Double Exposure

24 August 2017

Double Exposure
by Pat Krause
Published by Burton House Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$20.00 ISBN 9-780994-866936

Pat Krause was a founding member of the venerable Saskatchewan Writers Guild, a short story writer and memoirist, and a longtime resident of Regina. Krause died in 2015 but her literary legacy continues with Double Exposure, a novella and new short stories, recently published by Burton House Books.

Double Exposure‘s a family affair, in more ways than one. Pat Krause penned the stories, Barbara Krause was responsible for the cover and interior artwork, and the book opens with a quote from a poem by Pat’s daughter, Judith Krause. Titled “The Women in the Family,” the poetic excerpt’s a fitting introduction to this work that explores the dynamics between generations of female family members and between the north (Saskatchewan) and the south (Alabama, where the characters and the author both lived), and both realistically and rompishly documents the vagaries of aging and the grief that accompanies the final tolling of the bell.

The book’s eccentric and outspoken characters include outrageous Gran Tiss, who had the nerve to up and die on the eve of her 100th birthday; her daughter Vee, who’s horrified that the night she passed her mother was kicking her heels up at the January Jubilee in the Odd Fellows Hall; her granddaughter (and novella narrator) Prentice, a self-professed hypochondriac in Indian Head; and the omnipresent Lusa – Tiss’s superstitious nursemaid and the family’s longtime nanny, who came north with them from Tuscaloosa. Lusa describes a scene from the dance: “[Gran Tiss] done took up the vegetable tray. Plopped a heap of carrot sticks and celery and broccoli and cauliflower on top of it and rhumba-ed round the hall like the Brazilian Bombshell!” This quote illustrates both Tiss’s personality and Lusa’s voice, and indeed, strong voices are what Krause excels at in her rich-in-dialogue novella, “Southern Relations,” which makes up more than half the book.

In a tragi-comedy of errors, guests from near and far arrive for the birthday party only to learn that they’ve arrived to a wake rather than a fiesta, and the birthday gal is “laid out on the living room right there on the chesterfield!” A pair of wig-adorned senior twins, “The Ladybugs,” provide entertainment in the form of sitting and tap-dancing (with shoes on their hands), and afterward everyone physically able to “boogied up to the attic” to take home Gran Tiss souvenirs, including a sugar cane knife, and “The complete set of Sherlock Homes”.

Krause’s writing chops also make their appearance in wintery descriptions. “Hoarfrost turned the spruce trees into herringbone designs raked into the sky,” she writes in the novella, and in the final story, “Last Dance,” the narrator remembers when she was a child and “scratched a poem in frost on [her] bedroom window, with the end of a bobby-pin”.

In an afterword, Burton House’s Byrna Barclay writes that during Krause’s final days she was living in the Gardner Park Care Home, and “she slept in a geri-chair, using her bed to sort new stories”. That’s dedication. And that was Pat Krause.


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