputable activities of the youth who inhabit it – including Addy, the protagonist of this New Leaf Editions’ book – and the tangible desire to get away. Drinking, drugs, driving while impaired, “colourful” language, bullying, adolescent sex, and generations of familial dysfunction: this is no Disney story, but Gereaux does shed light on the underbelly of small-town life that some might argue is the norm, rather than the exception. There’s value in holding up that mirror: it presents a truth. The Regina writer portrays a community where the only chance of upward mobility is to be outward bound. This book is more documentary than commentary, and I like that, too: there’s no…

Cypress Hills Massacre, The

The Cypress Hills Massacre edited by Robert Clipperton Published by The Saskatchewan Archaeological Society Review by Keith Foster $35.00 ISBN 978-0-9691420-9-6 Everyone loves a good mystery. Even more, everyone loves finding the solution to a mystery. This is what archaeologist Donalee Deck strives to achieve as she digs for answers by literally digging up the past. Her report forms the bulk of material in The Cypress Hills Massacre, edited by Robert Clipperton. By using ground-penetrating radar, Deck was able to document previously unknown structures and other archaeological features at Abel Farwell’s trading post, originally known as Fort Farwell, in the Cypress Hills region of what is now southwestern Saskatchewan. Her digs helped determine when the fort was constructed, what it looked like, and what daily life was like. The outline of the massacre is generally known. On June 1, 1873, American wolf hunters slaughtered several Assiniboine families camped near the fort. The details leading up to this event, and its aftermath, are not so well known. The unprovoked assault on Canadian soil caused an international incident, resulting in an extradition trial for the accused. Thomas R. Cox, secretary of the American Board of Indian Commissioners, wrote from Bozeman, Montana in…

Mahihkan Lake
Thistledown Press / 22 January 2016

Mahihkan Lake by Rod MacIntyre Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-77187-053-5 Veteran writer Rod MacIntyre has combined his talents in scoring authentic and witty dialogue, evoking place to the point where you can actually smell it, and building both personal and physical drama in his seventh book, Mahihkan Lake. Well-known for his YA novels and story collections, now MacIntyre’s characters are all grown up and about to collide – with dark secrets and personal demons in tow – at a mouse-infested cabin beside a northern Saskatchewan lake. Cue gun shots, “a Jesus big storm,” and the cremains of a brother in a “strawberry-faced” cookie jar. Cue wolf (“‘Mahihkan’ – or a word like it – is Cree for wolf”), a gravel truck driver named Harold (with a man’s “boot in his brake hose”), and a mysterious letter. Cue a 1968 Martin guitar, a Road King motorcycle, and chaos. Drama aside, this novel’s an existential story about self and an intimate exploration of family composed via equal shots of humour and pathos. If the book had a subtitle, it could be How Did We Get Here? MacIntyre’s also a playwright and screenwriter, and there’s a…

The Education of Augie Merasty
University of Regina Press / 22 January 2016

The Education of Augie Merasty by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $21.95 978-0-88977-368-4 The creation of The Education of Augie Merasty, by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter, which describes Merasty’s experience at St. Therese Residential School in Sturgeon Landing Saskatchewan between 1935 and 1944, from the age of five to fourteen, was a labour of tenderness and patience. From the point of Carpenter receiving a forwarded letter in spring of 2001 asking for professional assistance to the completion of the book, the endeavour took over thirteen years. Carpenter took no less than five trips from Saskatoon to Prince Albert to “run down” the elusive memoirist to finally sign the publication contract. Carpenter writes: “by telling the stories of others and connecting them to his own experience, Merasty broadened his range of inquiry, and […] the implications of his sometimes horrific story, a story in which our entire nation is darkly and obscurely complicit.” Whether readers like it or not, untold numbers of people were treated in a dehumanising way at the residential schools. Merasty does not get mired in recounting every small injustice (as if such things can…