Calling Home


149 pages
ISBN 0-88750-448-5





Reviewed by Priscilla Galloway

Priscilla Galloway was an English consultant in Willowdale, Ontario.


Calling Home is the second volume of short stories by Merna Summers, who grew up in rural Alberta but now lives in Edmonton.

Summers continues to portray rural people, but her new stories also include town and city folk. In “City Wedding,” urban and rural values clash, although Astrid, the groom’s mother from the country, never says anything to the insensitive urban mother of the bride. In “Hooking Things” the air force family has moved in wartime from farm to town; the adolescent girl, uprooted, steals from dime store and church. The black farmer of “Threshing Time” in the Depression must allow himself to be humiliated and his young daughter to be fondled in order to get a desperately needed threshing job. “A Pailful of Partridges” shows a family storyteller’s attempt to make sense of events, to embellish and shape people as they might have been. Like all six Summers stories, this one is full of subtle nuances; hints hover.

The two most powerful stories are “Ronnie So Long at the Fair,” in which Ronnie’s adolescent love blossoms briefly and dies, ably assisted by his widowed mother; and the title story, “Calling Home,” in which Allison comes from the city for her mother’s funeral. At first this seems the usual ritual occasion, where people don’t know quite what to say; gradually the mother’s lifelong and well-known kleptomania emerges. One reads ironies between the lines.

Merna Summers’ finely crafted stories may initially seem simple; the careful reader quickly begins to penetrate their multiple layers of meaning and to delight in the insights that hover between the words. The Skating Party was very good; Calling Home is even better.


Summers, Merna, “Calling Home,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,