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…

Don’t Think Twice
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 29 October 2010

Don’t Think Twice by Alison Lohans Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Karen Lawson $14.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-35-4 Anyone who came of age during the turbulent 1960s will immediately relate to the novel Don’t Think Twice by prolific Saskatchewan author, Alison Lohans. It is challenging enough to write a smoothly flowing story that is set in just one time period but Lohans takes on the difficult writer’s task of merging dual stories from two different eras. The plots swing seamlessly from 1967 to 1997 and merge to form a unified and smooth conclusion. Jan, a middle aged mother is frantically searching for her rebellious, runaway daughter, Lisa. She discovers that writing a journal to her daughter expressing her own emotions helps to alleviate her worries and fears about her daughter’s well being and safety. Jan shares her innermost feelings and explains how she survived her own tumultuous youth. She tells the story of how she met Lisa’s father Rob when they were both teenagers growing up in rural California. Jan became close to his family and explains how their views and liberal lifestyle impacted her own political beliefs and ideas. She also shares the story of the devastating family…

The Little Coat
DriverWorks Ink / 13 October 2010

The Little Coat by Alan J. Buick Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Joan Givner $19.95 ISBN 978-0-9810394-3-5 Alan J. Buick deftly weaves together the true stories of two people against the background of World War II. The first is Everdina (nicknamed ‘Sussie’), a little Dutch girl whose family suffered and survived the horrors of the German occupation. The other is Bob Elliott from Alberta, who enlisted in the Canadian army at the age of fifteen by lying about his age. Their stories intersect when his tank brigade arrived in Holland. Sussie became the brigade’s mascot and was rewarded one Christmas with an amazing gift. It was a set of new clothes to replace her ragged ones. These included the coat of the title, made by a local dressmaker and decorated with eight beautiful buttons, each one donated by a soldier from his uniform. The coat was still Sussie’s most cherished possession when Bob made a return visit to the Netherlands decades later. The two, both now divorced, met, fell in love, and married. They spent the rest of their lives together, dividing their time between Canada and Holland. Sussie donated her coat to the Canadian Legion Hall in Olds,…

After the Words
Hagios Press / 6 October 2010

After the Words by Jennifer Londry Published by Hagios Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $17.95 ISBN 978-1-992671-00-3 Jennifer Londry’s handsome new poetry collection, After The Words, feels like a play consisting of vignettes, and readers are given much room for their own imagining. The setting is a care home, where the occupants – including the poet’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother – wander the halls, their voices and faculties fading in and out. Can poetry be made of this terrain? Of course. And it’s important that it is. Londry, a Kingston, Ontario writer, has been busy. She published her first book of poetry – with the provocative title Life and Death in Cheap Motels – just last year. She was also busy keeping company with her ailing mother, and thus spent much time at “Providence Manor,” experiencing firsthand the decline of that woman and others plagued with dementia. But who was this woman in the years before she became ill? In “Lost Letters,” Londry eloquently writes: “A good daughter, read all of her letters\pieced together the torn edges the frayed\details\of what happened between watermarks\and age spots.” This type of poetry is a kind of therapy: hard to write, easy to relate to….