Carolyn D. Redl is a sessional lecturer of English at the University of
Although undoubtedly a Prairie woman writer, Butala gives little
attention to the physical landscape and focuses instead on the
psychological matrices of her characters. Each of the 16 stories in this
collection (selected by the editors of Saturday Night magazine) explores
a seemingly regular sort of character who, in the face of crisis,
submits to an inexplicable and impetuous obsession. Butala’s forte
stretches beyond the study of character, however, to well-controlled
understatement and excellent author-reader rapport.
The title story perhaps best explains Butala’s expertise in these
areas. The husband of a happily long-married couple suddenly becomes ill
while he and his wife are in Calgary on a business trip. While he
struggles at the portals of death, the protagonist engages in a brief,
illicit affair, an act that totally mystifies her. Butala describes the
experiences of both characters with reserved and nonjudgmental
objectivity. The resolution of the story urges readers to accept the
simultaneous but different angst experienced by the two characters
during their radically divergent digressions from their shared life.
The other stories are equally well crafted and compelling. Throughout
Butala demonstrates acute and sometimes painful insight into human
frailties as she walks hand in hand with her readers through depths
often skirted, ignored, and repressed.