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My thesis is a novel-length work of historical fiction entitled Thickwood. The novel can be situated within the context of great/interior plains literature, given its substantial focus on the Thickwood Hills, the northern remnant of the Missouri Coteau. This transition zone between the plains and the mixed boreal forest is an area of geographical and cultural tension. Within this drainage system of the Saskatchewan Rivers, Europeans traded for food and furs with First Nations and Métis peoples, leading to the signing of Treaty 6 and the formation of First Nations Reserves. In Thickwood characters travel across the rugged landscape but also travel into their interior landscape to struggle with questions about belonging and place. During formative years of development, certain landscapes become places of significant attachment, laden with emotional connection and sentiment. This historical work, set in Saskatchewan in 1950, takes place during intense changes after World War Two. Many rural communities without power, good roads, and even telephone services struggled to keep up with post-war development. The cooperative movement, encouraged by Premier Tommy Douglas, was a means for rural people to pool resources to improve their communities. Beef prices were climbing to an all-time high, increasing demand for pastureland. Using close third-person point of view, the novel follows a young female character skilled in ranching, horses, and the sport of baseball. Willomena Swift struggles to find a future for herself after returning from two seasons pitching in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The lease to her family ranch is about to end and her father sells the remaining land to the growing community pasture. After a rogue stallion kills Willo’s purebred foal, she begins a quest to control the stallion and avoid its villainous owner, who is also the pasture committee chairman. Willo uses wit and skill to survive the perils of the landscape and gains confidence to confront Nesteroff about taking over her home as the new pasture headquarters after her father’s death. The novel Thickwood explores personal connections to rugged homeland, spirited horses, and love.



Novel, historical fiction, masters in writing, Canadian literature, Great Plains, prairie, PFRA, 1950, Saskatchewan, All American Girls Baseball League, CCF, pasture, cattle, ranch, cowgirl, horses, forest, Doukhobor, Post World War Two



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


Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity




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