Through Prairie Windows
Author: Susan Halliday Conly
Publisher: Turner-Warwick Publications Inc.
161 pages, paperback
Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Susan Halliday Conly, at the time of writing this book, was living on a family farm near Macklin, Saskatchewan. She is an award-winning author of other books about the Canadian prairies in addition to this one.
This volume contains both short stories and essays, and is divided into three parts. Part 1: we look at some of our lamplighters, the pioneers. Part 2: we look at our faith, rooted in their faith and in the Spirit that rides on the wings of the prairie wind. Part 3: side-glances at some of the landscapers of the prairie. The span of the volume then dates from the early 1900s through to the late 1980s.
In Part 1, Conly tells stories of the Saskatchewan homesteaders who faced many a hardship, roughing it through freezing cold blizzards, welcoming a North West Mounted Police officer riding in the area looking for ‘his man,’ a Cree prophecy of evil sweeping over the land when the European pioneers settled the prairies and the indigenous peoples losing their language and culture, a Grandmother relaxing under an Old Maple and remembering how life has changed since the early pioneer days.
In Part 2, the author marvels at the joy and wonder of celebrating the Christmas King, “God with us,” as well as the joy in God’s creation—the ducks splashing in a spring pond, the yip of a distant coyote, hoar frost, a moon-lit evening walk, the starlight, the moons of Jupiter, sitting beside a murderer at a World Day of Prayer Service who asked to be prayed for, the determination of Michael who went blind and became a computer programmer, remembering that God is not mocked and our need of repentance, and that: “God’s unmistakable hallmark is joy, and joy is a promise. It is our promise to be His hands and His feet and His voice every day, not just when it is appropriate.” (p. 111)
In Part 3, Conly tells of getting a swimming pool, a husband-wife debate over whether to buy a ride-on lawn mower or a larger farm tractor, looking for the illusive peace and quiet in a city hotel room, taking correspondence courses in rural Saskatchewan, lamenting how prime agricultural land is being converted into urban development.
Amidst these prairie stories and essays, Conly employs her wit and humour along with historical tidbits to make this volume an entertaining read.