A deeply affecting novel about the truths we avoid and the bad choices that come back to haunt us.
While gridlocked in the churchyard of a small Irish town, the traffic frozen in place for the funeral of a young mother and her infant, an unbidden thought comes to Frances Moon. “I lost a baby when I was nineteen.” She is surprised by how easily the long-suppressed memory slips into her consciousness, and by her own voice as she speaks the thought aloud to Ian, her partner of twenty years.
The next morning, Ian is gone.
Numbed by this abandonment, Frances sets out for the small town in western Canada where she grew up—and where she began to make so many poor choices. The novel flashes back to Frances as a curious, imaginative, and well-loved little girl who begins to lose herself once forced from her family’s idyllic farm and into school. As she withdraws inward, only two people offer comfort: Dooley Sullivan, an older boy, a prankster who is always in trouble, and Silas Chance, a decorated veteran of World War Two, an Indian who works at the local lumberyard, and the Moon family’s new tenant. Silas dies violently, the victim of a hit-and-run. And at the site there is evidence the driver stopped but did not help. In such a small town with the usual racial prejudices, the case is never solved. But years later, on the evening of her marriage, Frances knows who the driver was. And possibly, so does Dooley.
There are no huge miracles in Liberty Street, only small gestures from characters alive on the page with grace and humor. Warren is a born storyteller, a magus who creates flawed but enduring characters who seek a way to redeem their lives. Written with compassion and wry humor, this is a novel to cheer for.
Juliet in August
Juliet, Saskatchewan, is a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of town—a dusty oasis on the edge of the Little Snake sand hills. It’s easy to believe that nothing of consequence takes place there. But the hills vibrate with life, and the town’s heart beats in the rich and overlapping stories of its people: the rancher afraid to accept responsibility for the land his adoptive parents left him; the bank manager grappling with a sudden understanding of his own inadequacy; a shy couple, well beyond middle age, struggling with the recognition of their feelings for each other. And somewhere, lost in the sand, a camel named Antoinette.
“In an inspired feat of storytelling, Dianne Warren links the daily lives of a compelling cast of characters in a prairie community in ways that are as heart-true as they are surprising. Warm, witty, and wisely crafted, Juliet in August is a rich and encompassing novel of unforgettable neighbors who become our own.”
—Ivan Doig, author of The Whistling Season
“The characters in Juliet in August are as real as the people who live next door, but in these pages Dianne Warren gives us something we can never have with our neighbors—access to their hidden hearts. Through the course of a summer day, we learn about the desires, doubts, ambitions, and fears of a small group of recognizable yet remarkable people. This is a lovely, life-affirming novel.”
—Larry Watson, author of Montana 1948
“Dianne Warren’s evocative Juliet in August tells the story of Juliet, a small town set against the vastness of the West. Throughout the novel, the dunes that border Juliet are constantly shifting, uncovering bits of history lost to the sands. Warren handles her characters with the same archaeological precision, brushing away layer after layer, slowly revealing their inner turmoil as they move tentatively toward love and forgiveness. Juliet in August is an intricately beautiful novel full of the unexpected triumph of ordinary life.”
—Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone
A Reckless Moon
Warren’s third collection of stories explores the small disruptions in the lives of ordinary people living in rural America and Canada. In “Hawk’s Landing,” Edna Carlson’s adventurous days are behind her; she now finds vicarious thrills in the escapades of the local delinquent. Her quiet existence with her elderly mother is upset by the appearance of the widow of her brother, whose death her mother refuses to acknowledge. The title piece introduces a middle-aged woman who is traveling with a horse buyer whose license has been revoked for drunk driving. Both are pensive people who have little to discuss on the car journey, but who feel connected to each other nonetheless. When a storm stops them, they have time to recount their life histories and reflect on their pasts. In “Tuxedo,” a trip to the dry cleaner launches Claire into a confusing relationship that, even by the end of the story, she is unable to understand. Meanwhile, Claire’s best friend and her friend’s mother complain to her about their problems with their husbands. Throughout these stories runs an appreciation for minutiae, whether it involves the narrator of the title story peering at a horse in the moonlight, or Carmen, a restless teenager in “Bone Garden,” crawling out from beneath a tree in a hotel and spitting dirt from her mouth.
“These seven stories are so rich that they demand rereading. And the process is completely rewarding…. It’s clear that Dianne Warren is in the big league of story writers….”
–The Globe and Mail
“…Dianne Warren’s A Reckless Moon is a strong and original story collection …. simply delighting and impressing the reader with its artistry.”
Bad Luck Dog
Bad Luck Dog, Dianne Warren’s second collection of short fiction,received the City of Regina Book Award for 1993 as well as the Saskatchewan Book Award. The 10 stories in this collection portray working people in western Canadian settings who struggle with hopelessness and despair. Ill fortune is ever present in the lives of these characters, as they face loss of possessions, dwellings, livelihood, and loved ones. In the title piece, Fred, who has “had more than the average dose of bad luck,” loses job after job, causes the death of his wife in a car accident, and cannot retain custody of his teenage daughter. Though circumstances seem to be improving for Fred at the close of the story, his daughter, as narrator, still envisions the “old hound dog stretched out at his feet.” Other characters in these stories respond to their pain by attempting some form of escape. Some physically move from place to place; others mentally withdraw—for example, the mother in “Night Music” drinks and listens to the police radio to blot out the death of her husband and her loss of control over her delinquent children.
“There’s much to admire in Warren’s style: it’s confident, controlled, and never obstructs the story it’s expressing….”
–The Globe and Mail
“This is writing to applaud….”
–Books in Canada
The Wednesday Flower Man
This remarkable first collection presents an amazing array of characters and their stories — women of all ages and conditions, struggling to deal with changing times. From the northern bush, to small-town cafes, to the ballroom of a grand old hotel, Dianne Warren knows both urban and rural landscapes. She gives us wonderfully individual voices, strong clear images, flashes of whimsical humour. Tough, intelligent, compassionate — The Wednesday Flower Man is a pleasure to read and read again.
“This is Warren’s first book, and she reveals a strong and distinctive voice…. The collection is relentlessly enjoyable, and Dianne Warren is a welcome addition to the long list of talented prairie writers.”
–The Globe and Mail
“Again and again the reader will chuckle, not so much because the prose is comic, but because it is so perceptive, so apt, so melancholy, so recognizable.”