CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007
Small town prairie life has inspired writers for generations. As For Me and My House, Sinclair Ross’s 1941 depiction of small town prairie life, illustrated the insular lives of a couple as they coped with disappointment and the social restrictions of their lives. Neil McKinnon’s novel also deals with small town prairie life. His Tuckahoe citizenry are just as restricted by prejudice, poverty, violence, and ignorance, but his multidimensional characterizations show individuals who respond to adversity with humanity, generally, and, when they do not, McKinnon reveals an understanding of the short comings of human nature.
Voice is key to the author’s characterization. There are, for example, small town, soap box, philosophers:
And there are lovers who court each other through poetry:
The novel’s chapters are discrete vignettes that describe pivotal moments in the lives of different characters. While the young reader may not like all the characters the novel depicts, he or she will be treated to the author’s keen observational skills, ear for dialogue, as well as the poetry of his writing:
McKinnon’s novel is useful for the classroom in many respects. For the social studies student, norms, values, concepts of deviancy, authority and normality, community values, role models, and the position of the church and the rights of the individual in community life are all examined by McKinnon. The English student will find characters that reveal themselves through their language, and it is McKinnon’s use of language which makes the novel such an enjoyable read. His similes and metaphors are creative, such as when he likens the red hair of a boy to a “nervous campfire.” Students will see the possibilities of language come alive in this book.
In contrast to Ross’s novel suggestions of sexuality and violence, McKinnon’s characters are often placed in very adult situations in which sexuality and violence feature prominently. For this reason, the novel is recommended for mature young readers.
Located in Toronto, ON, J. Lynn Fraser is a freelance writer and editor whose magazine articles appear in national and international publications.
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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.