Sharon Butala lives and writes about a kind of life that's pretty foreign to most Concordia students. On a recent reading and talk to an English literature class, she took pains to explain to her young urban audience the macho world of working cowboys, and the intense loneliness that can make their women "go funny."
Butala is one of Western Canada's best-known authors. Country of the Heart was nominated for a Books in Canada First Novel Award. There was a trilogy of linked novels, and a collection of stories, Queen of the Headaches, was shortlisted for the Governor-General's Award. The Perfection of the Morning, a memoir, was also nominated for the Governor-General's Award, and won two Saskatchewan book awards.
Her novels are rigorously realistic, and her memoir, like her public speeches, affectingly personal.
She told the students how a wrenching divorce changed her life when she was 38. It took her from city life as an English professor to a ranch in the Cypress Hills of southwest Saskatchewan. She then remarried, to a 41-year-old cowboy "who had never been married, and had never been off the ranch. It was a new universe, even a new way of talking."
The isolation "nearly killed her," but it has also made her a published and respected writer. Now she's at work on her 10th book, a novel about two Saskatchewan women realizing their full potential against the twin backdrops of the prairie and the Ethiopian famine. Her novels are published by Harper Perennial.
The next lecture in the Writers Read series will be by André Alexis, whose first novel, Childhood, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize. He will appear Thursday, November 12, at 8:30 p.m., in Room 407 of the Henry F. Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve W.
- Barbara Black