Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Futureby Mary SoderstromPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Elena Bentley$28.95 ISBN 9780889777804 In her book, Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future, authorMary Soderstrom asks us to “[l]ook out the nearest window, then try to imagine what the view would look like without concrete.” Admittedly, before reading this book, I hadn’t given it much thought; once I finished the book, however, I started to pay attention: a leftover pile next to the trees outside my house, the garage floor, the sidewalk under my bike—concrete really is everywhere. Concrete has been used globally in some form or another since about 8700 BCE, which means that concrete has a fairly substantial history. Soderstrom holds our attention by taking us on a fascinating journey through this history, briefly highlighting concrete structures of note and the issues that surround them. Found in all levels of society, from the super highways in California to the Great Wall in China, Soderstrom confirms that concrete is “a truly egalitarian material.” So prevalent is concrete’s presence that it has made its way into popular culture. As any good English major would, Soderstrom makes reference to novels by literary greats…

Frenemy Nations
University of Regina Press / 18 December 2019

Frenemy Nations: Love and Hate Between Neighbo(u)ring StatesBy Mary SoderstromPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Michelle Shaw$27.95 ISBN 9780889776722 In the summer of 1968, Mary Soderstrom and her husband loaded up their Volkswagen Beetle and immigrated to Canada from the United States. “We were young, we were disgusted with the [Vietnam] war, and we were hopeful that we’d find something different across the border,” she says. “But to be honest, we didn’t expect things to be too different. After all, weren’t Canada and the United States very much alike?” The contrast between their new home and their old led to a long running reflection that continued to intrigue her over the years.…How could two places that are similar in so many ways be so disparate in others? In Fremeny Nations, Soderstrom looks at a range of geographical “odd couples” that she has encountered over the years. In addition to the United States and Canada, the book also examines the two Vietnams, Algeria and Tunisia, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Brazil and the rest of South America, Burundi and Rwanda, Scotland and Ireland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Vermont and New Hampshire and, intriguingly, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The book explores these…

Road Through Time

Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move by Mary Soderstrom Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $26.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-477-3 Mary Soderstrom’s Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move may well be the most intriguing archaeological analysis since man set wheels on pathways. Partly memoir, it’s really a condensed history of civilization as seen through its roads. Soderstrom tells the story of humanity tramping through time, exploring, discovering, and moving on. The great trek started with early humans leaving Africa possibly as early as 80,000 years ago and continues to this day. One of the most fascinating chapters is also the most mysterious. Soderstrom outlines possible routes humans may have taken to reach North America. Some facts are known. She notes, for instance, that “every Native American throughout the western hemisphere shows common kinship with people who now live or who did live in parts of Northern Siberia.” But much is conjecture, so she titles the chapter “Mystery Roads.” One mystery she does explain is why, for most of its production period, the Model T Ford was available only in black, and it wasn’t because Henry Ford particularly liked that colour….