Fury of the Wind
a novel by Doris Riedweg
In 1948, post-war Saskatchewan is becoming more tolerant of groups such as European immigrants and First Nations people. But there are still pockets of intolerance, especially in small towns such as Nimkus. And, in this particular town, a subtle class system exists where, on the social ladder, a poor farmer occupies the lowest rung.
It is into this den of bigotry that Sarah Roberts arrives from Ontario to marry Ben Fielding. It is here that, all his life, Ben has had to suffer the consequences of being both a poor farmer and a half-breed Native.
An unemployed schoolteacher, disinherited by her mother, Sarah thinks she has found the security and love for which she longs. But the farm to which Ben takes her is not the prosperous operation he has led her to believe. Nor is Ben anything like the man she has come to know and love through his letters. He is morose, distant and full of hate and dark secrets.
Gradually, the dark areas of Ben's past are revealed as Sarah struggles to cope with her disappointment, anger and her own guilt.
They had travelled some four miles over a narrow gravel highway before turning onto a rutted country road. Ben drove at what Sarah considered a faster than comfortable speed over the gravel, nor did he slow down for the rough dirt road. With one hand she clutched the tattered leather seat, with the other she held tightly to the door handle as the pickup truck bumped and ground its way for mile after endless mile.
He hadn't said a word after she climbed into the cab at the railway station, nor had she tried to start a conversation. But the silence between them began to jar her nerves as much as the road jarred her bones.
"How far do you live from town?" she asked suddenly, shouting to be heard over the roar of the motor.
"From Nimkus? 'Bout twelve miles."
"Oh," she said, surprised, "that's not very far."
"'Tis when it rains."
She was about to ask him what he meant but at that moment one of the truck wheels fell into a pothole, answering her unspoken question.
"Long way in winter, too," he said, his tongue now loosened, "'specially when we get as much snow as we did this last one."
"Oh? Was there a lot then?"
"Piled up over the phone wires."
She glanced sideways at him. In profile his sharp features were not unattractive but it surprised her to see that, beneath the hat, his dark hair hung in untidy wisps. He had not even bothered to get a haircut. But at least he had recently shaved.And his overalls, although in need of a patch here and there, were clean. But the pungent odour of barnyard, either from Ben's boots or the old truck itself, rendered the interior of the cab almost intolerable.
He had fallen silent again, and Sarah felt too weary to bother with small talk. She had done her part–the rest was up to him.
She could not understand him, and surely had not expected this indifference. Had she done something wrong?
She wondered if his reticence was caused by nervousness. If so, he certainly did not show it. His long, slim hands rested easily on the steering wheel and his lanky body slouched in the seat.
Sarah sighed and turned her head to watch the passing landscape. Mile after mile of wheat fields rolled by the window, their uniformity broken only by an occasional stand of poplar trees. Reddish bristly spikes of foxtail lined the roadside, and clumps of Russian thistle struggled in the wind to be free of the barbed wire of the picket fences. Poking their heads above the couch grass on the borders of the fields, and dotting the billowing carpets of ripening grain, were numerous yellow flowers of the mustard plant.
She marvelled at the flatness of the prairie. The horizon seemed to stretch to infinity, the sky so big and blue that Sarah felt she could float up and into it.
A lone gopher emerged from the underbrush and skittered across the road. A hawk wheeled and dived overhead. Sarah wondered idly if the rodent's flight was an effort to escape from the mechanical menace bearing down on it, or the winged menace from above. She turned her head to mention her observation to Ben but the set of his lips did not encourage conversation. She focused again on the scenery.
– Elva Stoelers
About the Author
Doris Riedweg is the author of three previous novels. Her articles and short stories have appeared in several major newspapers, as well as in Canadian literary magazines. Two of her short stories have won awards in writing contests.
Doris is the editor and coauthor of The Hospital on the Hill, a history of Langley Memorial Hospital, published in 1997; and the author of Strawberry Shortcake, a history of Elliott School District in Saskatchewan.
A native of Saskatchewan and a graduate of Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing, Doris lives with her husband John on a farm in Langley, B.C.
"Fury of the Wind is a fascinating story of a small Saskatchewan community in the middle of the twentieth century – how prejudice can lead to intolerance and injustice; how lies and deceit thwart love and ruin lives. This novel is a page-turner."
– Ed Griffin, author of Prisoners of the Williwaw, Beyond the Vows & Veto
Co-author of the non-fiction book, Dystop
"Novelist Doris Riedweg paints a landscape of post-war Saskatchewan as only a writer raised on the prairies can. Her sense of time and place is impeccable. Taking readers by the hand Doris leads them into an era of extremes; discrimination and intolerance fuel friendship – hope and passion feed deceit. Fury of the Wind hits at the heart of Canadiana."
– Elva Stoelers,
Creative Writing Instructor
"Doris Riedweg lures us into this tale of deception and deliverance with abundant sensory description, clever foreshadowing, and a blend of well-developed characters. Protagonist, Sarah Fielding, is a model of strength and integrity as wife, mother, and community member. But she is not without her own secrets. Just when we think we've figured out who, in this cast of small town characters, we like and who has rightfully earned our contempt, Riedweg adds another element of intrigue to the storyline, testing our loyalties right up to the final chapter. As a group, in their collective humanness, the characters symbolize the many sides of us. Ultimately, we are able to empathize with each of them."
– Mary Ellen Reid,
Creative Writing Instructor
"In Fury of the Wind, novelist Doris Riedweg brings to life another era. The reader is transported to a different time in Canadian history. The drama of lives lived in the mid-twentieth century, and the harsh but beautiful landscape of the prairies, is skillfully portrayed in her writing. All the fascinating details of life in a farming community keep the reader engrossed, reluctant to put the book down until the very end."
– Billie Askey,
R.N., B.N., M.Sc.N.