Juanita Wildrose: My True Life Paperback – Nov 11 2013
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After an astonishing 102 full years, Juanita Wildrose Emack Thompson died in 2006. And well before that, her daughter, Susan Downe, a, 81-year-old retired psychotherapist and poet, began (the Ontarian explained in an interview) note-taking: "All I wanted to do was write down the stories so that they wouldn't get lost; they were interesting to me. She and my father knew each other for so many years, and as my generation - their children - were growing up, we heard these stories all the time."
Downe later opted for the book's distinct narrating style, which foregrounds her mother's voice: "I didn't have any trouble hearing her voice in my head, and it was wonderful. In a way it sounds strange but it was really nice to spend time with her when she was young." Yet Juanita Wildrose intentionally blurs the lines between verbatim quotation, accurate and inaccurate memories, creative reconstruction, and pure invention. It contains poems, too, and letters dating as far back as the Civil War, and their true authorship or place of origin remain tantalizingly undisclosed. Exemplary: thoughtful and intriguing example of artful, elegant, and deeply affecting storytelling that deserve a wide audience. - Brett Josef Grubisic
"A heap of treasure" perfectly describes Downe's intriguing tale as she delves not only into her mother's life, but into lives of an earlier generation caught up in the fraught years of the American Civil War. The photos, letters and family documents Downe used were found safely stored in the "ancestor's drawer" of Juanita Wildrose's desk. This material, combined with skeins of history and snippets of poetry, run like a rich vein through Downe's work. -Nancy Schiefer
The strength here is the voice: evocative, appropriate to Juanita's age, and rich in detail, it has that gripping effect of eavesdropping on a life. -Jared Bland
About the Author
Susan Downe lives in London, Ontario. She studied English and Philosophy as an undergraduate, at age forty she studied Gestalt theory and practice, and psychoanalysis, and practised in these fields for sixteen years. She is the daughter of a woman named Juanita Wildrose.OTHER PUBLISHED WORKSBetween This. . .And This (poems, SPANISH ONION PRESS, 1998)Little Horse (poems, BRICK BOOKS, 2004)
Top Customer Reviews
What the book turns out to be is a "slightly fictionalised memoir" about the author's mother, the titular Juanita Wildrose, based on her mother's own reminiscences, which Downe, a poet in her 80s, wanted to get down on paper whilst her mother (who lived to the age of 102) was still alive. The work blends first person anecdotes from Downe's own perspective (beautifully observed pieces like Juanita phoning Downe each week with her shopping list will strike a chord with anyone who has ever cared for an elderly relative); an account of Juanita's girlhood in a rural Midwest that still has a frontier feeling to it, told in her own voice; poetry by both Downe and Juanita; and - in a second strand that delves further into her family history - an account of Juanita's grandfather George Emack of Maryland who fought on the Confederate side in the American Civil War, and George's mother Margaret who, while her sons were fighting for General Lee in the South, hid escaped slaves and taught her own maid to read. This 1860s section is partly told via transcribed real letters and newspaper reports, and partly in Margaret's "own" voice using Juanita's imaginings of how things transpired as a template.Read more ›