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Tears in the Grass, by Lynda A. Archer.

January 9, 2016

Tears in the Grass, by Lynda A. Archer.  Dundurn (2016), 320 pages.  Forthcoming in March 2016.

5 stars — My Favorite

A compelling story about a 90-year old Cree woman living on the plains of Canada who enlists her daughter and granddaughter to help her find the child who was taken from her at birth when she was raped while attending a reservation school.

Lynda Archer is a Canadian author, born and raised on the Canadian plains which are the setting for this book. She now lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia. For thirty years, she worked as a clinical psychologist, hearing stories of exclusion and strength such as the ones she incorporates in her stories. In addition, she has a MFA in Creative Writing and has published a number of short stories. Tears in the Grass is her debut novel.

At ninety, Elinor lived alone in a cottage on the prairie, painting, remembering and communicating with the wildlife. Among her secrets is that of Bright Eyes, a child she bore after having been raped by a white man while a reservation school. The baby girl had been taken from her without her knowledge or consent immediately after birth, and Elinor had mourned her ever since. As she senses she is near death, she is convinced that she must find and be united with Bright Eyes, and she enlists her daughter and granddaughter to help her. Louise, her daughter, had rejected her family and her heritage and made a successful life in the world of whites as a lawyer. Her daughter, Alice, has closer ties with her grandmother, but she is a lesbian, afraid of telling her mother of the happiness she has found with her lover. As the three generations of women seek the lost child, they gradually break down the barriers that separate them.

Although not a Canadian First Person herself, Archer has a rare sensitivity and informed knowledge of their lives. She also continues to appreciate the Great Plains and to visit them regularly as a way of nurturing herself. As she explains on her website, if she feels the way she does about the power of the land, she understands that those whose land it had been feel its loss even more. Her years of work as a clinical psychologist have exposed her to the painful stories of those who have worked with her. She captures the nuances and variety of mother-daughter relationships in ways that resonated with me. In addition, Archer’s depiction of her ninety-year old main character captures the increasing weakness and passion that old age can bring.

I found this story amazingly powerful. It is my first Best Book of 2016. I recommend it highly. I seldom quote from a book’s publishers, but in this case, I agree totally with what they say about this book. “Tears in the Grass will appeal to all who have lost children, their culture, their language, their land, and, to those seeking to achieve a deeper understanding of such hardships.” And to all who have experienced mother/daughter relations and those who are aging.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Dundurn Publishing for sending me a digital copy of this book to review.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2016 3:14 pm

    Sounds absolutely wonderful. I would love to read it….will add it to my “must read” list. Pat

    • January 11, 2016 9:13 am

      Yes. I think you would like this one. Maybe the reading group would. It won’t be generally available till March. I only have a digital copy. Do you read digitally? Would you like to borrow my reader and read this book now while I have a review copy?

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