Only If We’re Caught
Thistledown Press / 8 December 2021

Only If We’re Caughtby Theressa SlindPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$25.95 ISBN 9-781771-872119 In the opening paragraph of Only If We’re Caught, the debut short story collection by Saskatoon writer (and children’s librarian) Theressa Slind, readers are viscerally transported to Aspen Grove, a seniors’ residence—where the hallway “is painted the colour of cookie dough”—and into the mind of Parkinson’s-afflicted protagonist Margaret, who can no longer speak. We soon learn that Margaret’s not just any ninety-three-year-old nursing home resident with a “porous-boned spine curling in on itself” … she’s also telepathically communicating with a visiting child. This bizarre circumstance is typical of the tales in Slind’s collection of fifteen stories, some of which previously appeared in literary journals. The borders of normalcy are blurred, and that’s what makes this collection stand out. Perhaps the finest example of this is “Amygdule,” about a funeral director, Ben, who “commune[s] with ghosts.” Ben has a crush on his employee, Alice, who delivers a fountain of black humour. She “arrives in an eddy of formaldehyde,” and says things like “I like my men ripe” and “Back to work. Mrs. Chan isn’t going to embalm herself.” This story is also about a treasure hunt,…

Peacekeeper’s Daughter
Thistledown Press / 8 December 2021

Peacekeeper’s Daughter: A Middle East Memoirby Tanya Bellehumeur-AllattPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Toby A. Welch$24.95 ISBN 9781771872164  The coming-of-age memoir Peacekeeper’s Daughter is impossible to put down once it sucks you in. Told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old Canadian Army brat who is dropped into the Lebanese Civil War in 1982-1983, we are immersed into the heart of the Palestinian crisis. Alongside Bellehumeur-Allatt, we travel from Yellowknife to Jerusalem to Tiberias, Israel, eventually landing in Beirut, Lebanon. The book wraps up by going full circle with a return to Canada. Bellehumeur-Allatt does a phenomenal job of making the musings of her preteen self interesting.  Bellehumeur-Allatt was able to vividly recount the details of her life back in the 1980s thanks to a gift. Just before leaving Canada to head to the Middle East, the mother of her best friend gave her a blank journal wrapped in shiny paper. The mom told Bellehumeur-Allatt: “Write everything down, all the details. One day it’ll be a book.” In response, Bellehumeur-Allatt promised her she would. The mom likely had no idea that her serendipitous gift would lead to a potentially award-winning book forty years later. The details in this book make the reader…

Pitchblende
University of Regina Press / 8 December 2021

Pitchblendeby Elise Marcella GodfreyPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-780889-778405 I didn’t know what pitchblende was before I read Elise Marcella Godfrey’s same-named poetry collection, but I certainly do now. To shortcut, merriam-webster.com describes pitchblende as “a brown to black mineral that consists of massive uraninite, has a distinctive luster, contains radium, and is the chief ore-mineral source of uranium”. It’s a measure of the poet how Godfrey takes this radioactive by-product of uranium ore—and the capitalist/colonialist/mostly male culture surrounding its extraction and usage—and transforms it into a finely-tuned collection of political, environmental, and investigative poetry. Godfrey writes from “the traditional and unceded land of the QayQayt First Nation” on Vancouver Island, and this well-researched, multi-voiced collection exhibits a deep caring for the earth and its peoples. Her cry is clear: “the neocolonial machine … promotes profit and industry at the expense of community and sustainability.” Pitchblende does not read like a first book. Godfrey’s a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan and her work’s appeared in journals and anthologies: she’s put in the literary leg work, and it shows. These poems are saturated with internal and…

H is for Home
Blow Creative Arts / 8 December 2021

H is for Home: A Saskatchewan Alphabet”by Amber AntymniukPublished by Blow Creative ArtsReview by Amanda Zimmerman$22.00 ISBN 9781999546205 H is for Home is another adorably presented tale from the author of the debut children’s book Grandpa’s Garage! Amber Antyminuk’s next story again draws inspiration from her rural upbringing on an acreage outside of Tisdale, a community in the northeastern part of Saskatchewan. Now making her home in the bustling city of Saskatoon, she revisits her childhood with enthusiasm, an enthusiasm clearly shown in both her writing style and artistic abilities. Stating herself that all good Saskatchewan stories are formed “where a highway meets an unmarked grid road”, the personal experience she shares adds credibility to her work and all readers fortunate enough to live in one of the prairie provinces will thoroughly enjoy the adventure she shares. In H is for Home: A Saskatchewan Alphabet, our author visits all twenty-six letters of the English alphabet with a single image representing each one. In every pair of letters, readers find an easy rhyme and careful notice is given to the amount of syllables. There are only a few pages where the syllable number doesn’t match but these rare instances don’t detract…

Baby Rollercoaster
Wood Dragon Books / 8 December 2021

Baby Rollercoaster: The Unspoken Secret Sorrow of Infertilityby Janice ColvenPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9-781989-078587 I’ve just had the pleasure of reading the well-written, beautifully designed, highly personal and informative book by teacher/ranch wife/writer Janice Colven about her lifelong yearning to be a mother and her seven-year journey on the rollercoaster that is infertility. Throughout the candid, 207-page story, Colven uses the extended metaphor of a rollercoaster to parallel the ups and downs she and her husband experienced during this painful time, and the book’s title—Baby Rollercoaster: The Unspoken Secret Sorrow of Infertility—reflects their hopeful highs and heart-breaking lows. Colven writes that she’s always dreamed of becoming a mother. As a child she “loved baby dolls and everything that went with them,” and her “loving and nurturing spirit” even extended to the prairie girl wrapping a dead gopher “in a soft, pink blanket” and strolling it as one would a baby. Later she practised her maternal skills on younger siblings. “We buy the map to motherhood and have the trip planned down to the smallest detail,” she writes. In her introduction Colven shares that she wrote this “for the women who are walking the same…

Fun on the Farm 3
DriverWorks Ink / 8 December 2021

Fun on the Farm 3: True Tales of Farm Life!Compiled and edited by Deana J. DriverPublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Michelle Shaw$17.95 ISBN 9781927570630 Growing up on a farm on the Canadian prairies is a unique experience, especially in the days before cellphones and GPS. In Fun on the Farm 3, 20 prairie writers, including Mary Harelkin Bishop and Deana Driver, share some of their treasured memories. The book is full of all kinds of fascinating stories. There are tales of pet calves, malevolent bulls, and piglets like Arnold who was pushed around in a doll carriage. Laurie Lynn Muirhead shares the story of her brother plucking the feathers off the turkeys’ butts to make wings so he could fly. There are stories of learning to drive, usually before the driver could see over the dashboard, and the annual spring ritual of picking rocks in the fields before and after seeding. As Brad Hauber puts it … “This job was made specifically with farm kids in mind.” Mary Harelkin Bishop tells of the time her three-year old brother got stuck in the mud – literally – in the middle of the soggy, muddy garden one very wet spring, and Marilyn…

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