Although this book is a work of fiction, it is based on actual events that occurred in Canwood, Saskatchewan and the Weyburn Psychiatric Hospital (also known as “the Weyburn”).
The book begins with the reader learning of the friendship between Leonard Flint, a young boy, and a local tramp known as Rabbit Foot Bill due to his trapping of rabbits to make a few odd dollars. One day Bill commits a crime that no one saw coming (including this reader), to which Leonard is a witness to. After Bill spends some time incarcerated at the Prince Albert Penitentiary, he is released to the Weyburn Psychiatric Hospital. As time moves forward, Leonard completes high school and pursues an education in medicine, eventually becoming a psychiatrist. His first job in this field is at the Weyburn where he finds Bill and attempts to restart their friendship.
One of the therapies that the Weyburn was world renown for in the mental health field was their experiments with LSD for both patients and staff. This story also includes this history in the story line with Leonard partaking in the experiments and having it unlock some suppressed memories.
It is difficult to provide a more detailed storyline of this book as it would easily lead to spoilers, but I will say that I did really love it and I thought that the author did a thorough job researching the history of the Canwood area and the Weyburn.
I was interested in reading this novel because of the storyline of the psychiatric hospital as my first job was in the mental health field and I worked with a number of psychiatric nurses who had worked at the hospital. They told me stories about conditions at the hospital and some of them confided that they had participated in the LSD trials. The stories they told me matched exactly to some of the things that happened at the hospital in the novel. I also congratulate the author for her perfection of capturing small town/farming life in Saskatchewan. When I read the last section of the book where Leonard returns home to Canwood for a few days, I could see and hear the wheat moving in the wind and smell the grain dust in the air. Having been raised on a farm in Saskatchewan, this book resonated with me and while it isn’t a lengthy novel, it is one that I will remember for a long time to come.
Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins Canada for providing an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.
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