About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bush Dweller – Essays in Memory of Father James Gray, OSB edited by Donald Ward (Part II)

On Monday I began my review of Bush Dweller – Essays in Memory of Father James Gray, OSB edited by Donald Ward, a collection of short essays remembering Father James. I start the second part of the review with personal memories of him.

Forty-one years ago I was a first year university student at St. Peter’s. Father James was my English professor. At 18 I was too young to appreciate the depth of his knowledge. Father James was devoted to and a master of words – the Word of God, the words of great writers and poets, the meditations of monks and mystics. I was old enough to understand his love of fine writing.

I had already spent 3 years in high school at St. Peter’s where my English teachers expected far more than simple summarization of what we had read. As set out by contributor, Dennis Gruending, Father James continued the process in university challenging us to delve into the novels, short stories, poetry and plays we read during the year. As with the best teachers, he wanted us to think about what we were reading and be not afraid to express those thoughts.

Until that class I had thought of Huck Finn as an entertaining Disney movie. That winter I came to appreciate the richness of the relationship between Huck and Jim.

Gulliver’s Travels had been a comic book fantasy. It shifted to a sophisticated satire upon the society of its time.

Reading Lord of the Flies pushed me to look into my adolescent heart and consider whether savagery lurked there merely waiting opportunity.

I did not maintain a personal relationship with Father James after that year. We would occasionally see and greet each other at College events. He became a bush dweller after I left St. Peter’s.

It was during those years from 1972 to 2002 while he was living his solitary life that he formed relationships with most of the contributors to the book.

It was striking to read in so many essays how the relationships concluded in the last days of his life. A majority of the essayists wrote of special memories from his closing days when all, especially Father James, knew the end was near.

Many reached out for a final connection. All knew he did not dread death. He had told writer Anne Strachan:

I asked if he was afraid. He responded that for him, death held no fear. “Strange, in monasteries,” he wrote, “death seems more ‘comforting’ than ‘sorrowing’ …. Knowing God’s loving forgiveness, why should we fear death? Dying itself may be less than pleasant, but how else is one to ‘make the crossing over’ to a better condition of life?!”

How many people have such a group of friends seeking to ease final days and to share a few more moments of conversation? Father James, a contemplative monk, was a remarkable man to bring forth such love.

Two years ago a slender volume, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, had a profound impact upon me as I dealt with cancer treatment. This winter Bush Dweller has equally moved me. It is a book to savour and a life to reflect upon as I rush into another day.

This summer when I sit upon my deck I will think of Father James. I resolve to become a little closer to the birds of my yard. (Feb. 9/12)


  1. Another Bill here, in Regina. I recently read Man's Search for Meaning, so I'm interested now to read Bush Dweller. I like that idea of your TBR pile. Now I have a proper name for my pile.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I hope you enjoy Bush Dweller.