Wanderlust
Thistledown Press / 24 August 2017

Wanderlust: Stories on the Move Anthology edited by Byrna Barclay Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-135-8 How does a book idea begin? Wanderlust: Stories on the Move started when seven reputable Saskatchewan writers enjoyed a barbeque together. In her introduction, editor Byrna Barclay explains that the idea for this anthology was spawned when Shelley Banks expressed a desire to tour and read with her fellow prose-writing diners at a Regina barbecue. Barclay compiled and edited the work, and though no theme was suggested, she found that “in every story a person embarks on a journey of discovery”. Along with Banks and Barclay, Brenda Niskala, Linda Biasotto, James Trettwer, Kelly-Anne Riess, and Annette Bower share imaginative journeys, and the result’s a literary road trip that takes readers to places near and far, real and imagined. Niskala transports readers to a Norse trading voyage in 1065 in her exciting novel-in-progress, “Pirates of the Heart,” and Biasotto to favoured Italian locales. Trettwer takes us to a fictitious potash company, and Riess has contributed a moving novel chapter about a twenty-one-year-old who’s never been kissed, and is leaving Saskatchewan for the first time. “Tara had never seen a…

House of the White Elephant
Burton House Books / 18 February 2016

House of the White Elephant by Byrna Barclay Published by Burton House Books Review by Tanya Foster ISBN 9780994866905 $20.00 In Byrna Barclay’s most recent novel House of the White Elephant, the character Lewis Hutchinson says to his young daughter, Jesse Emma: “You cannot replace one person with another”. Yet, the compulsion to replace his first wife drives Lewis and, at first, it secures his posterity but, ultimately, alienates his children. Not only is Lewis impassioned about having an Elizabeth in his life, he is equally obsessed with compensating for his dark skin and questionable parentage. These compulsions are the metaphorical rivers that dominate the lives of the characters in the novel: at times, the rivers are life-giving and freeing, but mostly they are frozen rivers that keep the characters from moving on. In this historical novel, Barclay extends the river metaphor across continents and generations to reveal the steady-flowing influence of ancestry, history, and ethnicity on subsequent generations. The opening line of the novel—“The ice on the river is breaking up”—establishes the river metaphor that flows throughout the novel. The river of this novel is not a literal river, not the Ganges, not the Thames, not the North Saskatchewan;…

The Forest Horses
Coteau Books / 29 October 2010

The Forest Horses by Byrna Barclay Published by Coteau Books Review by Kris Brandhagen $21.00 ISBN 978-1-55050-447-7 Spanning decades, Byrna Barclay’s The Forest Horses is an unconventional love story, a passionate tale set in Russia, Sweden, and Canada. The tale is comprised of four stories intertwined: Pytor is a Russian horse thief who abducts Lena–a Swedish teenager–along with a herd of forty ponies which are the forest horses of the title. Eventually they marry, and daughter Signe is born to Pytor and Lena, as they lead a pony caravan carrying food to the starving, and evacuating refugees from war torn Leningrad during the German siege in 1941. Maryushka, Pytor’s sister, ‘does her part for her country;’ and the reader is exposed to an evocative and detailed description of the denigration of her life and Leningrad. Barclay seamlessly works in historical detail through Maryushka, a worker for the war effort who spends her days on an assembly line. From fear of being accused of treason, Maryushka works herself to the bone for a country that cannot provide her with food: “Food. That’s all the women at work ever talk about now: what’s for supper tonight, how hungry they still are, till…