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Story, Gertrude.

Saskatoon, Thistledown Press, c1984. 139pp, paper, ISBN 0-920066-86-0 (cloth) $20.00,0-920066-87-9 (paper) $9.95. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Sharon A. McCue

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

It Never Pays to Laugh Too Much is the second in Gertrude Story's trilogy of short story collections about the life of Alvena Schroeder and the German farming community in Saskatchewan in which she lives. The first volume, The Way to Always Dance (Thistledown, 1983), was about Alvena's search for love and fulfillment. This volume takes the reader into the nooks and crannies of Alvena's childhood.

The stories are wonderfully evocative for anyone who grew up in a farming area. Through Alvena's eyes, we see the joys and the tragedies that make up the everyday life of her family, friends, and neighbours. She understands the care taken to make homemade cottage cheese with sour cream, the special touch that her mother has so that the strawberry jam stays inside the doughnuts instead of leaking out and making a mess while they are cooking. In the same way, she understands that something is wrong when her father cries or her best friend refuses to say nasty things about a boy who is supposedly dispicable.

Alvena is not always able to articulate what is wrong or even why but her descriptions are so vivid, so accurate from a child's point of view that we are drawn into the story and the feelings of the young narrator. Although we understand, as she does not, the implications of a wedding that must be organized in three days, nevertheless she sees the small things that make her story all the more poignant, like no-one's "wha-hooing" when they dance with the bride.

These stories can stand on their own. Many have been published in journals already. One, "But First You Ought to Ask the Bride" was a winner in the CBC Literary Competition. However, each supports and adds to the others, like adding wool to the warp; the literary cloth is more tightly woven.

Using a child's vocabulary and sentence structure, Gertrude Story gives the reader a wonderful sense of time and place, rural Saskatchewan during the war years. Her book is easy reading and would be enjoyed by a large audience, from adolescent through adult.

Sharon A. McCue, Eeyou School, Chisasibi, James Bay, Que.
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