Dear Me: The Widow Letters
DriverWorks Ink / 13 June 2018

Dear Me: The Widow Letters Compiled by Dianne Young Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $14.95            ISBN 978-1-927570-43-2 Only those who’ve experienced the loss of a spouse can know the intense emotional feelings of that bereavement. In Dear Me: The Widow Letters, Dianne Young compiles the feelings of twenty widows, including herself, in a series of letters written several years after the death of their spouse. Each widow writes a letter addressed to herself as she was in the immediate aftermath of her loss. It’s as if each is going back in time to give the advice and consolation she wishes she’d had. These widows of varying ages live across Canada and one in the United States; thirteen are from Saskatchewan. Some marriages were long-term – sixty-four years for one couple – others short, barely beyond the honeymoon stage for another couple. Each widow explores her feelings as she goes through the various phases of the grieving process. Everyone experiences grief differently, yet all share some of the same traits. Feelings of guilt and anger are normal. So is crying, even at the most unexpected times, like at a checkout line or going through the car wash. Others…

Fun on the Farm Too
DriverWorks Ink / 8 March 2018

Fun on the Farm Too Compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $15.95 ISBN 978192757037-1 If you loved Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life, then you’re in for a treat. The sequel Fun on the Farm Too is packed with 40 more hilarious and memorable stories and poems about life on a farm on the Canadian prairies. Once again there are stories about strange happenings in outhouses, stubborn sheep, terrifying turkeys, alarming stories of pigs and chickens and the inevitable antics that arise from growing up on a farm. Theodore Mikolayenko tells the story of how he decided to become a self-appointed goose flight coordinator, we find out what made mild-mannered Agnes finally blow her cool, and we discover the recipe for perfect mud pies (hint, it involves a fresh egg!). There will also be a trip down memory lane for many readers with June Hudy’s story about party lines (a forerunner of social media for those who are too young to remember this staple of rural life) which allowed the entire community to keep up to date on their neighbors’ personal lives. I particularly loved Carrie Ann Schemenauer’s…

Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather
DriverWorks Ink / 2 February 2018

Skye Bird and Eagle Feather by Mary Harelkin Bishop Published by Emmbee Ink and DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $13.95 ISBN 978-192757039-5 Every time I read one of Mary Harelkin Bishop’s books I learn something new. As a relative newcomer to Canada and Saskatchewan, I’ve heard the words, “We recognize that we are standing on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis…” many times without really knowing what that meant. Now, thanks to Bishop’s latest book, Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather, I have a vivid picture in my mind. Bishop’s new book introduces us to Skye Bird, a Grade 6 student starting the new school year in a “big, shiny, new school across town”. Her old school, a local school which has recently closed, was “warm and inviting”. Although it was small, it was a vibrant community where different cultures were celebrated and shared. But Skye’s new school seems nothing like that and she feels very lost and out of place. Her little sister Cheyenne can’t find her special books in the school library and when Skye asks the librarian where to find books about Cree people or the Métis, she’s told that they don’t have…

My Soul Still Dances
DriverWorks Ink / 26 October 2017

My Soul Still Dances: Living with Parkinson’s by Sister Adelaide Fortowsky, with Sister Rosetta Reiniger Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-38-8 No one can ever know the pain inflicted by Parkinson’s disease – unless they’ve experienced it. Sister Adelaide Fortowsky, an Ursuline Sister, lived with this disease for more than twenty years and wrote about her ordeal in a diary. Published as My Soul Still Dances: Living with Parkinson’s, she records the progress of the disease as she slowly deteriorates. Born Bertha Fortowsky in 1930 on the family farm near Cavell, SK, she was so frail at birth that a midwife, fearing the newborn wouldn’t live, baptized her. She joined the Order of St. Ursuline in 1950, taking the name Sister Adelaide, and made her final vows in 1956. After teaching elementary school in Saskatchewan villages and towns for twenty-nine years, she joined the staff at St. Angela’s Academy, an all-girls high school with live-in students, at Prelate, SK. She taught until 2003, when her Parkinson’s affliction became severe. This is not an easy read. Parkinson’s has no known cause or cure. When “normal” activities were no longer normal, Sister Adelaide felt trapped in her…

Rescued
DriverWorks Ink / 24 August 2017

Rescued by Janice Howden Reviewed by Michelle Shaw $13.95 ISBN 978192757031-9 Rescued is a deceptively simple book that works on many levels. On the surface, it’s a story about Hawkeye and his brother Freddie, two abandoned Tibetan Terriers, and their search to find a “Forever Home”. Underlying the story is the true account of author Janice Howden’s adoption of her rescue dog Rahj from the Saskatoon SPCA. Janice has been a long-time supporter of the Saskatchewan SPCA. For many years her husband Lloyd worked as an animal protection officer for the organization and she’s heard lots of stories over the years, both good and bad. So when she decided to adopt a dog it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. She first drew up a checklist to make sure she chose a dog that would suit their family. For one thing, she knew she wanted a dog that didn’t require long runs at dawn. “Not my lifestyle,” she says firmly. “I wanted a smaller dog, one with whom I could enjoy cuddles on the sofa while I watched TV or read.” After months of checking the SPCA website, Janice found two Tibetan Terriers who were about six months old…

Fun on the Farm
DriverWorks Ink / 8 August 2017

Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life! Compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver Reviewed by Michelle Shaw $17.95 ISBN 978-192757030-2 I knew Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life was a winner when the opening story, Harvest Bonding, written from the perspective of a newlywed city girl who has married a farmer, had me giggling from the start. As Jean Fahlman wryly points out, “When soulmates enter the harvest field, the marriage may be entering the twilight zone, but newly married farmers and wives don’t realize that at first”. Harvest Bonding is the first story in this collection of humorous, true accounts of farm life in Saskatchewan, compiled and edited by Regina-based Deana Driver. The book is filled with tales of mishaps, adventures and childhood memories from riding “Bessie, our two-hundred pound pig”, jam-can curling and playing street hockey with a potato as a puck, chasing wandering cows, hens that lay Easter eggs and even an amusing incident from the filming of the James Herriot movie All Creatures Great and Small. That one I have to admit was set in Yorkshire, not Saskatchewan, although there is of course a Saskatchewan connection! Many of the stories…

Muskrat Ramble
DriverWorks Ink / 21 July 2017

Muskrat Ramble by William Wardill Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.99 ISBN 978-1-927570-34-0 Eatonia’s William Wardill has been writing stories and poems for decades, and now the veteran historian, writer, diviner, and small-town Saskatchewan aficionado has penned his “swan song” collection of poetry, Muskrat Ramble, which includes previously published work, photographs, and, interestingly, brief, conversational-style introductions to many of the poems. The “almost autobiographical” and fictional poems (with “roots in reality”) are straightforward narrative tributes to people, places, and pre-Facebook ways of life long behind us now. Readers will appreciate the poems’ preambles: reading them is akin to hearing a writer present his or her work at a public reading. Many readers (including yours truly) will also appreciate the larger-than-usual print. Wardill has lived a rich life across his nine decades. He stretches back to his boyhood re: acknowledgement of an Alsask teacher for helping him to realize “that a little boy who liked to arrange words in patterns, paint pictures, and sing songs could be as useful in the world as the little boy who excelled in athletic competitions.” At the other end of his life, in a poem titled “Homo Emeritus,” he reflects that…

Leap!
DriverWorks Ink / 12 April 2017

Leap! How To Overcome Doubt, Fear, And Grief and Choose the Path of Joy by Lisa Driver Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-192757033-3 When I review a self-help book, I’m interested in knowing the author’s story. Is he or she writing based on personal experience? If so, I’m immediately more invested. The combination of practical advice and personal revelation is precisely what writer Lisa Driver delivers in her second book, and the long subtitle of Leap! provides a summary of what readers are in for: advice on ways to “Overcome Doubt, Fear, And Grief [And] Choose The Path of Joy.” Driver wears multiple hats. The Regina-born writer is a “certified Angel Therapist, Advanced Angel Tarot and oracle card reader, Medium, and Reiki Practitioner,” and in 2016 she became a new mother. In this ninety-six page softcover she conversationally discusses her decision to leave the financial security of traditional employment and follow her dream to focus exclusively on her business, Above 540, which serves to inspire others “to the joy and wonder that exists around them, and [help] them step into their power” via readings and spiritually-based teaching and healing. Setting intentions, meditating, creating awareness,…

Mistasiniy
DriverWorks Ink / 22 March 2017

Mistasinîy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone by Mary Harelkin Bishop Illustrated by Heaven Starr Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-32-6 If you loved Mary Harelkin Bishop’s Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story you’ve no doubt been waiting for it’s companion book with eager anticipation. Bishop has a way of painting characters that are memorable and her style of writing easily draws the reader into the story. You’re on chapter two before you know it! This is a story that stayed with me. It snuck into my brain and left me pondering for days. The basic plot involves two young boys who are assigned a Canadian heritage project by their Grade 6 teacher. Danny discovers his great great grandmother’s diary of arriving in Canada and the struggles the family endured as they established their farm. Zach though is First Nations. While the rest of the class has family that arrived in Canada at some point, his family has always been a part of the land. What about his family’s heritage? Doesn’t it count? Zach becomes very angry and confused. To complicate the story even further, the boys have a long history of antagonism. They’ve tried, on the whole,…

Rescued
DriverWorks Ink / 22 December 2016

Rescued by Janice Howden Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $13.95 ISBN 978-192757031-9 Before reading Rescued-Saskatoon writer Janice Howden’s touching story for young readers about a dog’s journey from a puppy mill into the arms of a loving “forever home” family-I’d never heard of Tibetan Terriers. As their name implies, these shaggy-coated dogs originated in the Himalayas, and their “big round feet act like snowshoes in the deep snow.” They’re intelligent, determined, and affectionate, and, as Howden proves in this hybrid story-part non-fiction, part fancy (as told by the canine protagonist)-they can be inspirational. Howden’s combined her passion for promoting pet adoptions from animal rescues, her love for the puppy Hawkeye (later renamed Rahj) she adopted from the Saskatoon SPCA, and her writing skills into a story that works well between the genres of fiction and nonfiction. After an italicized introduction into what lead to Hawkeye’s adoption, she switches to storytelling mode. Here Hawkeye takes over the narration, and this little guy’s feisty. He says the story thus far is “being told rather badly by the human,” and he goes on to share how he and his meek brother, Freddie, were evicted from the kennel (aka puppy…