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Gertrude Story
Saskatoon (Sask.), Thistledown Press, 1991. 159pp, paper, $16.00
ISBN 0-920633-82-X. CIP

Adult / Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Hugh A. Cook & Katheryn Broughton.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Gertrude Story's first published works were a collection of poems in 1981. A native of Saskatchewan, she has endeavoured to give her readers an insight to the rigours of life, western style.

Her choice of short stories in this collection leaves me somewhat con­fused. I see how some of them are connected to the title but wonder why others have been included. Her first five short stories depict the lives of lonely women in their later years. All of them live alone, by choice or circum­stance, and the thought of sex is preva­lent among them all.

Whether this is factual for the average women of this age and situa­tion, 1 leave to the reader to decide. Most of the women are of German descent and have limited resources. They all have dreams of what their lives should be like and in all cases the facts fall short of the ideal. Except for the monotony of a repeated theme, the stories are well written and show a real feeling for the plight of those caught up in rather unhappy times.

The next story breaks the mold only slightly, for here a man is used to narrate the life of his mother on a poor farm in Saskatchewan. His father is seldom home but the hired hand is and probably had more to do with several children than just helping to feed them.

We then get a glimpse of East Germany through the eyes of a female tourist, who is visiting her relatives. Although interesting, the story is not particularly earth shattering or even a vivid description of the country or lives of those who dwelt in that area at that time.

The last three stories left me cold. What they had to do with life after sixty I'm not at all sure. One told of the life of a poor old man who hears voices in his head and is unsure of who or what he really is. He likes to feed the ducks and everyone thinks he is crazy. This undoubtedly happens to some unfortu­nates but is not typical of life after sixty, I hope!

The next is even more weird. This tells of a being from another planet that invades the life of a small boy and dominates the individual's life until death. No suggestion is made of this person receiving any special care except from kind parents.

The last tells of a woman riding a train in Austria and her particular encounter with a young man. I have no idea why it is included in this book and cannot fathom its meaning even though I read it twice. Maybe she decided to stand up for her rights. I think Story might have chosen a better story with which to conclude her book.

All in all I was not impressed. Maybe I am too close to sixty to see its relevance. Maybe it's because 1 am male and happily married that I do not see the need for repetition of such stories. Maybe I am not the right person to evaluate this author's efforts. What I do know for certain is that given the choice I would certainly not choose this book for my personal library collection.

Hugh A. Cook, Maple, Ont.

These ten stories concern people (mostly women) who have reached their sixties to find life variously filled with mystery, wonder, frustration and sometimes the discovery, that, yes, there can be love in one's old age.

Some protagonists are ready to take risks that were impossible when they were younger. In "Pictures" Emma leaves her farmer husband, while Vanessa in "Go Like Sixty" reluctantly opts for lunch with Kurt as a life-embracing gesture. She cannot bear the thought of becoming senile like her bothersome neighbour.

There is a sardonic tone in "The New World's Home," which describes pioneer grandparents who are not made of "Pioneers, Oh Pioneers" stuff. In "Cocoon" Addie come to terms with her past on her return to the farm where she had experienced a happy childhood. The tone is gentle as images and recurrent dreams reveal and console. By way of contrast, in "Wanted" there is menace in Rose's experience in New Mexico. She goes to visit a man she scarcely knows and finds that he is frighteningly disturbed. In"Alles Verrucht," the author successfully evokes the mind of a mentally ill man.

The settings are mainly in Saskatch­ewan and Germany or Austria. The collection has its strengths and will appeal to readers who appreciate local colour. In courses where fiction sup­ports study on old age, these stories could prove useful.


Katheryn Broughton, Thomhill, Ont.
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