Juanita Wildrose: My True Life by Susan Downe


I’ve been reading with great delight—I think Juanita Wildrose is simply wonderful—but one has to say something more than wonderful. So I thought I’d say, A heap of treasure out of a living past.   —Alice Munro

National Post review:


Globe & Mail review:


Juanita Wildrose: My True Life, by Susan Downe, Pedlar Press, 293 pages, $22.00.

Increasing critical attention is being paid to the problem of biography and memoir: not just A Million Little Pieces or how Augusten Burroughs can recall anything so vividly, but the problem of all stories that are supposed to be true: how to keep the fiction from seeping in. What to make then of Juanita Wildrose, a book dubbed by its publisher a “fictional memoir”? The best course in this case is to take it at face value: Stop worrying about the veracity and enjoy the verisimilitude. Juanita (1904-2006) grows up on a hardscrabble farm in Elk Creek, Missouri until she turns rebellious and is sent away to school at the age of 12. It may not sound like much, but 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. As one person says, “Who’s to say? Maybe the story happened just like you said.”

Happy Valentines Day!


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