The hystery of the broken fether.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
...it was like all of a sudden I was joint again with my mother and my granmother and my grate granmother and all those mothers back threw time.It was Iike wandring rite to my home without ever having bin lost. all of the sudden I coud almost feel again what it was like to be in side of my mother, she was my home and I was a part of her,almost, but I was myself also.Author Allison Muri, who was brought up on a farm near Central Butte Saskatchewan, brings her considerable talent to this work of fiction set in rural Saskatchewan in 1917 and told from the perspective of its narrator in 1993.
Ninety-four-year-old, nearly illiterate, lndigo de Plume is writing a story for her grandchildren and great grandchildren - in her will, she plans to give instructions that they receive copies of it. She is determined to tell the tale of Sam Colridge's death.
Her beginning is startling; she describes two boys sneaking off from a threshing crew, feeling hot and itchy as they dive into the cool water of the local dam. To their horror, they find they share the spot with a corpse. "...its like on TV, its like Parry Mason, its like Peter Gunn or like Magnum or whatever, it has its death thats what its about."
Indigo is ninety-four and her mind is not always clear. Although she tries to structure her narrative, she is distracted by events such as her friend Dot's sudden illness and demise. Since Dot is twenty years younger, it makes her think. She keeps wandering away from her main purpose into her present life in the old folks' home and into her past; incidents seem to spring unbidden into her mind.
Thoughts of marriage and the childbearing years drift up from the past. For instance, she heard a sermon at a wedding when she was young in which the preacher declared that marriage was like coming to the Promised Land after living in the desert.
pardon me for being crude, but some times you just gotta tell the truth for pitys sakes, I never new that the land of Milk and Hony, that was my milk and my hony, it cum from me, it wasnt for me ... Some times it was the marage that was like being a lone in a wilderness, like my mind was wondring in a partched land, my self was lost and hungry.
Although Indigo is uneducated, she is intelligent and insightful. For example, Indigo has taken a course on the subject of "jernals" in order to write this story, and this is where she's learned about rising action, climax, "Denermont" and closure. She has her thoughts about "Denerment:" "Denerment it seems to me thats your after denner ment its after youve had your main coarse and cake so to speak, you sit back to digrest and think on all the delights you have taken in thats when you pause and ponder and have your coffee and suck your ment...."
Another example of Indigo's incisive intellect comes in her definition of "irony" which is as good a definition as in any textbook: "... it was kind of an irony statemen which I gess means it was something that said one thing and ment some thing els and so you had to iron it out in your mind."
Author Allison Muri's style, full of misspelling, is appropriate; the mood is sustained and the times are accurately evoked. The plot swings easily back into the past and forward to the present. And reading is made easy and pleasant by the agreeable size of the print and its clarity.
The cover art by Heather Cline is wonderfully apt. Four old people in their rocking chairs are superimposed onto a street scene, while in front of and below them is a small dog house crowded with children peering out, and behind them is a woman's head. The protagonist's present and past are vividly portrayed in this art work.
Apart from the fact that the misspelling is distracting at times, this delightful first novel can be read by high school students who are good readers. This novel is recommended both for the writing style and the insights provided for the mature reader.
Katheryn Broughton was born in the prairies and taught high school English and Library Skills for 19 years in North York, Ontario. She has edited a book of short stories (entitled Heartland) for senior students. These days she writes about old houses for the historical society newsletter (which she edits) in her home town, Thornhill, Ontario.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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