Out of the Luterior: The Lost Country

by Harold Rhenisch
208 pages,
ISBN: 092187023X

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by Virginia Beaton

GROWING UP on a farm is not always the pastoral experience we see on "Road to Avonlea." Sometimesit`s more like combat against the forces of nature, which is the impressionleft by Harold Rhenisch`s Out of theInterior (Cacanadadada, 208 pages, $12.95 paper). This book is a form ofautobiography; partly a memoir of growing up in the Similkameen Valley inBritish Columbia, and partly a chronicle of agricultural life. And as one whois unfamiliar with the territory, I was impressed by Rhenisch`s evocation ofthat huge, unruly landscape. Yet, as the author admits in his prologue, it`sthe figure of his father who dominates the text. Rhenisch senior is acompelling character; he lived through the war in Germany and came to Canada tofarm, although his personality -- nervous, impatient, and angry --would not seem to be well suited to that life. The sections in whichRhenisch`s father talks about his life during the war have a directness andforce often lacking elsewhere. Rhenisch tends to interpolate philosophicrambles, even when he`s writing about spraying trees or keeping sheep, andsentences and sometimes entire paragraphs are overloaded with metaphors. Someof the metaphoric expressions are effective, but others don`t hold up underclose scrutiny. Consider this description of an eccentric neighbour: "Hehad become a night lake that you walk into in August, but neither see nor feelon your skin -- it is as thin as the air, a caught wind." Maybe this could work ina briefer form such as poetry, but Out ofthe Interior hastoo many long stretches of prose filled with expansive description. As aresult, the narrative has no clear destination, and by the end of the book Ifelt as though I`d just staggered through 40 acres of Nova Scotia scrub pines.

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