Growing up in Ontario means I’m still learning about the Western Canadian books that everyone has read. I moved out west to Calgary 14 years ago now, and even though I’m firmly embedded in our publishing world here, I’m not familiar with what’s considered a ‘classic’ and what all the kids read in high school. From what I’ve recently learned, Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell is one of these western classics that most people will be familiar with, and I had the pleasure of picking up a newly released 75th Anniversary Edition of the book, pictured above. This edition includes a foreward by Frances Itani, who knew W.O. Mitchell quite well, as well as an afterword by Orm Mitchell, the author’s son, and Barbara Mitchell, W.O.’s daughter-in-law. The author himself passed away in 1998.
Originally released in 1947, the book takes place over about 5 years on the prairies of Saskatchewan, a really flat area in Canada known for its agricultural output. It’s told mainly from the perspective of a young boy whom we meet at the age of 4, so I can’t really call this a coming-of-age novel, as he isn’t even a teen yet when the book ends. Instead, it’s a book about living in a small town at that time, the various town players that make up a culture, and the cycle of life and death, which one can’t escape when living in a rural area. Even though its decades old this book has a timeless quality to it, mainly due to its beautiful depictions of nature and its role in our lives. Poetically written with some great subplots, I’m happy I was introduced to this new-to-me classic novel.