Noman's Land: Stories


137 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-88910-312-7





Reviewed by Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick is a librarian at Ryerson Polytechnical University.


This collection of short stories by the Governor-General’s Award-winning writer is, in effect, more like a novel. The stories follow one central protagonist, Noman, an amnesiac of mystical character and mythical purpose, through his search for identity and self-knowledge. The author treats this original situation with a wry sense of humor and an ironic tone, in stories that are insistently Canadian (or “Kanadian,” as MacEwen would have it), with constant references to Toronto streets, stores, and landmarks, as well as to Canadian historical figures. Noman’s quest functions on one level as a metaphor for the Canadian national pastime of searching for a cultural identity, and various characters in the stories spend time thinking and talking about the nature and meaning of this country and its people. An ambiguous feeling toward Canada is provided by several different immigrant characters who, despite their generally unfavorable reactions to their adopted land, find themselves unwilling or unable to leave it, and there is a corresponding theme of loneliness and isolation, among both immigrants and natives, as a national characteristic. The writing style is straightforward, and, although most of the stories have an urban setting, there is a strong affinity with animal life and nature, reinforced by Carl Schaeffer’s drawings, which resemble woodcuts of Group-of-Seven-style northern lakes and trees. Aspects of nature, such as a winter storm and Lake Ontario, function as symbolic elements in Noman’s rite of passage, through which he achieves his own self-awareness and an awareness of his country. In this work, MacEwen delves into the Canadian psyche in order to construct a basis for a similar attempt at self-definition of Canada by Canadians.


MacEwen, Gwendolyn, “Noman's Land: Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024,