111 pages
ISBN 0-88750-661-5





Reviewed by Michael O. Nowlan

Michael O. Nowlan was a teacher and writer in Oromocto, New Brunswick.


Elizabeth Brewster is often considered one of Canada’s leading poets. Although her verse merits that position, three successive books of short fiction gives her major recognition as a prose writer. Her stories in Visitations are vivid character portrayals of women in Canadian experience. Even though she has lived in Saskatoon for a number of years, some of these narratives depend on her rural New Brunswick roots for a sense of place.

There is something provocative to Maggie’s reflection in “Cold Lunch” which is perhaps key to all fiction. “The story you live and the story you tell are never the same.” It is easy to distort the truth! Maggie further surmises, “There are no true stories.” Coupled with “that’s what life has been ... turning in circles,” which is the narrator’s view in “Visitations,” Brewster gives a sound sense to her fiction.

In the title story, she uses entries from old diaries to show that ghosts “don’t mean us any harm,” but there is a hint of guilt which suggests that such visits to the past may well turn up things better left to dusty diaries.

It is difficult to select a “best” story from any collection, but “A Perfect Setting” is excellent. When Isabel goes to teach in a private school, she is confronted with all sorts of possibilities for a novel, “but what novel?” There is so much of the uncertain that Isabel and the reader keep guessing. Then, there is “The Old Woman” which is clever character exposition told with sensitivity and accuracy. Both are winners. The final story, “Collage,” is a dream passage “of life and dreams about my father.” The autobiographical enters fiction to display a well-crafted “memory” of a father who rests in peace in Chipman, New Brunswick.

It is time Canada applauded the work of Elizabeth Brewster. For over forty years her poetry and fiction have moved and entertained her readers.



Brewster, Elizabeth, “Visitations,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,