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Literary Collections Essays

Phantom Limb

by (author) Theresa Kishkan

Thistledown Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2013
Essays, Canadian, Essays
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2007
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2013
    List Price

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Every now and then, readers find themselves fortunate enough to come across a writer whose work fits their lifestyle and belief systems so well that the relationship between writer and reader seems familial. Though geographically estranged, perhaps, it’s as if both author and reader hail from the same town, studied under the same teacher, and spent the long, warm evenings of summer hanging feet off the dock, side by side. Reading the work is like reconnecting with an old friend. Only pages in, there’s a comfort level with the diction and style, a familiarity with words even though the reader finds them surprising, delightful. So it is with Theresa Kishkan and Phantom Limb (Thistledown Press, 2007), a collection of 15 short essays that span Kishkan’s British Columbia while also venturing afield to places like Utah and Ireland. Like Alison Hawthorne Deming and Scott Russell Sanders, Kishkan writes from a core of earth-based wisdom—a common sense that speaks to community, conservation, and compassion. She is a liberal essayist in the base and best definitions of the word: “free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant” and “given freely or abundantly; generous” and “not strict or rigorous; free; not literal.” I am drawn to people with an environmental and community ethic, who believe in family and realize that family takes many forms, and who value free thought and the right to express thoughts in eloquent and sometimes daring, even painful ways. Kishkan is this type of person, I am sure, because the essays collected in Phantom Limb are full of the experiences, wonderfully told, of a woman discovering herself and her place among environments and cultures that cannot help but define her.

In “Autumn Coho in Haskins Creek”—the first essay—for example, she writes, “Although our lives change, loved ones die—several good friends, a neighbor, and even one of the dogs who watched the fish with us last year died in the spring, her body now buried under old cedars in our woods—we need the constancy of place to anchor ourselves like a small boat in wild waters.”

About the author

Theresa Kishkan came to national attention in 2000, with her first full-length novel, Sisters of Grass. A true "writer's writer," she has been steadfastly championed by her peers as a writer against whom others measure their own work, and she has fostered the careers of many other writers while refining her own craft. A popular reader in British Columbia, Washington, and other parts of western Canada and the US, she is an enthusiastic organizer of and participant in regional literary events, and she has twice won Province of British Columbia Cultural Services awards. Kishkan's poetry and essays have appeared in periodicals including Brick, Canadian Forum, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Matrix, The Vancouver Sun, and Manoa (Hawaii) and in five book-length collections including the highly praised Black Cup and Morning Glory, which won the 1992 bp Nichol Chapbook Prize. She has also published a collection of essays on place and history, entitled Red Laredo Boots (New Star, 1996), which Susan Musgrave selected as one of her favourite books of the decade in BC Bookworld. Inishbream is based on a year the author spent on such an island in the 1970s. Today, she lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia with her husband, the poet John Pass.

Theresa Kishkan's profile page

Editorial Reviews

The fifteen essays gathered in Phantom Limb provide a satisfying resting and reading place for those of us Kishkan fans familiar with her other work, the poetry and fiction, and particularly the earlier collection Red Laredo Boots (New Star, 1996). It is also a useful starting place for those first encountering her distinctive voice, careful/ care-filled and apparently casual at once, and the topics that range from familiar close-ups of nature (“Autumn Coho in Haskins Creek,” and following), through the self-parodic humour of family reminiscences in “Laundry,” to the quiet but deeply moving account of the life and death of their dog Lily in the title essay.

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