Lilacs by the Kitchen Door
Welcome Home Publishing / 3 April 2024

Lilacs by the Kitchen Door: Prairie life on the family farmby Sheri HathawayPublished by Welcome Home PublishingReview 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…

Towards a Prairie Atonement (Softcover)
University of Regina Press / 26 January 2024

Towards a Prairie Atonementby Trevor HerriotPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$22.95 ISBN 9780889779648 Award-winning writer, prairie naturalist, and birder extraordinaire—Regina’s Trevor Herriot requires little introduction. River in a Dry Land: bestseller. CBC Radio: regular. I’ve just devoured Herriot’s Towards a Prairie Atonement—an eloquent treatise on the interconnected injustices that Colonialism and profit-at-all-costs dealt the prairie Métis and all living things dependent upon the Aspen Parkland grasslands. Though compact in size, this three-part essay dispenses an enormous amount of history, appeals for a reckoning, and delivers a few slight feathers of ecological hope. Herriot says he “set [his] heart on telling a story that [would] inspire people to take a second look at what we all lost, and could yet restore, in our regard for more sophisticated and nuanced forms of land governance”. The wisely-woven text begins with a map of the Saskatchewan and Manitoba rivers and historical sites discussed, and an edifying timeline that stretches from the 1600s to 2012. These centuries saw the beginnings of Canada’s fur trade; the North West and Hudson’s Bay Companies jostling; buffalo’s demise; a plethora of government decisions that greatly impacted upon the Métis; the plight of Louis Riel; the…

Story of Me, The
Lilac Arch Press / 26 January 2024

The Story of Meby Denise Leduc, Illustrations by Olena ZhinchynaPublished by Lilac Arch PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$11.66 ISBN 9781778286933 Denise Leduc is a chameleon. The Aylesbury, SK writer easily changes genres, and she writes well in each of them. Perhaps you’re familiar with her children’s picture books—Poppies, Poppies Everywhere!, Letting Charlie Bow Go and In the Prairie Wind—or her titles for older readers, like Why Not Now?, My Sun-sational Summer and My Wonderful Winter. Her latest softcover is The Story of Me, a journal dedicated to her grandmother “for the memories she created with me when I was a young child”. Leduc writes that her “hope for these journals is to provide opportunities for our own reflection and for sharing between the generations”. I can certainly get behind that. Even before reading, I decided I’d share this book with my octogenarian mother, two provinces away, in Saskatchewan. Though we speak on the phone daily, an occasional conversational prompt is welcome. As Leduc suggests, “Sometimes conversations with loved ones … can help get the memories flowing”. The Story of Me delivers forty prompts to help one “remember stories” from his or her life, and it includes several spaces for personal…

See You In Le Touquet
DriverWorks Ink / 26 January 2024

See You in Le Touquet: A Memoir of War and Destinyby Romie ChristiePublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Toby A. Welch  $24.95 ISBN 9781927570845 If any book should be made into a movie, it’s this one! See You in Le Touquet reads like a gripping historical fiction novel but it is a true story. Retired Canadian journalist Romie Christie tells the story of her inspiring parents, Sandy and Dorothy, in this fascinating peek into their lives. As Christie points out in the About This Story section in the back of See You in Le Touquet, this is a work of creative nonfiction. “It is based on fact, with some creativity and imagination woven into the story… Throughout this book, I have endeavoured to stay as true to actual events as I was able.” For the parts of the timeline that Christie didn’t have firsthand knowledge of, she assembled the information via personal essays Sandy had written, Le Touquet history books, Dorothy’s diaries, photos, historians, and stories from the family members and friends of her parents.  The cast of characters in See You in Le Touquet is lengthy as many people weave in and out of Dorothy and Sandy’s lives. If you struggle to remember who’s who as I did,…

Loggerheads
Endless Sky Books / 25 January 2024

Loggerheadsby Bruce HornidgePublished by Endless Sky BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.99 ISBN 9781989398975 In 1993 I was minivanning toward Tofino with my young family while an anti-logging protest was brewing in the surrounding forest, and Bruce Hornsby’s “If a Tree Falls” was the soundtrack. Thirty years later, how ironic to read a detailed memoir by a former BC logger and get quite a different perspective on that tumultuous “War in the Woods”. Loggerheads is a candid account of the “Clayoquot Sound land-use scuffle” between logging protestors and forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel, and the “world media hype” that accompanied it. It’s a peppery book, competently written by a man who had (caulk) boots on the ground: Ex-Clayoquot Sound forest worker Bruce Hornidge, who at times was “dripping saliva from [his] teeth” while protestors were “[chaining] themselves to logging equipment and [obstructing] forest workers from doing their jobs”. In his metaphor-rich account, he says the decade-long forest and land-use tensions “raged like a forest fire” and “a tsunami of Utopian beliefs and related misconstruing washed over the West Coast of Vancouver Island from around the world”. Hornidge began working for the Kennedy Lake Logging Division of MacMillan Bloedel Ltd., near Ucluelet, in…

if you lie down in a field, she will find you there
Radiant Press / 24 January 2024

If you lie down in a field, she will find you thereby Colleen BrownPublished by Radiant PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$20.00 ISBN 9781989274941 Colleen Brown’s If you lie down in a field, she will find you there underscores that “perception is everything”. The Ontario-raised writer and artist’s memoir contemplates the mystery of her mother via disparate childhood memories and family vignettes, many of which are recalled by Brown’s much older siblings. In delivering these random remembrances, Brown effectively gives the woman’s “perfectly human and unremarkable” life the warm spotlight it deserves; this comes in stark contrast to the “death porn” the media spouted after her mother’s murder by a serial killer. The book is a construction, “a way to make sense of a life,” and it bucks against the “narrative pull” associated with writing about violence. Don’t expect a straight line or an ordered chronology. Do expect to be engrossed by this jigsaw of a memoir that’s often poetic, frequently philosophical, and presents a yearning for “wholeness”. Brown was eight when her mother, Doris, died “suddenly, out of sequence, shockingly and violently”. The killer’s confession came two years later, and he’s been in a psychiatric institution since 1978 under a…

We Go Where They Go
University of Regina Press / 23 January 2024

We Go Where They Go: The Story of Anti-Racist Actionby Shannon Clay, Lady, Kristin Schwartz, and Michael StaudenmaierPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$34.95 ISBN 9780889779082 I knew the moment I cracked open We Go Where They Go and saw that it was published by the University of Regina Press that I was in for a stimulating read. Every book I’ve read by the University of Regina Press has stuck with me even years later. They only publish deeply researched works that are powerful and interesting. Even if the subject matter doesn’t initially intrigue you, odds are that it will by the time you finish the book.  Trying to explain what this book is about in a few short paragraphs won’t come close to touching on the depth of the work but let’s give it a go. In response to community invasions in the 1980s by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, people retaliated. Anti-Racist Action (ARA) was formed. Thousands of members strong, the ARA fought against Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, anti-abortion fundamentalists, and racist police. This is a truly fascinating account of people with a common goal uniting to fight back. As this took place in the era before so much was…

Trees Against The Wind
Nature Saskatchewan / 15 December 2023

Trees Against the Wind: The Birth of Prairie Shelterbeltsby William R. SchroederPublished by Nature SaskatchewanReview by Sandy Bonny$29.95 ISBN 9780921104377 My grandmother was born in 1921 in a dry, a treeless Saskatchewan railway town remembered despairingly, after her Scottish family relocated to Vancouver, as “a hell hole” (apologies, Tugaske!). 60 years and two generations later, my parents’ work brought them back to Saskatchewan to raise my sisters and I in Saskatoon where our favourite route home wound under Spadina’s leafy arbor, our “Tunnel of Trees.” I knew these urban elms had been planted. The shelterbelts framing point perspective along the highway signaled human engineering to me, too. But, before reading William Schroeder’s Trees Against the Wind, I vastly underestimated the scale and intentionality of the tree-planting initiatives that transformed the prairies between my grandmother’s childhood and my own. Operating 1901-2013, Canada’s “Prairie Shelterbelt Program” (PSP) distributed 600 million trees to farms in the “New West” to increase agricultural resilience by buffering wind, stabilizing soil, and managing moisture. A Scottish forester, Norman Mackenzie Ross, directed the program’s start from an Experimental Farm at Indian Head, SK. Ross’s selection and cultivation of cold- and drought-tolerant tree species is detailed engagingly by Schroeder,…

Crash Harrison
DriverWorks Ink / 12 December 2023

Crash Harrison: Tales of a Bomber Pilot Who Defied Deathby Deana J. DriverPublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Keith Foster$24.95 ISBN 9781927570821 There is a reason Reginald Wilfred Harrison earned the nickname “Crash.” He was in four bombers that crashed – first as co-pilot on a training mission; the last three as pilot. Amazingly, he survived all four. In Crash Harrison: Tales of a Bomber Pilot Who Defied Death, Deana Driver tells the story of Harrison’s experiences as a Canadian bomber pilot during World War II. Or rather, she lets him tell his story in his own words. It’s like he’s sitting right there beside you, telling his tales. Harrison developed an interest in flying at an early age, watching Harvard training planes flying overhead at his family farm near Finnie, SK. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and said that one of his proudest moments was when his commanding officer pinned the Pilot Wings badge on him. On reaching England in 1944, Harrison trained on Wellington and Halifax bombers. Following that, he was posted to the Canadian 431 Iroquois Squadron, which was called the Jinx Squadron. It suffered the highest loss rate in all of Bomber Command. Harrison’s…

Winter Happiness Challenge, The
Lilac Arch Press / 7 December 2023

The Winter Happiness Challengeby Denise LeducPublished by Lilac Arch PressReview by Michelle Shaw$22.99 ISBN 9781998872077 Depression can be a nagging companion over the winter months, so I grabbed this little book with great anticipation. To my delight, I found it provided a carefully curated toolbox to help readers through the cold and sometimes dreary months of winter. The book grew out of a Facebook group that Denise Leduc started one November a few years ago, when she noticed that several people around her were going through a tough time. “I thought it might be fun to do some weekly challenges to bring some simple pleasures and joy to our daily rounds. I had been rereading some books on hygge [a Scandinavian term that evokes cozy, comforting and contented living, often through simple pleasures] and I thought we could explore various Scandinavian concepts to get us through the cold, snowy Canadian months.” The original members of the group invited others and before Denise knew it, more than 100 people from all over Canada, the United States and England had joined. The group proved to be such an encouragement for herself and the other members that Denise began to conceive the idea…