Lilacs by the Kitchen Door

3 April 2024

Lilacs by the Kitchen Door: Prairie life on the family farm
by Sheri Hathaway
Published by Welcome Home Publishing
Review by Toby A. Welch  
$20.00 ISBN 9781738822317

Lilacs by the Kitchen Door is the dramatic telling of the lives of Sheri Hathaway’s parents, Harold and Louise, and their supporting cast of extended family and friends. “They represent most rural prairie dwellers of North America, living their lives through the 40s, 50s, and 60s.” Instead of one chronological tale, each chapter can stand on its own. As Hathaway points out about the chapters in her book, “Think of it as a fruit basket. Pick the ones you like or settle in for a long buffet.”

At the very front of Lilacs by the Kitchen Door, even before the acknowledgements and introduction, you’ll find a family tree that has twenty-three limbs. There is a branch for each family member mentioned in this book. It is an invaluable resource as you work your way through the family saga. For example: Oh yeah, Wesley married Varina. Alice and Edward had two children, Constance and Harold. So helpful!

My favourite chapter in Lilacs by the Kitchen Door is number ten: Richard. The year was 1947. Louise and Harold went through five horrific tragedies in that year. Any one of those events would have been devastating but the mountain of five of them must’ve been crushing. Yet the couple survived and I like to believe that their marriage was stronger for it. What an inspiration! 

Chapter 33, If You Can’t Move, is a close runner up. It delved into what do-it-yourself projects were like in Harold and Louise’s heyday. They bought a tiny one-bedroom house and over the decades they added a basement, an addition on the back and another on the side of the home, and extra bedrooms. They upgraded the outhouse from a shack twenty feet away from the house to a pail toilet in the basement and then a flush toilet in the late fifties. In time a second storey was added as well as a garage and a new kitchen.

This book made me reminisce on simpler times. As I approach middle-age, I often long for the days before cell phones and the Internet, days when people seemed more considerate of one another. Back when you’d make plans to meet a friend for coffee and you both show up without text messages and calendar invites. I loved the gentle reminder of bygone times.

Hathaway does a phenomenal job of bringing history to life for us, using strong details to pull it off. For example, when she talks about Harold’s Toyota, she doesn’t just say it was a Camry. She lists six specifics about the car and readers almost feel like they are sitting in the red vehicle. 

Fans of family sagas filled with fascinating characters and true-to-life drama will thoroughly enjoy Lilacs by the Kitchen Door


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