Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2008, pp. 169.
Rudy Wiebe, author of nine novels and three collections of stories as well as numerous other works, is best known for his historical fiction-particularly for novels featuring Canada's Native peoples. A first-generation Canadian whose German-speaking Mennonite parents fled Stalinist Ukraine in 1929 and then homesteaded in Saskatchewan, Wiebe has tended to set his fiction on the prairies or in the north. Appalled by the prevailing view that the Plains were "empty" before European immigrants arrived, he has consistently worked to document the repressed history of Canada. His writing has focused not only on the First Nations of his native land, however, but also on his own immigrant people.
Wiebe's considerable power is evident in all his writing, but arguably it is in his more autobiographically-infused work-especially his Mennonite fiction-that his readers might find a distinctly generous, lyrical tone of voice. It is this voice, so beautifully sustained, so intimate and engaging, that draws readers into Of This Earth.
Forty-four years after the publication of his first novel, Peace Shall Destroy Many (1962), which revealed enough autobiographical detail to provoke a hostile reception from members of his community, Wiebe has returned to his childhood among the Mennonites. Invoking in this poignant, humorous, and utterly compelling memoir the innocent perspective of a young boy-and drawing upon family stories, diaries, and memory-laden photographsWiebe intrigues and deeply satisfies his reader. His authorial self-reflexive musings throughout add a level of reflection that never rudely interrupts but richly enhances this narrative of a solitary and imaginative child.