Underground Music & A Pitcher of Water

Underground Music & A Pitcher of Water: Two Stories About Life in the 1930' s in Southern Saskatchewan by Diane Halpin. London, ON: Story Tree Productions, 1997.25 pp. $8.00 + $2 S/H

There are only two stories in this little book, but what the book lacks in length it makes up for in power. Each of the stories told by Halpin about her maternal grandparents packs a powerful punch.

Underground Music is the story of Halpin's French-Canadian grandmother. Married to a Norwegian, and living in an area where only English was spoken, she was forbidden by her husband to practice her religion or to speak or even sing in her native language. The only time she dared to sing her beloved folksongs was when the family huddled in the dark of the root cellar, sitting out yet another dust storm. When a chance to escape the hardship arrives in the form of a letter offering her a job as live-in housekeeper to a single man in town, she must choose between her ten children and the freedom to be who and what she is.

A Pitcher of Water tells the story of the day when even Halpin's grandparents' spring fed well runs dry -- the well to which people from miles around walked daily for a ration of water in the 6th year of drought. When the wild-eyed men and blank-eyed women seem about to take desperate action, Halpin's grandfather uses the power of music to keep all sane until the well can replenish itself.

The first story is told in a French dialect: lovely to hear live, not always easy to read when written out so meticulously. Never mind that. They are amazing stories, beautifully shaped.

Story Tree Productions, 408 Tecumseh Avenue East, London, Ontario. Canada N6C 1TS. Phone: 519-434-7147  

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The Second Story Review, Vol 2, No. 3, Sep 1997

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