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A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape

by Candace Savage

Saskatchewan author Candace Savage is enamoured of Prairie landscapes. The author of more than two dozen books for adults and children, Savage’s newest is an exploration of the area around Eastend, Saskatchewan, as well as the cultural history of the Cypress Hills.

Part history, part memoir, A Geography of Blood begins with Savage and her partner buying a house in Eastend. Savage’s forays into the land around Eastend inspire her to investigate the tragic story of the First Nations and Métis people of the Cypress Hills. She also examines the slaughter of buffalo and its effects on the plains people in a way that feels fresh, not simply a rehash of history books. The author touches on the natural history of the place, delving into the milieu of American writer Wallace Stegner.

Savage has a beautiful facility with language and brings the reader into the heart of the Prairies. In addition to archival research, the author uses oral history and her own experiences to invest the narrative with a great deal of potency.

The book works best when Savage brings herself into the story, allowing the reader to learn along with her. Unfortunately, she abandons the memoir aspect midway, at which point the book becomes largely historical. Savage also allows historical figures to speak directly to the reader, a device intended to let marginalized figures tell their own stories, but it seems out of place here.

Despite these weaknesses, on the whole A Geography of Blood is a solid addition to the canon of Prairie literature.