Outlier: Life, Law, and Politics in the West
Benchmark Press / 7 February 2017

Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West by Garrett Wilson Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-1-927352-28-1 In his hard-hitting autobiography, Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West, retired lawyer and author Garrett Wilson doesn’t pull any punches. He tells it as he sees it, exposing scandalous government corruption at both provincial and federal levels. His chapter on Hazen Argue and his wife Jean, for instance, exposes outrageous abuses in the Canadian Senate. The Outlier title may be somewhat misleading as it implies Wilson is on the outside looking in while momentous decisions are being made. But Wilson is not merely an eyewitness to history; he‘s at its very nerve centre and plays a role in making that history. When the Ku Klux Klan tries to intimidate Wilson’s father in the 1920s by burning a cross just outside their village, Wilson may sense he’s in for a rough life. He develops a severe kidney infection and his older brother Kevin is killed in World War II. While studying law at the University of Saskatchewan, Wilson becomes editor of The Sheaf, the student newspaper, winning three trophies, including one for best editorials. He begins to…

Glad I Dropped In
Benchmark Press / 18 January 2017

Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore by June Mitchell Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $20.00 ISBN 978-1-927352-27-4 Anyone looking for the pure pleasure of getting lost in a good book need look no further than June Mitchell’s Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore, a memoir sure to evoke both laughter and tears. June, or Junie as she refers to herself in the early portion of the book, tells her life story as she recalls it. In those earlier sections where she has no recollection, she narrates as an outside observer, based on what she heard from others. June inherits her socialist leanings from her parents. Her mother, Marjorie Cooper, becomes the third female Member of the Saskatchewan Legislature, serving four terms for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. June’s father, Edward Cooper, is a high school teacher and fellow member of the CCF. June also develops her social activism from her Aunt Luella. When she witnesses a man dragging a woman down the street, Luella calls police, who ignore her. She then adds that her father has just left the house with a hammer; the police respond immediately. June…

Prairie Initiation: A War Bride Story
Benchmark Press / 26 June 2015

Prairie Initiation: A War Bride Story by Joan Spencer Olson Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927352-19-9 Prairie Initiation is a love story of Anne Clark, an English war bride who moves to the Saskatchewan prairies with her Canadian soldier husband, Carl Swenson. Saskatchewan novelist Joan Olson, herself an English war bride, knows her subject well. Anne and Carl meet at a dance, and the attraction is immediate. But the differences between them are deep. She has strong religious connections; he’s an agnostic. She smokes; he’s a non-smoker. Yet in wooing Anne, Carl plies her with chocolates and cigarettes. Anne is stunned when Carl tells her he’s married, but it’s a marriage in name only. He demobilizes in Canada at the end of World War II, divorces his wife, and returns to marry Anne. Anne is disappointed with their wedding, which takes place in a courtroom presided over by a judge, “a mere formality taking barely more time than weighing and stamping a parcel.” Anne also has misgivings about moving to Canada to live with Carl and his parents. She has a strange premonition when Carl’s mother tersely writes, “I hope you will not regret the…

The Rawhide Homesteader
Benchmark Press / 6 November 2014

The Rawhide Homesteader by Scott Henders Published by Benchmark Press Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 978192735218 $19.95 Scott Henders’ The Rawhide Homesteader offers readers an engrossing narrative engemmed with wisdom about the human condition within boundaries of the natural order. It is a novel most remarkable for its true-as-life characters, all of whom are intelligently moulded by the institutions of social life demarcating society, yet show the strains in traditional ways, under pressures of family, religion, nature, and changing socio-economic conditions at the turn of the 20th Century. Several characters are twice born, once into what must be endured, and once into what must be done to live well for themselves and their loved ones. The novel also offers rich insight into the spiritual life as a means of learning respect for forces of man and nature that can expand, yet will just as likely devastate, the soul. It is a novel about the inescapable needs that pulsate in the human psyche, the ties of society within and across cultural lines, and the inborn patterns of nature that provide the logic in which human beings must progress toward self-understanding and enlightened acceptance. At the heart of this narrative is Josh…

and i think to myself…
Benchmark Press / 26 July 2013

and i think to myself by June Mitchell Published by Benchmark Press Review by Justin Dittrick $15.00 ISBN 9-78192-73520-1 June Mitchell’s collection of poems, and i think to myself, brims with wisdom, imagination, and experience. It is much more than a collection of poems. It is the product of a lifetime as a humanitarian, much of which was spent in the pursuit of social activism and social justice. It is also the expression of a lifelong passion for literature and poetry, a pastime that bears much fruit, here. Mitchell’s collection must not only be read, but celebrated, for its depths and truths testify to the fullness of a woman’s life, its contents ringing out to the ear with mirth, joy, despair, outrage, and wonder. Written later in life, one of many discoveries in this collection is how it is positioned towards the providential. It is all the more remarkable for being a natural inclination in its speakers, for from this inclination, much wisdom appears. In “déjà vu”, the speaker contemplates the origin of the desire for a better world. In “resolution”, there is an embrace of god in nature, and with it a denial of the artificial. The two go…

Jonah’s Daughter
Benchmark Press / 24 May 2013

Jonah’s Daughter by M.C. Conacher Published by Benchmark Press Review by Regine Haensel $16.95 ISBN 978-1-927352-02-1              Jonah’s Daughter is M.C. Conacher’s third published book, and is dedicated to the twelve other nurses who graduated with her from nurses’ training in Prince Albert in 1950.      The novel tells the story of Sedelia Lawson, “fifth and last child of Jonah and Margaret Lawson,” born during the Depression.  There are many details about family life in rural Saskatchewan in the 1940’s and 50’s, and about Sedelia’s brothers and sisters. The major part of the book deals with Sedelia’s training as a nurse at the Protestant Hospital in Prince Albert.  A happy, go-lucky girl, Sedelia likes the training and the work.  She goes out with young men in her spare time and enjoys life.      One evening, a planned date goes wrong for Sedelia, so on a whim she agrees to go to a gospel church with a couple of other nurses in training.  Marie and Dorothy are not Sedelia’s best friends by any stretch of the imagination.  Both of them plan to become missionaries, which Sedelia finds hard to comprehend.  However, Sedelia is mesmerized by the speaker…

The Saskatchewan Secret
Benchmark Press / 27 January 2010

The Saskatchewan Secret: Folk Healers, Diviners, and Mystics of the Prairies by Jacqueline Moore Published by Benchmark Press Review by Shanna Mann $19.95 ISBN 978-0-9813243-2-6 It was inspiring to read about people with the intestinal fortitude to live unconventional lives. In our scientific, logical world that kind of nonconformity separates us from our fellow man at the same time as we learn the underlying truth– we are more inter-connected than we believe. Jacqueline Moore wisely advises readers in the preface, “‘Reality’ is a curious word–it sounds undeniable, authoritative, scientific. But it’s a completely subjective concept… These individuals are truthfully depicting their version of reality; however, one’s personal version must not be — can not be — the whole, entire, and complete reality…I would ask that you simply accept that these are other good people’s real experiences; and that you keep an open mind.” On one hand, many of the stories lined up with my personal beliefs, and perhaps I like the book simply because it makes me feel “right.” But on the other hand, when you read about faith healers invoking the Virgin Mary or Jesus and getting phenomenal results (an event which before reading this book I would have…

About Jim and Me: a love story
Benchmark Press / 2 December 2009

About Jim and Me: a love story by Sally Crooks Published by Benchmark Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 978-0-9813243-1-9 Are you interested in recording your personal history and preserving stories about the people and places that have enriched your life? Then perhaps, like Regina writer Sally Crooks, you should write a memoir. Life writing, as it’s sometimes called, has become increasingly popular, and workshops on the genre are frequently led by many of Saskatchewan’s veteran writers. Crooks’ 164-page memoir, About Jim and Me: a love story, traces the author’s experiences as a Scot who immigrated to Regina in 1965 with her beloved husband, Jim, a physiotherapist 16 years her senior – an age difference her family wasn’t pleased about. The book project, Crooks explains, began in 1997, six months after Jim’s death, and was 12 years in the making. The author’s no literary apprentice: she studied the craft at the Sage Hill Writing Experience; participated in writers’ colonies; and has been publishing poetry for years. As her book progressed, various segments appeared in journals, were heard on CBC Radio, and were recognized with Saskatchewan Writers Guild awards. In 2007, Crooks earned a John V. Hicks Manuscript Award….