Sharon Butala’s new novel begins with the wrong kind of bang when retiring social worker Judith falls on the ice on the way to her retirement party. The debilitating concussion that follows seems to shake loose a confusing whirl of memories.
Judith is a mother of four, and her relationships with her daughters are complicated. They all seem to have men trouble, except for the wild daughter who seems to have settled down, inexplicably to Judith, in Jerusalem. With her ears still ringing and her strength compromised by a shaky recovery, Judith leaves Calgary and, to everyone’s bewilderment, moves back to the town near the family farm. In Wisdom, Saskatchewan, she confronts many unanswered questions: Why was her father, a World War Two vet, so troubled? What are her brother and sister hiding from her? As she pursues answers to unsolved mysteries in her own life, more complicated and wider ranging questions arise.
Living in a small town is a shock after the anonymity of a big city. Judith finds herself exposed to watchful neighbours, and she is watchful in turn, seeing things that are mystifying at first–and then alarming. Small town bigotry and what looks like a serious crime unfolding in the house next door make her return even more difficult–what is she doing here? Does she have enough wisdom to unravel her past? Does she have a future in a place where she is not exactly welcome?
This thought-provoking and very readable tale shows not only the suffering that comes from family secrets, but also unfolds one woman’s late life awakening to the complex shadows cast by World War Two and the Holocaust.
About the Author
Sharon Butala is the author of twenty-one books of fiction and nonfiction, numerous essays and articles, some poetry and five produced plays. She published her first novel in 1984, Country of the Heart, which was nominated for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, followed closely by a collection of short stories, Queen of the Headaches (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award). Sharon’s books have been on the Canadian bestseller lists, including her memoir The Perfection of the Morning, which reached #1 in July 1994. Her work has been nominated for, and received, numerous awards. Most recently, her story collection Season of Fury and Wonder was nominated for the Rogers Trust Fiction Prize and won the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize for 2020. Sharon is an Officer of the Order of Canada. She lives in Calgary.
Praise for Leaving Wisdom:
“Each twist and turn of this homecoming story is subverted in a profound exploration of maturity that only Sharon Butala, one of Canada’s finest, most accomplished authors, could write. Elegies are not supposed to be joyous, but this one is—an elegy to being alive.”
—Keith Maillard, author of Twin Studies and Gloria
“Sharon Butala’s masterfully written novel chronicles the psychological journey Judith undergoes to make a difficult peace with her family demons, with her brother, her sister, and her complicated father. After a sinister encounter with antisemitism and discoveries about her own family’s past, she wrestles with the aftereffects of personal and historic trauma. Raw and powerful, this is a novel not to be missed.”
—Melvin Pasternak, author of 21 Candlesticks Every Trader Should Know
Read an Excerpt
Read an excerpt of Leaving Wisdom here: leaving wisdom_excerpt