Probing Minds, Salamander Girls, and a Dog Named Sally


248 pages
ISBN 1-55447-005-6
DDC C818'.603





Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



As a teenager living on a farm in Nova Scotia, Wright did all the things
rural teens do, tinkered with a moped and an ancient snowmobile, helped
with farm work, especially if it involved riding a tractor, went
fishing, and played pranks. (If activities such as applying a flame to a
condom filled with propane can be considered a prank.) He also did some
thinking about the meaning of life and, unlike the typical farm kid,
verbalizes these thoughts in this memoir.

The autobiographical work is a collection of vignettes in which Wright
explores language and various ways of giving voice to his introspections
and “ponderings.” He describes his writing as being “about living
and the passage of time when the characters weren’t too sure how it
was they were supposed to go about living.” These homespun
philosophies are expressed in a few lines incorporated into tales of
teenage boys exploring their environment. We’re told that trying to
recover from a prank gone wrong is illustrative of the “sanctity and
precious wonderment of life.” He describes his activities as
“looking in unopened doors,” as “everything keeps on keeping
on,” that the book is about “making do with the present” and the
“simple beauty of life.”

The use of language is the strength of the work. The style is
deliberately rambling and folksy, with the occasional Maritime
colloquialism added for colour and to enrich the tapestry he weaves by
spinning out the jus’-everyday-folks tone.

While not yet a threat to Garrison Keillor, Wright has made a valiant
first step into the homespun philosopher game.


Wright, Harrison., “Probing Minds, Salamander Girls, and a Dog Named Sally,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,