Thursday, 19 September 2013

Lilac Moon by Sharon Butala

WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be a Westerner? What is the Western experience and, by extension, what makes up the Western soul? In Lilac Moon, Sharon Butala inspires, delights and challenges us to think about the West in fresh ways. Beginning with a day in the life of the real West, she transports us to her Saskatchewan ranch, where a soft lilac moon lights the vast rolling landscape. Then, in a series of wide-ranging chapters that ponder the question "What makes a Westerner?" she considers the myths, the history, the peoples of the three prairie provinces.
 From the pioneer past to Western stereotypes, from racial and ethnic inequalities to party politics, from rural myths to urban realities,  Lilac Moon effortlessly interweaves strands of history, family, politics and culture. Butala’s intense personal connection -- her blended English/French roots run five generations deep in the Western landscape -- and her elegant style combine to create a book rich in insight and an abiding love for the vast region she knows so well.
Published on the centennial anniversary of the entry of Alberta and Saskatchewan into Confederation, this is a book not just for Westerners, but for all Canadians who want to know -- and understand -- one of the seminal dreams of our nation.
About the Author 
SHARON BUTALA is an award-winning and bestselling author of both fiction and non- fiction. Her classic book The Perfection of the Morning was a #1 bestseller and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Fever, a short story collection, won the 1992 Authors’ Award for Paperback Fiction. Butala is a recipient of both the Marian Engel Award and a Member of the Order of Canada. She moved from their ranch at Eastend, Saskatchewan to Calgary to be near her son and his family following the death of her second husband, Peter Butala, in 2007.



  1. Lilac Moon is an excellent book club selection, particularly for Canadians. It challenges the myths the east created about the west and the myths that Westerners tell themselves. It is meticulously researched, clearly written and well-presented. Author, Sharon Butala, provides the history that helps to explain the attitudes and conditions of today.
    Generally the book was very well-liked, so much so that members asked that a thank you note be sent to the member who had suggested the book! Those with the most enthusiasm cited how much they had learned and how they had been touched by the lives of women and First Nations people. To those who had immigrated to Canada, it was “a total new experience”: it was good to learn how the contemporary life in the West evolved. The deep background was new to born Westerners and incomers alike. Butala’s thesis, supported by facts, was illuminated by the stories which followed.
    Those who questioned Lilac Moon thought that the facts presented were biased and slanted; that one culture was pitted against another and that the distinction established between rural and urban Westerners was artificial. The segment about Westerners still wanting to be part of Canada raised ire, as those members saw themselves as part of Canada already.
    Last month’s selection, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, proved to be a fine companion read, for the history that struck us most clearly was that of the First Nations People denied the full respect as citizens of our country. Their relations with the English and the French, the view that they were savages, the manipulation in the land grabs, all lead toward the horror of the residential schools, the poverty of the reserves and the addictions of the people. The prejudice that allows the police today to release two drunken boys out in the country on a cold night so that they freeze to death, has roots in that history. The image of those frozen teenagers cannot be erased from our minds.

  2. Continued...
    This led to a discussion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – can reconciliation be achieved? There is much more to do. We must speak about the schools. We must ensure that children are taught about all that has happened to First Nations. We must stand up and speak out against prejudice. The entire history of First Nations in our country must be brought into the light of day.
    This does not mean that we accept the “noble red man”. It means that we work to understand and to see them as we see ourselves – not apart, but human with all the strengths and weaknesses that we possess.