The Way It Was: A Story of My Life

9 September 2009

The Way It Was A Story of My Life
by Leola Edna May Harron
Published by Leola Harron
Reviewed by Gail Jansen
Price $12.95

Anyone who’s ever felt over-worked and underpaid should take a moment to live life in the past lane, through Leola Edna May Harron’s book The Way it Was A Story of My Life.

Writing about the joys and hardships faced growing up as a prairie pioneer in the early 1900’s Harron’s simple style at times seems overwrought with seemingly inconsequential detail, yet as the book unfolds, each detail works to paint for the reader, a realistic portrait of what life on the prairies truly was about.

Instead of a glorified portrait of a life with daring adventures, Harron’s clear and vivid memories paint quite a different picture full of hard work, tragedy and a certain dogged determinism needed to survive the harsh Saskatchewan landscape. Any simple pleasures that Harron did experience were remembered as sweet moments that needed to be savoured and treasured for the brief respite from real life that they gave.

Raised by her maternal grandparents after the death of her parents before she was barely four years old, Harron grew up impoverished yet loved by her stoic and hard working grandparents and a ragtag assortment of extended family.

After spending the majority of her youth working alongside her sister and grandmother running a Regina boarding house, her grandmother’s poor health and even poorer finances,required a move that started Harron on a path that took her across the province working from farm to farm as a cook, cleaner, and menial labourer.

With descriptions of what are now historic buildings, events and locations it is a story that laid the foundation for Harron’s own life enabling her to not only overcome the many obstacles that were laid before her, but to grow, thrive and persevere as she married, had children and later was widowed at total of five times.

For older readers of Harron’s tale this memoir will spark some memories of their own lives lived, and take them back to a day when the world was simpler, yet not easier than it is today. For the younger reader it is a chance to glimpse a world that will seem like fiction. Far beyond the usual “I walked five miles to school up hill each way,” tales drummed into them by well-meaning elders, Harron’s story will give youth a true glimpse into the lives led by their ancestors and may even act as a wake-up call to appreciate all it is that they have today.

Originally written simply as a story for her descendants “so that they might know a little of my background and what life was like for me,” Harron’s tale of “joy and contentment” and “sorrow and despair” can teach those who read it to appreciate their lives, and to savour those small moments of pleasure, however fleeting they may be.

While the story of her life may not have boasted world-renowned accomplishments, or award winning moments, her life was and continues to be lived to the fullest, appreciating a common theme that can be seen throughout the story: family, home, love and friendships.


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