Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson

Will Ferguson, two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, is an inveterate traveller. Over the past three years, he has been clear cross Canada and back again. In a helicopter above the barren lands of the sub-Ardtic. On a tundra buggy in the polar bear migration paths of Hudson Bay. In a canoe in northern Ontario with his four-year-old son. Funny, poignant and insightful. Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw is a heartfelt tribute to our quirky and fascinating country. (from the back cover)

Why did I choose to read this book?

I’m a fan of the author—Will Ferguson, and, no, not simply because he won the Giller (for his most recent book 419). No, I was a fan way before that. I became a fan after reading his second book:  I Was A Teenage Katima-Victim!

I found that book, years ago, while shopping with my dad.

“I think you should write a book about your experiences in Katimavik.” Dad walked forward two steps, removed a book from the shelf and handed it to me. “A book like this one.”

The cover of I Was… claims that, ‘You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll swoon.” And I did all of that. And that’s how I became a fan—and some day I’ll rave about it, but not today. Today I’ll rave about—Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw.

Playing two roles—tour guide and historian—Will Ferguson proves that Canada was never boring, then nor now.

Being a relatively recent transplant to B.C. and knowing very little about the capital or the history of the province, I found the first chapter fascinating.

In chapter two, Will…um…er…Mr. Ferguson refers to his time in Katimavik.
A favourite quote…

‘[I]n my experience people never really travel to find themselves. They travel to lose themselves. To leave something behind; some part of them.’ [p. 67]

I laughed out loud for at least a minute after reading page seventy-four. Will you?

‘There is an ache—deeper than nostalgia, stronger than regret—that underscores the Canadian experience and informs so much of our immigrant past. It is the dream of escape, the dream of flight. Of return.’ (p. 98) This is how Mr. Ferguson introduces the story of Tom Sukanen—a Finnish immigrate who built a ship in the middle of Saskatchewan. He wanted to sail back to Finland. I remember hearing about Tom Sukanen when I was in my early twenties. I remember thinking that he must have been nuts. Yet the Tom Sukanen that Mr. Ferguson introduces us to isn’t crazy. No. He’s a strong man with a single-minded determination to return home.

My favourite quote from chapter three is…
‘Jackie Schollie…is our designated ‘polar bear monitor’. I have to admit, Jackie’s title makes me jumpy…as in, “Here comes the polar bear. And there goes Mr. Ferguson. The bear has now caught up to Mr. Ferguson and appears to be eating him. We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds.” ‘ (p. 112-113)

As I reached the end of the book, I surface like a swimmer not wanting to leave the water.
On page 321 Mr. Ferguson asks, ‘Can you miss a place before you leave it? Can you feel homesick for a city that isn’t your home? That is how I feel. I miss St. John’s [Newfoundland] and I have not yet gone. I’m homesick, and this is not my home.’

I lived in Newfoundland for three months, when I was twenty. And this is exactly how I felt. Like drinking a glass of water, Newfoundland became a part of me—and it still is.

If you want to reveal in Canadian pride or if want to get to know Canada, I highly recommend Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson.
Sharing my author journey...
I meet with my (the collective 'my') writing group last week. And as it was our last meeting before our two month (July and August) hiatus, I thought I'd offer some words of encouragement to a member who'd just started sharing her work. Well, the words I offered stayed with me. I wondered why. Then I turned my message inward. Was I sharing my work as much as I could? (gulp) Nope. So this week I pulled up my socks (It's summer. I'm not wearing socks. But you know what I mean.) and submitted my work to literary journals. Four submissions are winging--one by email, the rest by post--their way to slush piles. I personally think I've won simply by playing but there may be more to this story. If there is you'll be one of the first to know. 
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Please welcome author Joyce T. Strand (mystery author)