by Betsy Trumpener
~ Review in Halifax Herald, July 2009
In Betsy Trumpener’s own words, The Butcher of Penetang is “a mosaic”, short pieces that somehow interlock into a whole. The stories in Trumpener’s first collection are sharp and unconventional. They are short, often less than two pages, and they sometimes lack the beginning/middle/end of the conventional short story. But these stories burst from the page in language that is succinct and mesmerizing.
A family takes a wagon west in All the Child I ever Had Sleeps Yonder, taking turns to walk because it is too narrow for a family of 10 to travel in. A young woman comforts an accident victim while the policeman apologizes and leaves for a meeting. In Needle Exchange, a child goes missing in a dangerous part of town. And a mother, trying to protect her baby from a weasel, calls the government but “they were too busy laughing to help”.
Trumpener’s stories are set in western Canada and tell of hardships and grief, of small joys and triumphs as people, often immigrants, struggle to make a life for themselves and their children. Trumpener picks tiny moments and translates them onto the page with a vividness and intensity that makes this a remarkable debut collection.
Betsy Trumpener is a short story writer and journalist with CBC Radio. Her stories have been performed on radio, and published in magazines and anthologies. The Butcher of Penetang is her first book. She lives in Prince George, BC.