Organist, The

The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mindby Mark AbleyPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$21.95 (softcover) ISBN 9-780889-777613 Does anyone ever really know anyone else? In multi-genre writer Mark Abley’s absorbing memoir, The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mind, the Pointe Claire, QC writer contemplates the life of his perplexing father, Harry Abley – virtuoso organist, composer, and music teacher with a complex “range of identities” – and in doing so the author attempts to reconcile why this accomplished and restless man, more than twenty years gone, never seemed enough to his only child. Abley has a dozen critically-acclaimed books behind him and I heartily recommend this title because the writing’s exceptional: I was hooked by the end of the short prologue. The work is also honest. Abley admits that “any picture I draw of [his father] becomes an exercise in self-portraiture.” I commend that clear-eyed confession: it helps me to trust the writer, and know there’ll be no subterfuge. I also applaud the book’s interesting structure, conversational tone, and the gentle pacing of its ending … despite their often tempestuous relationship, Abley seems in no hurry to kill his father off quickly on the…

Out of My Mind

“Out of My Mind: A Psychologist’s Descent into Madness and Back”by Shalom CamenietzkiPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$24.95 ISBN 9780889776890 Don’t let the compactness of this pocket-sized book fool you – it packs a punch.  Out of My Mind is a chronological journey with Camenietzki from the time his bipolar disorder symptoms first appeared at the age of 32 to his life now in his early 80s. As the decades go by, Camenietzki also suffers with serious bouts of depression, manic episodes, and suicidal contemplation. It is fascinating to step into his shoes and experience his struggles alongside him.  Camenietzki tries a wide range of treatments in his quest to get mentally healthy. He runs the gamut from a constant string of medications to shock treatments to hospitalizations to a variety of counselling methods. Ultimately what helped him was the drug Seroquel, which was approved by Health Canada in 2010 as a possible treatment for bipolar disorder.  To anyone who hasn’t suffered from mental illness, this book will be extremely eye-opening. Ever since Catherine Zeta-Jones announced in 2011 that she suffers from bipolar disorder, I’ve wondered what it would be like to live with the lifelong…

MENtal Health

MENtal Health: It’s Time to Talk by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Reviewed by Marlin Legare ISBN 9781988783475 $17.95 Review Dedicated to Kirk Ackerman Mental health issues, awareness, and destigmatization has been on the forefront social consciousness in the past few years. Mental health has also been the topic of honest discussion now more than ever in modern human history. We benefit from such services as Sask HealthLine, a confidential and free service that can be reached 24/7 at 811, community mental health services, and specific support groups related to mental health issues such as alcohol and drug addiction, problem gambling, crisis intervention, domestic violence support, and others. Despite the fact that more resources than ever exist and that the stigma of talking about mental health issues has dropped significantly, people still continue to suffer in silence from mental health battles. Unfortunately, many of these battles are waged unknown to the world by men and boys. Due to this silence and societal and physiological factors, Statistics Canada estimates that men are three times as likely to die from suicide than women. Allan Kehler, who has an accomplished career in education and counselling, professional speaking and authoring books…

Beyond Shattered Dreams
Gaylene Guillemin / 12 June 2019

Beyond Shattered Dreams: A Journey Through Grief to Self-Empowermentby Gaylene GuilleminPublished by Gaylene Guillemin Reviewed by Ben Charles$16.99 ISBN 9781775220404 Beyond Shattered Dreams: A Journey Through Grief to Self-Empowerment, written and published by Gaylene Guillemin can be best described as a powerful and tender guide through the inescapable sorrows of the human condition that are grief and loss. Guillemin has a wide variety of expertise in the field of loss as a motivational speaker, an angel card reader and from formal education with a certificate in Death and Grief Studies. However, it is not from her studies or her energy work that Guillemin draws from to speak on her experiences with loss but from the tragic loss of her late husband in 2014, Mervin Guillemin, whom she affectionately refers to as “Merv”. The book begins as Gaylene discusses her relationship with Merv. She had been married to him for twenty-two years and from her descriptions of their family and life together the reader can easily see the deep level of love that she still has for him. Gaylene goes on to discuss Merv’s declining health, and the challenges that losing mobility, being in and out of hospitals constantly, and the…

Psychedelic Revolutionaries
University of Regina Press / 15 November 2018

Psychedelic Revolutionaries: LSD and the Birth of Hallucinogenic Research By P.W. Barber Published by University of Regina Press Review by Michelle Shaw $34.95 ISBN 9780889774209 Long before Timothy Leary and the psychedelic summer of love in San Francisco made LSD a global phenomenon, researchers were quietly testing the drug’s efficacy and possibilities in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairies. Researchers Humphry Osmond, Abram Hoffer and Duncan Blewett, among others, were fascinated about the possibilities of using LSD and other psychedelic drugs to treat certain conditions such as schizophrenia and alcoholism. Their research occurred at a unique time in Saskatchewan’s history. Tommy Douglas’s Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government was in power, Medicare was on the horizon and the government was determined to address the huge challenges in the province’s mental health system. The government was looking for new and innovative ideas. Osmond, Hoffer and their contemporaries were in the right place at the right time. Their research appeared so successful that “the province was heralded….as a world leader in mental health in the 1950s, [and h]allucinogenic drugs figured centrally in this research.” Although I knew very little about the topic, P.W Barber’s narrative in Psychedelic Revolutionaries: LSD and the Birth of…

Mama’s Cloud
All Write Here Publishing / 31 August 2018

Mama’s Cloud Written by Jessica Williams, Illustrations by Mateya Ark Published by All Write Here Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $22.50 ISBN 978-1-7753456-1-9 There’s no rule that says children’s books must feature “feel good” stories, and I applaud those writers who do tackle the serious or sensitive subjects – like illness, bullying, or poverty – and find a way to create stories that children will find interesting and entertaining. Saskatchewan writer Jessica Williams has just done this. In Mama’s Cloud she’s teamed with Bulgarian illustrator Mateya Ark to deliver an engaging story about a woman who suffers from depression, and the ways in which her imaginative young daughter attempts to cheer her. Williams begins by presenting readers with an idyllic mother-daughter relationship. The child-narrator says “When Mama smiles, her eyes twinkle like a thousand fireflies. Her hair is soft and smells like purple lilacs in spring. Mama is Magical …” The pair play games of “Fairies and Wizards and Superheroes,” and in both text and illustration “Mama” is portrayed as smiling and affectionate. But “Sometimes a dark cloud drifts into the room and settles over her”. And thus begins the child’s mission to restore “Mama’s magic”. This book succeeds…

Small Displays of Chaos
Coteau Books / 4 August 2016

Small Displays of Chaos by Breanna Fischer Published by Coteau Books Review by Kris Brandhagen $12.95 9781550506617 Breanna Fischer’s book Small Displays of Chaos is about a girl from Saskatoon SK who develops an eating disorder during her last two years of high school. The main character, Rayanne Timko, assigns herself a fitness goal as part of a grade ten gym class project. She likes this because tracking calories appeals to her. In the beginning, her goal is “eat healthier, exercise more.” She earns the highest score for the assignment, but when it is over, she doesn’t want to stop. Fischer really gets inside the head of her character, juxtaposing action with stark, confessional journal entries. “Today I will count. Today I will starve. I will turn into myself like an imploding star. Just like yesterday.” As her obsession turns into addiction, she becomes her eating disorder. Without it, she doesn’t know who she is. The main focus of the book is what happens in Rayanne’s mind as she starves herself, developing visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations of Edie (this could be a pun on ED, or eating disorder), taunting, pushing, and demanding that she lose more weight. When her…

Inside the Mental

Inside the Mental: Silence, Stigma, Psychiatry, and LSD by Kay Parley Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-411-7 You never know who you might run into in a mental institution. When Kay Parley is admitted to the Weyburn Mental Hospital, she meets her father and grandfather. Her grandfather had been there before Kay was even born, and her father entered the institution when Kay was only six. She jokes that “they’d have to tear the place down if it wasn’t for my family.” This is one of many shocking details Kay relates in her book, Inside the Mental, a compilation of eighteen stories based on her experiences as both a patient and later as a nurse at The Mental as she calls it. Most of these stories have been previously published in magazines dealing with mental health issues and in her self-published volume, Lady with a Lantern. After a nervous breakdown in 1948, Kay finds herself in the Weyburn Mental Hospital, originally known as the Saskatchewan Hospital. When she observes a row of patients eating with their hands, mixing orange and toast into their porridge and slurping like dogs, a fellow patient tries to…

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”…

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…