A novel nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel of the year in 2007. And for the Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction.
I imagined a not too distant future of climate change, the North American plains parched and dying. Plant scientists Tomas and Signy Nilson, brother and sister, work to create a new wheat crop with the survival power of ancient prairie grass. They use traditional plant breeding methods coupled with modern genome research.
They live at their grandmother’s homestead on an old Swedish colony in northern Saskatchewan, constantly threatened by Magnus Dragland, an immensely old and wealthy man with a lifelong hatred of their family. Dragland owns the land all around them, and he has the power to destroy them and their work.
The Nilsons have a power the old man doesn’t know about. Signy’s twelve-year-old son David, has been deaf since birth, yet hears things no one else can.
In the mix are an artists’ colony of people called Wrekkers, another that lives in an abandoned mine, and an aboriginal republic on the prairies.
Four wonderful writers commented on the back cover. Robert Kroetsch said,
I was moved by a vision that dares to bring together myth, legend, the migration story, science, economics, the past, and the future... Dry transforms the pairie story.
Aritha van Herk said,
Dry walks a high wire between past and future... Forecasting a prairie where healing and growth will require powerful magic, Sapergia offers a chilling and yet redemptive vision of the future of the great grasslands of the west.
Candas Jane Dorsey wrote:
Barbara Sapergia has one foot on the prairie and one foot in the future. Dry is a literate and thoughtful speculation about the local costs of global warming, and the persistence of our human connection to the place we call home.
And Trevor Herriot said,
This taut, suspenseful narrative of a a near and arid future is compelling on its own, but what hooked me is the way Sapergia uses family history and drama to uncover the larger truths behind our nostalgia and myths of permanence.
Carole Giangrande wrote in the Globe and Mail that
The writing is crisp and the story has the fascination of a well-told future tale...
Yet this is a novel about competing mythologies, and it’s here that Sapergia calls us to attention. Long a storied place in this country’s writing, the vast Prairie invites overlapping layers of myth, beginning with the native connection to the spirits of nature and including a rich store of Nordic storytelling...
Adding to this layering of prairie myth is the overarching story of science, with its twin prongs of healing and destruction. There’s more than enough to engage the mind in this thoughtful speculative novel.
Secrets in Water
A novel nominated for the Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction.
Annie Ransome’s life in Toronto is already starting to come apart when her mother’s sudden death calls her back to the prairie city of her childhood. In her mother’s old house by the river, she finds clues to the things that were never talked about. The house slowly gives up its past, and Annie comes to understand the secrets that have scarred her family for three generations.
It’s also got something for people interested in used furniture stores, killer bees, Fort San, and pregnancy. Aritha Van Herk said:
Secrets in Water is a novel that swells and ebbs with the secrets of past lives, hidden epiphanies, and strange contagions. These characters mermaid dreams, swim through an apocalypse of prairie, and surface full of burgeoning joy.
David Carpenter wrote:
Tender, witty, and startling by turn, Annie Ransom's journey to Riverbend is a mystery in the fullest sense of the word.
South Hill Girls
...a collection of ten stories, takes place in the same prairie city. One of the stories was the starting point for Secrets in Water. Some of the other stories are:
“Matty and Rose.” A young railway porter meets Rose, a waitress in the station restaurant. When they move into a house near the river, it’s the first time most of the neighbours have seen a black man up close.
“The House by the River,” tells about Allison (mother to Annie from Secrets in Water) after her own mother’s death.
“Knights and Damsels.” A rebellious girl’s determination to find her own path leads to the discovery of a dead newborn.
“The Garden of Edith Ashdown” is in David Carpenter’s words, “Lady Chatterly’s Lover revisited, but this time from the woman’s point of view.”
Susan Rudy Dorscht reviewed South Hill Girls in Canadian Literature. She said:
Barbara Sapergia’s South Hill Girls is organized around a series of stories told from the point of view of various mothers, daughters, and granddaughters of different generations and life situations, all of whom have lived in the same small town... These are extraordinary stories because of the ordinary and uncanny juxtapositon of characters, the unexpected, unpredictable narrative shifts, the many women, linked by blood and proximity, speaking together.
South Hill Girls has gone out of print, but I hope to bring it back to life this year as a quality paperback and as an e-book.
A novel about Romanian immigrants to Saskatchewan, Foreigners tells the story of the Dominescu family in the Badlands of southern Saskatchewan. It begins with the death of a child but ends with the family becoming part of the community around them.
To buy the book...
If you'd like to buy my book, you can find it at bookstores across Canada, or you can contact my publisher at coteaubooks.com. It is also available as an e-book.