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A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape [Hardcover]

Candace Savage
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 4 2012

Amazon.ca Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction

A bestselling author embarks on a profound and dramatic journey through the eloquent landscape of southwestern Saskatchewan.

When Candace Savage and her partner buy a house in the romantic little town of Eastend, she has no idea what awaits her. At first she enjoys exploring the area around their new home, including the boyhood haunts of the celebrated American writer Wallace Stegner, the backroads of the Cypress Hills, the dinosaur skeletons at the T.Rex Discovery Centre, the fossils to be found in the dust-dry hills. She also revels in her encounters with the wild inhabitants of this mysterious land -- two coyotes in a ditch at night, their eyes glinting in the dark; a deer at the window; a cougar pussy-footing it through a gully a few minutes' walk from town.

But as Savage explores further, she uncovers a darker reality -- a story of cruelty and survival set in the still-recent past -- and finds that she must reassess the story she grew up with as the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of prairie homesteaders.

Beautifully written, impeccably researched, and imbued with Savage's passion for this place, A Geography of Blood offers both a shocking new version of plains history and an unforgettable portrait of the windswept, shining country of the Cypress Hills, a holy place that helps us remember.

Frequently Bought Together

A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape + Prairie: A Natural History + Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier
Price For All Three: CDN$ 53.24

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Product Description


A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape should be required reading for Western Canadians. We need to understand our past in order to ensure a future that is in harmony with all the creatures who share this prairie home. —EcoFriendly Sask


One of the terrific aspects of Savage's book . . . [is that] she makes the reader who holds that commonplace view of the prairies (re: emptiness, flatness, vastness) understand the falseness of the impression . . . she manages to repopulate the area with the thriving cultures and dynamic ecosystems that existed there for millennia . . . Savage's book provides the best kind of education: you fully enjoy the experience and walk away not only with an alternative view of your reality but an openness to ponder the significance of your newly acquired insight. —Brett Josef Grubisic


Savage's retelling of this tragic era of Canadian history is heartfelt and thought provoking. Her story weaves descriptions and quotes from historical documents into a narrative threaded with the stories of First Nations residents who live on reserves near Eastend. Their voices bring the book into the present. Fluidly written and conversational, A Geography of Blood artfully unearths Eastend's astonishingly complex natural and cultural history. —Canadian Geographic


What a privilege to read this book! Savage writes with poignancy, humility, humor, and no 'blithering about oneness with nature.' —Linda Hasselstrom


In this book the gifted Candace Savage has written a part-memoir, part-history of the Eastend, Saskatchewan area where I spent half my life. She has done it with wonder, precision, praise and grief, adding to and extending the body of work about this extraordinary place, filling in gaps and providing another point of view. It is a heart-warming, yet incisive work that any reader will find hard to put down. —Sharon Butala


This is a brave and necessary book, eloquently written, deeply felt. Savage makes us taste the past in the dust, hear it in the wind, see its traces across the sky. —Lorna Crozier


A Geography of Blood offers a shocking version of plains history and an unforgettable portrait of the Cypress Hills, a holy place for First Nations people. —Winnipeg Free Press


Candace Savage's new book, Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape, should be read by every prairie person . . . should go on the shelf next to Stegner's Wolf Willow, Don Grayton's Wheatgrass Mechanism, and Sharon Butala's Perfection of Morning. As always with her books, this one is well-crafted, thoughtful, and full of the kind of assiduous research that brings new information to the reader. —Trevor Herriot


. . . the breadth of [Savage's] two dozen books shows she's really a writer of place. It's the intersection of landscape, people and natural history that most intensely captures her attention, and that focus is on display in Geography of Blood, a meandering memoir that ultimately arrives at a disquieting destination . . . —Brian Bethune, Maclean's


Savage weaves a gripping narration of regret and shame. Hers is a bittersweet tale of the land and its histories . . . It's a book with perfect pitch, combining careful observation, history and imagination into a wonderfully modulated account of life in a harsh corner of our near neighbour. —Gene Walz, Winnipeg Free Press


Savage conjures from an 'empty' landscape a deeper, earthier past land; and as a whimsical investigation turns into 'full-on obsession,' she unveils a place filled with secrets and ghosts. —Globe & Mail


It is timeless nature, not the march of progress, that beckons Savage and Bell, and no wonder . . . the cottonwoods, the creeks, the 'strange, misshapen hills that made me think of ancient, fantastical worlds'—never cease to enthrall. —National Post


Savage has a beautiful facility with language and brings the reader into the heart of the Prairies. In addition to archival research, the author uses oral history and her own experiences to invest the narrative with a great deal of potency . . . A Geography of Blood is a solid addition to the canon of Prairie literature. —Quill & Quire


About the Author

Candace Savage is the author of more than two dozen books, including Prairie: A Natural History, which was named Book of the Year at the Saskatchewan Book Awards, and most recently, A Geography of Blood, which won the prestigious Hilary Weston Award. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, she lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Oct. 21 2012
Very well written. The author hooked me with her beautiful descriptions of exploring a prairie landscape, and I was drawn into her own growing curiosity regarding the people who once lived there and her own unearthing of various clues that drove her explorations deeper. I've heard about the "geography of blood" before, but the way she wove together anecdotes and personal stories really made history come alive (often in a heart-wrenching way). The last chapter is haunting and hopeful - a reminder that the genocide of both people and prairie is not something for which "moving forward" in the only viable option: Reconnecting people and the more-than-human world of the prairie ecosystem is do-able. The final line, from Narcisse Blood, who is attempting to do just that: "Anyway, you newcomers aren't going anywhere, and we aren't going anywhere either. I think it's a viewpoint of now we're in this together."

As a side note, Savage's journey offers an excellent model for historical inquiry - too bad more classrooms don't explore history the way she does. I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story Oct. 2 2012
Savage does an excellent job of painting pictures through words. My wife and I recently travelled to Eastend, so it was with great surprise that I opened my birthday gift from my wife to find a book on the area we had recently visited -- published three weeks after we were there. The references to the campground (where we stayed) and Jack's cafe (where we bought coffee) reminded me of how much the town worked its way into our memory and served as the jumping off point for our exploration of Saskatchewan's deep southwest. How curious that we made a special trip to Cypress Lake, not knowing its historical significance, or a quick stop at Fort Walsh (no tour -- we were in the southwest to take photos! so will now have to return with a greater understanding than high school history offered). Savage's descriptions of her experiences and her love for this land intersected with our own, and I found myself in complete understanding of the feelings she described (and indeed wanting to make a return trip to experience it all over again with some additional new perspective). Her description of the history of the place left me deeply saddened for the way events unfolded. While I didn't personally commit the injustices Savage describes in her book, I felt alignment with her descriptions of regret and (in some regards) guilt. My only criticism might be that the book meandered a bit. But then I'm such a linear person that perhaps more meandering is precisely what I need in my life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Doorway to a forgotten past July 19 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Savage's prose is lyrical, poetic. It draws one along in a hypnotic manner. Her telling of the savage and tragic destruction of the aboriginal population is heartbreaking. She uses the real-time breakdown of the family van, and the difficulty of finding the road to almost anything aboriginal and ancient, as a symbolic pattern for the story of the manner in which the Canadian version of the settling of the prairies hides the truth of the calculated destruction of Indian life through the erasing of the buffalo culture.

The final chapter, where the reader finally comes upon the shameful and gory truth of our national past, is a fitting blow to the reader. It is like running into a stone wall: "this is how we did it." In some ways, it makes the residential school issue seem small by comparison. We - the Canadian Conservative government of the "great" John A, MacDonald - perpetrated a holocaust on the aboriginal society of the great plains. The effects of that holocaust reverberate in our lives to this day. It is not over.

This is a story that every non-aboriginal adult should read and ponder. A great book; a great contribution.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Island in an Inland sea of History Dec 17 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Candace Savage's treatment makes readable the difficult history of the plains people. Also gives the Cypress hills their geological due as the center of the inland sea that once covered the plains.
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2.0 out of 5 stars One sided attempt at SW Saskatchewan history Dec 9 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Savage's attempt at writing the history of SW Saskatchewan was done poorly. White man bad. Red man good. Far too simple. I will not be recommending to others to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Discussion with focus on Cypress Hills April 9 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book very refreshing to read. It is an area with which I am very familiar both geoographically and historically.

Ms. Savage weaving of story and connecting to place is a talent that I much appreciate. I also found the book to be honest. So many books either romantisize the "good old days" or focus on "good and evil" with the criteria that my group is "good" and the others are "evil".

I thought the assessment of treaties and culture that was forceably taken and not surrendered was very well done as well.

An excellent review of how bad things can happen to good people and many remain oblivious.
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