Lake of the Prairies

Publisher: Anchor Canada
Powerful, funny, moving and personal, Lake of the Prairies is a richly layered exploration of the ubiquitous childhood question: where do I come from?

Warren Cariou’s story of origin begins in the boreal Saskatchewan landscape of rock, water and muskeg that is Meadow Lake -- ensconced in the ethos of the north, where there is magic in a story and fiction is worth much more than fact.

Grounded in the fertile soil of Meadow Lake are two historical traditions -- Native and settler. Warren Cariou’s maternal grandparents were European immigrants who cleared acres of dense forest and turned it into pasture. This land also held traces of centuries of Cree settlement -- arrowheads, spear points and stone hammers, which Cariou stumbled upon as a boy. Though the tragic story of how these traditions came to share the same home would remain buried from Warren until much later, history’s painful legacy was much in view. In the schoolyard and on the street corners Warren witnessed the discrimination, anger and fear directed at the town’s Cree and Metis populations -- prejudices he absorbed as his own.

As an adult, Warren Cariou has been forced to confront the politics of race in Meadow Lake. He learned that a rambunctious Native schoolmate could be involved in a torture and murder that would shock the world. And then Warren discovered family secrets kept hidden for generations, secrets that would alter forever Warren’s sense of identity and belonging in Meadow Lake. In the tradition of Wallace Stegner’s classic Wolf Willow, Lake of the Prairies is an intimate and provocative memoir.



The Story of You

Once Upon a Town

Where do I come from?

The potato patch.
God in Heaven.
A falling star.
The stork.
A moonlit night.
A hole in the legs.
You were named for the doctor who delivered you.

Where, really?

From here. You’re from right...
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"Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, and the Cariou family are fortunate indeed to have produced so gifted a young writer as Warren Cariou. In Lake of the Prairies, his seach into the delights and difficulties of belonging, Cariou has written a timeless and universal tale, full of charm, humour, intelligence and, above all, love for the people and place of his childhood. With remarkable skill he has woven together a talent for storytelling, keen descriptions of nature, a personal memoir and a social history of Western Canada. Most importantly, he exposes the subtleties and cruelties of racial tension between the European settlers and Native peoples of Canada, not through any dry analysis but through a series of startling revelations." -- Michael Bliss, Ron Graham and Heather Robertson of The Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize jury

Lake of the Prairies is a fine addition to our literature of exile and belonging. This book arrives as a welcome balm for the wounds we experience as a nation that continues to abandon its rural routes (and roots). Cariou’s narrative, with its abundant humour, humanity, and humility, quickens the old and poignant truths that have always attended our wanderings away from home and back again.” -- Trevor Herriot, author of River in a Dry Land

“Warren Cariou is humorous while always being thoughtful, and his descriptive power is exceptional. He is one of the very best young writers of our time.” -- Alistair MacLeod

“Cariou’s writing achieves everything great art should aim to do. It finds something basic and universal in all of us, the beautiful and the profane, and gracefully delivers us to a more enlightened understanding of the relationships that bless and haunt us all.” -- Dennis Bock, author of The Ash Garden

“This memoir is beautifully crafted, artful in its construction, and as with all good memoirs is, in the end, truly penetrating in its analysis-by-hindsight of what can happen to those less privileged than Cariou himself was, in such a backwater as Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. His evocation of this historic area of forests, marshes, muskeg and lakes reveals a world we otherwise would not have been fortunate enough to know.” -- Sharon Butala, author of The Perfection of the Morning

“Meadow Lake is now officially on the Canadian literary map, and so is Warren Cariou.” -- The Globe and Mail

“It is a superb book, and an honest one too. It is also a gentle book, a humane work that is enlightened and powered by the kind of understanding which can benefit us all.” -- The Edmonton Journal

“Cariou is wise beyond his years . . . with his lyrical voice, love of nature and sensitivity to place . . . a lovely book . . . dive in and enjoy.” -- The Calgary Herald