Review: Consider the Sunflowers, by Elma Schemenauer

Consider the Sunflowers, by Elma SchemenauerConsider the Sunflowers, by Elma Schemenauer (Borealis Press, 2014)

In 1940s Saskatchewan, Tina Janz schemes to win the man who fascinates her, instead of the rich-but-boring man who impresses her Mennonite parents. Tina and Frank marry for love—or at least fascination—but it’s a rocky trail. They each have insecurities, attitudes and suspicions, and Tina is keeping a secret that may come back to hurt them both.

Consider the Sunflowers is a skillfully crafted literary novel that opens a window onto small-town life in World War Two-era western Canada. Little snippets of news and daily life help us understand the times, while Tina’s and Frank’s efforts to save their marriage will resonate with readers today.

Readers learn about Mennonite culture and prairie life, and about feeling like an outsider. There is a spiritual thread that’s organic to the novel, but it’s not about preaching. It’s about how the believers live their lives. Frank is honest about his inability to believe.

We also see the effects of self-pity, complaining, self-exclusion and manipulation, and in the seeing we may gain insight into our own lives. There’s a point in the story where Tina sees an amplified negative trait in another character and realizes she needs to change herself. As we watch her begin to change, it might inspire us to do the same.

My favourite lines:

Now she [Tina] was clinging to faith by her fingertips. One gust of wind and she’d reel off into some howling void of—what? She didn’t know; she’d never not believed before. [Kindle location 1408]

Adeline. The woman was like a poisoned well. She claimed Jesus poured springs of living water into her heart. Maybe he did, but Adeline poisoned them with her rudeness as fast as he poured them in. [Kindle location 1462]

He [Frank’s father] always shouted during long-distance phone conversations because they cost so much. [Kindle location 2184]

Do you remember old people shouting on long-distance calls? I do. I always thought they shouted because the sound had to travel so far.

Canadian author Elma Schemenauer is the author of 75 books and the editor of many more. Consider the Sunflowers is her first novel for adults. For more about the author and her novel, please visit her website. Or check out my interview with Frank Warkentin.

Paperback 299 pages $19.95, ISBN 978-0-88887-575-4, AVAILABLE FROM THE PUBLISHER, Borealis Press. Also available online at Chapters Indigo by about November 15. E-book coming in 2015.

[Review copy provided by the publisher.]

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