Dianne Warren is a Saskatchewan writer, so I expected I’d find a lot of characters I’d recognize in her GG winning novel, Cool Water–and I did. Indeed, I found many common themes and people I could identify with in the stories of the numerous characters.
While described as a novel, it seemed to me that the book was more of a series of short stories moving between characters whose connections we eventually learned–all but the first story, which was set somewhere around the turn of the 20th century (I estimated) when southwest Saskatchewan was a grazing mecca for large cattle companies.
Titled The Distance, that story puts an old cowboy and a young cowboy up against one another to see who can make it the fastest around a 100-mile ride on a scorching summer day.
The ride does reappear a little later in the book as Lee Torgeson takes the very unplanned same route on a horse that wanders into his farmyard, when he strangely enough can’t resist the urge to saddle it up and go for a ride. The elderly soul along his route isn’t the competition, though, but a benefactor who feeds him and gives him a hat to protect him from the afternoon sun.
To me this was the crux of the story, the repeating cycle of the seasons and life that’s standard fare in the Canadian literary tradition, and likely even more common in the slower paced rural Saskatchewan lifestyles of the other characters.
Life does go on: Unmarried teens get pregnant, cowboys find adventure and dalliances at the rodeo, wives left home alone manage the best they can, bank managers turn down loans, farmers lose their land and head back to the labour force to feed their families, young boys wish for freedom and adventure, young men try newfangled ideas like bringing home a camel, people die, and those who remain go on living.
Cool Water was an enjoyable tale with a cast of characters I’ve met at coffee shops around Saskatchewan numerous times in my travels as a saleslady in the 80s. In fact, until I ran into the novel’s first common use of cell phones and discussion of the Internet, I would have guessed the story was set in the 80s, or at least that was where the characters had sprung from. And perhaps they had.
I read Cool Water as an ebook purchased and downloaded from Kobo. Formatting was average, but not great, as the hyperlinks to the chapters didn’t work in the EPUB version. However, since my e-reader bookmarked, it wasn’t that important.