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The dryland diaries



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The Dryland Diaries is a multigenerational narrative in the epistolary style, a tale of four women, central character Luka; her mother Lenore; grandmother Charlotte; and great-grandmother Annie – cast in the Quebecoise tradition of the roman du terroir, invoking place and family, the primal terroir of a storyteller. The novel is driven by three acts of violence – the possible murder of Annie’s husband, Jordan, by her Hutterite father; the rape of Charlotte; and the probable murder of Lenore by a notorious serial killer. Set in rural Saskatchewan and Vancouver, Luka, a single mother, finds Annie’s and Charlotte’s journals in the basement of her farm home, where both her predecessors also lived. She reads their stories while attempting to come to terms with her search for her missing mother, and with her attraction to her former flame, Earl, now married. Luka learns that Jordan disappeared shortly after the Canadian government enacted conscription for farmers in the First World War, when Annie became a stud horsewoman, her daughter Charlotte born before the war ended. Letters and newspaper clippings trace the family’s life through the drought and Great Depression; then Charlotte’s diaries reveal her rape at Danceland during the Second World War. Her daughter, Lenore, grows up off-balance emotionally, and abandons her daughters. Luka returns to Vancouver and learns her mother’s fate. Told from Luka’s point of view, in first-person narrative with intercutting diary excerpts and third-person narratives, the novel examines how violence percolates through generations. It also examines how mothers influence their children, the role of art, how the natural world influences a life, and questions our definition of “home.” At its heart, the novel is a story about what makes a family a family, about choices we make toward happiness, and about how violence perpetuates itself through the generations. Inspired by Margaret Lawrence’s The Stone Angel, Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries, and the place-particular writing of Annie Proulx and Guy Vanderhaeghe, The Dryland Diaries paints a family portrait of loss, hope and redemption, locating it on the boundaries of historical fiction, firmly within the realm of epistolary and intergenerational narrative.



epistolary novel, intergenerational novel, prairie, roman du terroir, historical fiction, family violence, flood, Canadian fiction, multi-generational novel, missing women, Danceland, rape, Hutterites, Ukrainian internment, Downtown Eastside, The Only, conscientious objector, First World War, Second World War, WWI, WWII, horses, farm accidents, Temperance Street, Saskatoon, Vancouver, rodeo, murder, dee Hobsbawn-Smith.



Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity




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