________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 17 . . . . April 27, 2001

cover Wrestling With the Angel: Women Reclaiming their Lives.

Caterina Edwards & Kay Stewart, (Eds).
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2000.
279 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 0-88995-201-9.

Subject Headings:
Canadian essays (English)-Women authors.
Women authors, Canadian (English)-20th century-Biography.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4

This seems to be a season for women's angst, at least judging from this book and a Globe and Mail review of Dropped Threads (edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson, reviewed by Zsuzsi Gartner, 27 January, 2001). There are several similarities between these two volumes: both contain one essay by Margaret Atwood, a few by other Canlit authors, and a lot by non-household names, and both look at unusual aspects of women's lives. Perhaps I am one of Gartner's other "readers, a little bit older, a little more forgiving of earnestness and a little more spiritually inclined," or perhaps this is a better book, but I liked these vignettes very much. They are a mixture of the familiar looked at differently and totally "other" experiences that left me marvelling at the contrasts between their lives and mine.

      The groups into which the essays are divided are all entitled re-something-or-other: re-evaluating, re-claiming, re-inventing,... suggesting that they are all second looks at some aspect of a life. They are; they tend not, however, to be "earnest." The "Re-evaluating Relationships" section, for example, looks at more and quirkier relationships than I ever knew existed, although my rather peculiar aunts and those of Margaret Atwood certainly had features in common!

      How can I say that this book is perfect bathroom reading, without it sounding pejorative? I do not mean it to be. The pieces are short--an important point for anyone living in a space containing fewer facilities than people!--and also they benefit from being read in isolation. I was occasionally seduced into reading a second by a title ("Eating a Jonathon apple", for example) or a first line, and it was invariably a mistake. Taken one at a time, they are fun, intriguing, poignant, touching or whatever, and leave something to think about at odd moments for the rest of the day; taken in gulps they blend into a bland browness that bleaches into nothingness almost immediately. Savour, rather than gulp, and you'll enjoy this book very much indeed. I did.


Mary Thomas reads a lot of kids' books both on and off her job in a couple of Winnipeg, MB, elementary school libraries, but obviously enjoys the occasional "grown-up" one as well.

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ISSN 1201-9364