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Abley, Mark

Vancouver, Douglas & Mclntyre, 1986. 260pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-88894-520-5. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Marc Shaw

Volume 15 Number 6
1987 November

This is an impressive first book—part travelogue, part elegy—by a young author eminently qualified to write with substance and insight on the vast lands that make up our prairie provinces. Although English born, Abley lived in Alberta and Saskatchewan for fourteen years. And then, ten years after leaving the prairies behind him (he thought) forever, he made a return pilgrimage to the land of his youth, driving a rented car and being driven by a desire to rediscover "a region, a pattern of culture that I had rejected with such ignorance and ease." This book is the result of that journey.

In Beyond Forget (Forget, Saskatchewan, population 81) Abley attempts to come to terms with the uniqueness of the prairies-the people, the geography, the effects of a vast landscape on stretching the human imagination. We accompany him as he roams through the towns and hamlets, lingering here, quickly escaping there, and seeking out the people who, like his parents, had made it their home. Farms and ranches, Indian rcservaiions and Hutterite settlements, suburban shopping malls, and dying towns all fall under his scrutiny. He has an eye for the anecdote worth repeating, and is quite willing to digress in order to illumine such fascinating characters as Grey Owl, H.P. Grove, Henry Kelsey.and I.E. Hulme.

The book is well constructed; not only is a map of the author's peregrinations conveniently provided, but an index of place names and a useful listing of sources consulted are also given. This book would be of primary interest to Westerners, but its evocative charm and insights make it deserving of a much wider audience, for its dreamers, cranks, mystics, and failures are part of all our stories. Equally useful to the student, teacher or casual reader, Beyond Forget belongs in public and secondary school libraries across the country.

Marc Shaw, Kingston Learning Centre, Kingston, Ont.
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