Of This Earth

A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest 

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A beautiful, moving memoir of a boy’s coming of age, infused with a deep love of the land, from one of Canada’s most cherished and acclaimed writers.

In Of This Earth, Rudy Wiebe gives vivid life again to the vanished world of Speedwell, Saskatchewan, an isolated, poplar-forested, mostly Mennonite community – and Rudy’s first home. Too young to do heavy work, Rudy witnessed a way of life that was soon to disappear. And we experience with him the hard labour of clearing the stony, silty bushland; the digging out of precious wells one bucket of dirt at a time; sorrow at the death of a beloved sister; the disorienting searches for grazing cattle in the vast wilderness sloughs and the sweet discovery of the power of reading.

Rare personal photographs (reproduced throughout the book) and the fragile memories of those who are left give shape to the story of Mennonite immigrants building a life in Canada, the growth and decline of the small Speedwell community, the sway of religion, and a young boy’s growing love of the extreme beauty of the aspen forests – as well as how all these elements came to inform his destiny as a writer.

A hymn to a lost place and a distant time, Of This Earth follows the best of memoirs in the tradition of Sharon Butala’s The Perfection of the Morning and W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. It is an evocation of the Canadian west that only a writer of Rudy Wiebe’s powers could summon.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Prologue

“Nu es et Tiet,” my mother would say in the Russian Mennonite Low German our family always spoke together. Now it is time. And my father would get up to wrap his bare feet in footcloths and pull on his felt boots with rubbers over them, hook his heavy mackinaw and fur cap off the pegs by...
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PRAISE FOR

“A remarkable insider’s view of Canada’s own Grapes of Wrath-like internal migration during the Dirty Thirties, and the way it transformed a ‘bushyard bumpkin’ into Western Canada’s most iconic novelist. . . .Vigorous . . . vivid. . . .Of This Earth is a wonderful gift to patient readers who delight in remembering times soo lang tridj, daut es meist nijch meea soo (so long ago, it is almost no longer so.)”
The Globe and Mail

“Wiebe is one of Canada’s most prolific and most esteemed writers. . . . The poetic memoir traces both the growth of a young man and the growth of a writer.”
The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)

“When he sets words to image, Cornelius Krieghoff-like masterpieces emerge.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“Wiebe wields the disparate funny, sad and messy facts of his Depression-era rural-Saskatchewan childhood in an engrossing way. He packs in the detail, but keeps the narrative moving. Of This Earth is a fine memoir.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“The genius of Wiebe’s writing [is his] ability to take what is a single event in a community’s life, relate it to the world at large, and make it as personal as is possible.”
Calgary Herald

“It is safe to predict that Of This Earth will become a classic, and shows Wiebe at his best: clear-eyed, wise and with a writing style that’s as vigorous as it is evocative. . . . This one may well be his masterpiece. . . . There is a profound depth of memory in the book.”
Edmonton Journal (profile)

“In Of This Earth, Rudy Wiebe tells the story of his early years in Speedwell, Sask., and he tells it in prose of striking beauty and simplicity. . . . It is a lovely book, and I would not be at all surprised if in years to come it emerges as a classic of growing up in the Canadian West. . . . unforgettable, heartbreaking . . . . Of This Earth may remind the reader . . . of the autobiographies of Tolstoy and Herzen . . . in their mix of the elemental, the serene and the wondrous. Those works are among the masterpieces of autobiography, and Wiebe’s work stands close beside them.”
Edmonton Journal (review)

Praise for Sweeter than All the World:

• NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“One of Canada’s most gifted writers – a peerless delineator of his country’s history and soul.”
Canadian Jewish News

“Rudy Wiebe has written his epic. . . . Richly satisfying and worth reading and pondering again and again.”
Kitchener-Waterloo Record

“Wiebe succeeds in making [history] dramatic, intriguing, romantic and tragic.”
Calgary Herald


From the Hardcover edition.