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 Days Run Away
Coteau Books / 23 June 2015

The Days Run Away by Robert Currie Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $16.95 ISBN 9-781550-506082 The cover image on Robert Currie’s new poetry collection, The Days Run Away, features two galloping horses in silhouette. This image and the book’s title are apt metaphors for the Moose Jaw writer’s latest, a strong body of mostly narrative pieces that document the passing of time and the poet’s people, including his close friend and fellow SK writer, Gary Hyland As Hyland (to whom the book is dedicated) was, Currie is a celebrated fixture on the SK-writing landscape. He is a founding member of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words and twice served as Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate. The longtime former teacher at Moose Jaw’s Central Collegiate knows his way around several genres; his oeuvre includes poetry, short story collections and novels. These poems are almost exclusively small stories told in “the people’s” language. They communicate. And they pack emotional punch. While reading, I kept imagining Currie delivering these diverse story-poems to a captive audience in a comfortable setting – where one’s allowed to have a beer, and fits right in wearing blue jeans. Folks would be nodding in recognition of shared…

Stealing Home
Hagios Press / 18 June 2015

Stealing Home by Dwayne Brenna Published by Hagios Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $17.95 978-192671021-1 Stealing Home, a book of poetry by Dwayne Brenna, begins strong, careening through a tour of baseball parks. Some of the more notable parks mused on include Ebbets Field, Candlestick Park, and The Big O. In a poem called “Shea Stadium, New York City, 2005” Brenna uses the senses to provide vivid imagery: “the thwack of hickory…and rumble rising from expensive seats down low.” Here, auditory language is used to evoke the sounds of the game, which causes seasoned fans to reminisce about their ballpark experiences, or allow someone who doesn’t understand sports fans to put his/herself in their place. For those of you scoring at home, this also calls to mind that before television, most people experienced professional baseball through radio only. At the end of the first section, in “Cairns Field, Saskatoon, 2010,” Brenna evokes the visual: “the infield grass is luminous, as green / as spring in your imaginings. The lights / of Saskatoon are dots against the sky, / the deep blue sky behind right field.” This is my favourite passage, putting me right back on the mound. I recall seeing…

Women’s History

Women’s History Edited by Wendee Kubik and Gregory P. Marchildon Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 9780889773127 The history of women in the Prairies is a story of accomplishment and ongoing struggle – clearly depicted in Women’s History, edited by Wendee Kubik and Gregory P. Marchildon, This is the fifth volume in the History of the Prairie West Series, designed to appeal to a wide audience, from general readers to professional historians. Although Women’s History focuses on the three Prairie Provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba, it also extends to the American West. The book includes an array of subjects, including prohibition, vagrancy, suffrage, political activism, and union organizing. Women’s History is divided into six sections – Politics, Law, Agriculture, Labour, Journalism, and Ethnicity – covering the period from the 1870s to 2005. The seventeen analytical essays by fifteen authors were previously published in various issues of Prairie Forum; they are now conveniently located in this one volume. Each section contains essays appropriate to that area, often with intriguing titles such as “Spinsters Need Not Apply: Six Single Women Who Attempted to Homestead in Saskatchewan between 1872 and 1914,” and “25¢ an Hour; 48…

Stepping Out From the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding and Healing From Addictions

Stepping Out from the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding & Healing from Addictions by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-12-6 Unhealthy addictions are prevalent in contemporary society, and if you visit any bookstore, you’ll note that books about addictions also fill the shelves. When one who’s experienced the wrath of addiction puts pen to paper, it tends to add weight to the words. Allan Kehler is a Saskatchewan author, addictions counsellor, educator, and presenter, and he’s also struggled with both addictions and mental illness. His book Stepping Out from the Shadows: A Guide to Understanding & Healing from Addictions, is an easy-to-read guide for those struggling with addictions, and for those who love and support them. Kehler names some of the reasons why one might become addicted to a substance or behavior (like compulsive gambling or over-eating). These include a lack of love and nurturing within the home environment, mental illness, peer pressure, or some specific trauma which resulted in suppressed emotions. “The person takes comfort knowing that something exists that will bring them out of their painful reality.” As use escalates, however, a habit that was once a “want”…

Masham Means Evening
Coteau Books / 9 June 2015

Masham Means Evening by Kanina Dawson Published by Coteau Books Review by Kris Brandhagen $16.95 978-1-55050-550-4 Sitting in the sun on my patio I feel a slight breeze. I feel secure, safe, and the chirping birds induce a calming presence over the distant sounds of construction. Opening this book of poetry, Masham Means Evening, written by Ottawa poet Kanina Dawson, from the perspective of a female Canadian soldier, I am transported into the intense heat, dust, and destruction of the war in Afghanistan. Though I suspect that war defies cohesive description, Dawson uses nuanced, economical language to flesh out the experience. Men, women, and children are maimed or killed, be they Afghan civilian, Taliban fighter, or coalition soldier. Afghan females, however, are struck or killed at the best of times, just for being female: a little girl is beaten by her uncle because Canadian soldiers wave at her, a female electoral candidate is murdered by her brothers. Acts of god factor in as well, as an earthquake kills a dozen schoolgirls. In her poem “Working for the Coalition,” Dawson writes, “it’s amazing the things you don’t stay amazed at. Afghan cooks / risk losing their heads [to the Taliban] to…

Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition and Work With Your Angels
DriverWorks Ink / 3 June 2015

Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition And Work With Your Angels by Lisa Driver Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-13-5 Are you as happy as you’d like to be? I’m guessing that most would answer “no” to this glaring question, whether our challenges concern illness, loneliness, grief, financial woes, strained relationships, confidence issues, employment worries, addictions, or something altogether different. Of course many books promise happier, healthier living, but Lisa Driver’s Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition And Work With Your Angels takes a unique approach: it combines elements of Christianity (the author was raised in a Christian home and uses “God” to describe the “loving energy” we all share) and what some term “new age” beliefs, ie: developing intuition through meditation; using crystals; participating in Angel Tarot card readings, energy work, and Reiki; and recognizing when our angels are communicating with us. Regina-born Driver was in transition in her own personal life – she’d had “about seven jobs in as many years” – when she attended a “Natural Health and Healing Expo” in her adopted city, Medicine Hat. There the “’regular’ Saskatchewan prairie girl” was introduced to an “angelic medium from…

Wilf Perreault: In the Alley
Coteau Books / 2 June 2015

Wilf Perreault: In the Alley Edited by Timothy Long Published by Coteau Books and MacKenzie Art Gallery Review by Courtney Bates-Hardy $59.95 ISBN 978-1-550505955 Wilf Perreault: In the Alley is a stunning coffee table book. The book design itself is enough to tempt anyone into picking it up and buying it. A sizable book at 12” by 10”, it certainly does justice to Perreault’s beautiful and large-scale images, although it’s difficult to top seeing them in person. What the book offers is an engaging and insightful background on Perreault’s life, art, and the many ways he has touched others. In the Alley begins with an introduction by Timothy Long, the head curator at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. He gives a brief overview of Perreault’s childhood on a farm near the French-speaking villages of Henribourg and Albertville. The book, it should be noted, is appropriately presented in both French and English. Long moves from Perreault’s childhood to his time at the University of Saskatchewan and then as a teacher, all the while tracking Perreault’s growth as an artist and the connections he makes within the community. The most fascinating parts of Long’s introduction are the back stories he includes for some…

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