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Kamsack man publishes the second volume of two-part book dealing with lives of European immigrants

A Kamsack district man has received copies of the second of a two volume book dealing with the lives of European immigrants to the Canadian Prairies at the beginning of the 20th century.
Gerald Benneke
Last week, Gerald Benneke of Kamsack received copies of the second volume of a two-volume book Promised Land. District residents may obtain copies of Home and Family, as well as copies of the first volume, entitled Love and Hate, from him.

A Kamsack district man has received copies of the second of a two volume book dealing with the lives of European immigrants to the Canadian Prairies at the beginning of the 20th century.

Gerald Benneke, who in December received copies of Promised Land: Love and Hate from Friesen Press Publications, has now received the second volume of the Promised Land story, Home and Family.

The book follows the Buechlers as their homesteaded land “bellies out with life,” says the publisher’s website. “There is now law and order, cooperation, community, and caring, all of which seems to have appeared with the Buechlers.

“The family grows and prospers as the land gives them all that they’ve ever wanted and needed; prosperous farms and businesses, happy homes, intelligent, hard-working children, and herds of healthy livestock,” it said. “Yet natural disasters, human greed, hate, and power politics continually threaten to destroy all that they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

“Is this truly a promised land and will it be better for their children? In vivid, evocative prose supported by painstaking research, Promised Land – Home and Family brings history to vibrant, heart-pounding life,” it said. “It will immerse readers in the courage and ingenuity of the turnof- the-century pioneers who took on the challenge to carve out hearth and home from the forbidding landscapes of the western Canadian prairies.”

Benneke explained how when he had first sent his completed manuscript to the publisher, he was advised to have it printed in two volumes. The first was released shortly before Christmas.

As a child, Benneke was often cared for by a grandmother who had walked out of Siberian exile along with her husband, who later died of long-term consequences suffered at the hands of his Russian captors,” said information on the website. “From her and his paternal grandfather, Gerald grew up listening to colourful stories of his ancestors, who had homesteaded what was once the relatively unpeopled wilderness of the Assiniboia Territory.

“A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education, Gerald taught history and English at a number of locations in Saskatchewan before returning to the land as the fourth generation operator of the family farm,” it said.

Benneke lives with Margaret, his wife of 47 years, on the 110-year old site of his maternal grandfather’s homestead, near Kamsack in the heart of what was once the largest Doukhobor settlement in Canada.

“What a pleasure to get acquainted with your pioneer people in this richly complex saga of their hardships, achievements, joys and sorrows,” says the editorial assessment from the publisher.

“I especially love the beautiful depictions of the Doukhobor traditions which are delivered in active, engaging ways through character and incident, rather than dry explanation.

“This is just lovely writing; evocative, richly sensory and gorgeously escriptive,” it said. “We see it, feel it and hear it in rich and beautiful detail.”

Following is an example:

“ ‘The shimmering prairie trails in every direction, filled with flickering sound and life. Despite the early morning rainfall, ribbons of dust drifted up with the radiant directionless heat currents. Trace chains and wagon wheels rattled and crunched, teams blew and whinnied a steady plodding pace, no gallop or trot in this. Laughter dominant bantering between wagons increasingly fluted the diminishing distance.’

“As before, I heartily commend you on your meticulous research and how it has allowed you to create this time and place in stunning detail and nuance,” the editorial assessment said. “The mathematical precision of the barn-raising, for instance, makes the whole event unfold in high definition.

“And giving us characters we can care about, with great obstacles to overcome, and by examining the various pressures that sent them to this harsh life, you’ve captured the enormous drama and excitement of the disasters and catastrophes that regularly besieged our frontier ancestors, from the epidemics, to the weather, to the dark obstacles posed by the negative sides of human nature.

“But you’re just as adept at capturing the joys and triumphs of your characters, as they struggle to hack out a life from their wild surroundings,” it said. “And underneath it all beats the powerful heart of Papa’s deep unspoken joy at seeing the New World dream he shared with his late wife finally realized. Well done.”

As was the case after he received the first volume, Benneke said he hopes to arrange for some book-signing events. Previously he had held one at the Kamsack Library and at the Coles bookstore at the Parkland Mall in Yorkton.

Benneke said that he is now working on another book, expanding on the story of Carlie Carlson, a 15-year-old girl who is a character in Promised Land.

Persons wishing to obtain copies of the second volume, or copies of both volumes may do so by contacting Benneke.

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