Reading In the Temple of the Rain God: The Life and Times of “Irish” Charlie Wilson is like getting two stories in one, or more precisely, a story within a story.
The subject of this biography is one that author Garrett Wilson is intimately familiar with –his father. A family history, this book is also a history of Saskatchewan’s first 50 years as seen through the eyes of one man.
In weaving a narrative of his father, Garrett quotes heavily from a combination of diary entries, correspondence, and tape-recorded reminiscences that his sister had the foresight to record. As a result, Charlie is able to tell his own story in his own words.
Born in Ireland, Charlie immigrated in 1905, the year Saskatchewan became a province, and settled, appropriately, in Limerick, SK. He wore many hats in his lifetime – homesteader, businessman, politician, and debt adjuster.
Charlie hobnobbed with prominent politicians of the new province. A genial host, he had all but one of Saskatchewan’s early premiers stay overnight at his house, where politics was a hot topic.
It was in the Dirty Thirties, when two-thirds of Saskatchewan’s rural population was on relief, that Charlie left his greatest mark. As a commissioner on the Board of Review responsible for adjusting farm debt, he helped bring salvation to farmers who were struggling with an impossible financial burden.
Nominated for a 2013 Saskatchewan Book Award for non-fiction, Garrett’s 230-page biography includes two dozen black and white photos from his personal collection and the Saskatchewan Archives.
If you listen closely, you may still hear Charlie, in his Irish accent, as he recounts his tales.
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