CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Butala, Sharon.

Moose Jaw. Coteau Books, c1985. 184pp, paper, $4,95, ISBN 0-919926-48-7.CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by donalee Moulton-Barrett

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

Sharon Butala is like a steady-fingered surgeon probing beneath flesh to find malignancy. Her short stories, in Queen of the Headaches (many of which have been published previously), scrape slowly away at the psyche to expose raw nerve endings. It is a detailed, and fascinating, process but one that after much repetition, becomes almost commonplace.

There are also other problems. For example, "A Tropical Holiday," one of the most intriguing stories in the collection, follows Mrs. Harold Hackett on her mental and physical journey to Jamaica. This trip, which uproots Mrs. Hackett from her predictable life in Saskatchewan, must by its very nature take her out of and into herself. What remains unclear however, is what prompted, no, what compelled Mrs. Hackett to make the trip in the first place. Oh, the reader can make educated guesses, and it may seem like a minor point, but without this, Mrs. Hackett's determination, her moments of anguish, and finally her peaceful assurance about now being able to stay home, are difficult to believe.

Butala's style is clear, readable, and empathic. Through her careful choice of words, Butala's characters become visually real. Queen of the Headaches is a strong collection of short stories, but it is weakened by the "Mrs. Harold Hackett" syndrome, a condition other characters in other stories also suffer from.

There is one other flaw: predictability. Butala leaves the reader with the niggling impression that as a writer she has discovered what works for her in creating a short story and does not want, need, or desire to explore and experiment further, I certainly hope this is not so. There is some very fine writing in Queen of the Headaches.

donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, N.S.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works