Consider the Sunflowers by Elma SchemenauerConsider the Sunflowers by Elma Schemenauer

Consider the Sunflowers

byElma Schemenauer

Paperback | October 28, 2014

Pricing and Purchase Info

$18.21 online 
$19.95 list price save 8%
Earn 91 plum® points

Ships within 3-5 weeks

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


It's 1940 and Tina Janz doesn't want to marry the man her pious Mennonite parents have chosen for her. He's as boring as turnips compared with Frank Warkentin. Obsessed with the dashing half-Gypsy Frank, Tina leaves her job in Vancouver to marry him. Sadly, her joy gives way to loneliness on Frank's farm in the prairie community of Coyote, Saskatchewan. When he shuns local Mennonites because some of them scorn his mixed parentage, Tina feels torn between her Mennonite heritage and her husband. Their son's death drives the couple farther apart. Then fresh challenges send them stumbling toward a new understanding of love, loyalty, faith, and freedom. Tina and Frank's story is told with energy and humour. Colourfully woven into its time and place, it's a well-researched portrayal of family life on the home front during the Second World War and beyond.
Born near the village of Elbow, Saskatchewan, Elma sank deep roots into the prairie way of life and the traditions of her extended Mennonite family. Venturing farther afield, she became a teacher of English and religion. After several years she fulfilled a lifelong dream by moving into a publishing career in Toronto. She's the author o...
Title:Consider the SunflowersFormat:PaperbackDimensions:299 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.5 inPublished:October 28, 2014Publisher:Borealis Press LtdLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0888875754

ISBN - 13:9780888875754

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 5 out of 5 by from A clear-eyed look at the trials of a good marriage This enjoyable read takes place during the 1940s, in a Mennonite farming town in Canada. The wealth of detail breathes life into the characters and into what for many will be an unfamiliar type of community. Consider the Sunflowers is a clear-eyed look at family relationships and the toll that doubt and self-doubt can extract from a marriage. The prose is smooth and the dialogue natural. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy human stories that ring true.
Date published: 2017-09-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Review by Karen Burgess: not a "bed or roses" This book, though based in the 1940 era, is very typical of the relationships of husband and wives today. In other words, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s sadly lacking God’s grace. This couple and their issues are often typical of misunderstandings between husbands and wives. I could identify with many of their communication issues. I really loved the abundance of similes and metaphors. The author has such a unique way of portraying everyday events with the likes of: he sure insults me, frowning at me like I’m a weevil in a wheat bin (p.23); as aimless as the fog that swirled off the bay (p.36); Frank’s laugh was as sharp as a Russian thistle. (p.191); that his dad’s storytelling was like a leaky faucet. Once it started running, it was impossible to turn off. (p.271) ; I can just hear the gossip: That Gypsy – unstable as molasses (p.123) ; They’re already busier than a one-armed paper-hanger with the chickenpox. (p.165) These are just a few of the many vivid word pictures the author works into this homey story. Positively delightful! I appreciate the fact that in chapter 64, Tina herself (the obvious Christian) realizes her own sin and shortfall, and comes to a genuine repentance. I appreciate the fact, too, that life does not automatically become a bed of roses once she invites Christ into her life. But it’s easy to see that Tina’s decision to follow Christ wholeheartedly does make a profound difference in her life afterwards. The fact that Frank doesn’t follow in his wife’s footsteps is a very realistic outcome. I would gladly recommend this book for a realistic and down-to-earth read, and a good insight into the thinking of Mennonites in that day, and sometimes even today.
Date published: 2017-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Review by Judy Goegan: "like a wonderful meal to a starving heart" I want you to know how very, very much I enjoyed it. And, the ‘history’ in the back was so interesting and informative. I was even up in the middle of the night when I was simply too excited to fall back asleep and just had to get up and pick up that book. Thanks for the blessing, enjoyment and delight that the book brought to me. It was like a wonderful meal to a starving heart! I would like EVERYONE to read it.....everyone who enjoys a wonderfully-written love story that holds your interest, and moves along in just the right way. The characters became one with me and I felt like a fly on the wall of their lives. The tender moments of their love were handled so delicately and sweetly. I highly recommend it and, again, thanks for the joy it brought me!
Date published: 2017-02-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A good read, but a little choppy at times In this review, I don't intend to recap the story line of 'Consider the Sunflowers'; it's well summarized in the book blurb and in the reviews already written. I enjoy fiction set on the Canadian prairies (W.O. Mitchell, Rudy Wiebe, Guy Vanderhaeghe); I also like history, I have close ties with the Mennonite community, and I enjoy stories about marriage, not just stories about falling in (or out of) love. So this book had a lot to commend it to me. I enjoyed the depiction of Saskatchewan farm life in the 1940s; it's the author's personal background and she describes it well. I liked the characters and the fact that they weren't black and white, cardboard cutout figures of the kind you often find in 'Christian fiction'. Elma Schemenauer's characters are more true to life: real people, with all the ambiguities of real people. In particular, I appreciated the reminder that we have a tendency to see what we want to see in the people we fall in love with; then, after we marry, we have to learn how to deal with the less than perfect reality. I also liked the fact that the author resisted the temptation to give her story the obvious, conventional happy ending; yes, some things have been resolved by the end of the book, but not all of them. This is true to life in the real world. One aspect of the book that I had difficulty with was the shortness of the chapters. Very few of them extend longer than five or six pages, and this gives the story a choppy feel. At times it felt more to me like a script for a TV show or movie, with short, pithy scenes, but not much room for leisurely conversation or plot development within each chapter.
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from "I'll never look at sunflowers the same"--Rita Dozlaw REVIEW BY RITA DOZLAW It moved me (tears, actually) to read that Frank and Tina got through the struggles life threw at those two, and the reasons they did was Tina's faith and God's mercy. The title, in the end, meant a lot to me. Sunflowers rise to see the Son, and considering the humble flowers' example brought the tears on. I loved the clear truthful way you told their stories. If I know Frank, he'll 'come around'. How can he not give his heart and life to Jesus with all those wonderful people around him to work God's plan (for everyone) out to the finish? I got tears again this morning as I told Jack how it came about that Tina's heart, where the Holy Spirit of Jesus lives, turned again to prayer, finally. Elma, you don't just pick up any book and find the road to salvation right there in its pages. I loved that and somehow it didn't surprise me because just look at the author! I love you. I appreciate the talent exuding out of your veins onto the pages. There are a lot of things I'm regurgitating from Consider the Sunflowers. I loved it. Thank you for writing it. I'll never look at sunflowers the same.
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Read Consider the Sunflowers Life in Western Canada in 1940 was structured, disciplined and, for the most part, adhered to the pre-set patterns of previous generations. This was especially so in the close-knit Mennonite communities. Young people married within their ‘group’. Men either farmed or took whatever job they could find to support the home. Women took care of the home and the children. The family wash was done on Monday. Town shopping was done on Saturday. And on it went. It’s true that during the war years many young women worked in the factories, supporting the war effort, but that was mostly in the big cities. Except for the few men who left the farms to don a uniform, the war pretty much moved past the fictional village of Dayspring, Saskatchewan, leaving little more in its wake than a series of headlines in the local newspaper. Tina Janz first broke the expected pattern by moving to Vancouver to take on an office job. She further broke with tradition by moving back home and marrying Frank Warkentin, a half Gypsy who, definitely, did not fit the acceptable Mennonite mold that Tina was raised in. Although Tina expressed undying love for Frank, adoration for his remote farm with its lonely house and never ending chores was another matter altogether. The death of their second child, followed by Frank traveling to Montana to take up a mining job for the winter months, drove the couple apart. The stress in their lives was compounded by their inability to talk openly with each other or to see the other’s point of view. An injury to Frank’s arm forced Tina into doing farm work she didn’t think she could do, left Frank doing house work one-handed and, perhaps, brought a bit of humility to both their lives. The ups and downs experienced by most couples in their early years of marriage are brought out in force by author Elma Schemenauer. How she wraps this all together within the Mennonite culture, and how the young couple copes with the struggles of life makes for an interesting read. Reg Quist
Date published: 2016-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Melody in Minor Keys Consider the Sunflowers – Elma Schemenauer A Melody in Minor Keys Yes, Consider the Sunflowers is like a melody in minor keys. It is a melody that rises above the quietness of the prairie about the souls and simple lives of the ordinary people in and ordinary landscape with destinies that are all but ordinary. The story of Consider the Sunflower had grown thin and tall lake a white birch. I like to see and talk about a written story like about a living entity with all the attributes that life comes with. What’s happening to it after the author leaves it with the reader must look like a life cycle in the context of a forest that is about to grow after the reader sets it aside and continue minding his daily business or go to the desk and grow his own trees and so on. A story, every good story in itself must leave behind it a legacy of thought and emotion that will ultimately bare fruits. According to these criteria, Consider the Sunflowers by Elma Schemenauer passes the test and I solemnly declare it alive! I read it enthusiastically, I read it quickly. This is not to say that I viewed it as pure entertainment but rather like a mind and heart capturing story. Of course, as a writer and poet I would probably structure it differently but, again, that’s the beauty of a well written novel: it multiplies in the mind and heart of the reader. I would envision my story rather like a rich leafy and shadowy linden tree with flowers coming to blossom in June, with multitudes of birds singing and bees collecting the nectar and the sadness of leafs coming down in the fall. But that would be my story, a story of a guy familiar not with the prairie but rather with a mountainous landscape with springs and creeks, with green meadows and the charm of nightingales. Most of the reviews that I read on Consider the Sunflowers gravitate around love, marriage and the challenges of life. And, yes, there is plenty of meat to satisfy the interest of many who prefer this kind of ingredients of a story. I like them too but with so many novels written around these themes many of the stories become more like variations of the same. What sets this story apart? Let’s see! The plot has a straight line shape that grows in colour and intensity. The author proves that the plot is not all that there is but rather it gives debt and nuances to the characters and to the larger context of the community. Not necessarily what characters say in the dialogs is what defines them but rather how they respond to the basic challenges of life. Sometimes through the process of reading I felt like being immersed a beautiful breeze of sound, a melody in minor tunes. The drama is more like something we all go through in our everyday life but Elma’s characters’ response is unique. A rather acrimonious co-existence of Roland and Frank within the same community evolves in a rare fruit of mutual acceptance. Frank and Victor outgrow their mutual disregard for each other, Frank, the half gipsy and, half Christian young man is ultimately accepted in a community with strong prejudices and strict moral dogmas. Tina is a center pillar of the whole structure. She is a victim of loneliness in a place that was, according to her dreams, meant to be a paradise. She is a living example of what destructive power loneliness can unleash on a human soul. There, in the realm of loneliness, the time seems to be painfully slow and the mind excruciatingly hasty in building an almost alternate reality so much so that even the absolutes are being questioned and moral boundaries blur up to become a heavy fog of uncertainty. The author leaves plenty open doors or just slightly cracked throughout the story. I can foresee a whole series of follow up novels like: “Consider the Laughter” with Dorrie and Roland devouring life with an astronomical hunger, “Consider Coming Home” with Frank’s surrender to the Almighty and his ultimate new birth, “Consider the Colours” with Tina surrendering to the beauty of the prairie and her artistic inclinations past on Klara or Morgan, etc. There is also a door just slightly ajar towards the beauty of concurring fears and prejudices, towards growing trough the spirit of wisdom and revelation, towards finally seeing the big picture that God kept displaying before our eyes for ages. Maybe there is also a door towards a novel addressing a conflict between the old and the young... Elma Schemenauer proves to be a resourceful story teller and Consider the Sunflower is just one piece of a puzzle that she is called to put together. Slavomir Almajan
Date published: 2016-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This book continues to resonate. Who should Tina Janz marry? Blonde-haired Roland Fast, a hard-working Mennonite with a prosperous farm, who is her family's choice? Or dark Frank Warkentin, a half Gypsy with a troubled past who makes her body tingle? And who should Frank Warkentin marry? Free-spirited Dorrie Harms, who knows nothing about taking care of a house but would love a breakfast picnic after a gallop across the Prairie with her arms around his waist? Or Tina, a strong-willed secretary able to organize everything, including him? Tina is more certain of what she wants than Frank. But she has baggage too. When she's unsure of Frank's love, she contacts Victor Graf, a former boyfriend who's a German Baptist. Can she let go of her jealousy of Dorrie Harms and learn to live on the isolated Prairie that is Frank's farm? And can Frank get beyond his resentment of Roland Fast and feel like he belongs to his Mennonite community? Life adds additional stresses to this couple's marriage. Tina lets the housework go when she's pregnant. Frank is resentful of what he considers to be interference when Tina's family encourage their daughter and her husband to move closer to town. Tina wants to follow the Mennonite faith. Frank doesn't want to be tied to a prescribed religion. Then their first child dies and Tina goes into depression. Using a 1940s setting, the novel realistically recounts the story of the Warkentin marriage, how issues unresolved before their marriage continue to plague the couple, and their struggles to stay together. Gradually, Tina and Frank learn to see each other's weaknesses and strengths, and to come to terms with their own. The author's vivid descriptions draw readers into Prairie life around World War II and the intertwined lives of a Mennonite community, complete with its non-believers, busy-bodies, and perfectionists. It delves into how a relationship with God affects people's lives and how problems with that relationship are reflected in life problems. The gentle story uses poetic descriptions and chapters written from each main character's point of view as it helps readers get to know people with whom they'll empathize. Without oversimplifying the challenges of any marriage, the novel affirms the benefits of a good Christian marriage and of working through marital problems.
Date published: 2015-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Worth Reading I just finished reading "Consider the Sunflowers" by Elma Schemenauer and want to thank her for such a beautifully written, insightful story. Love isn't always easy, and the author pulls no bones about it; but this book is an uplifting source of hope for those who persevere in the face of all odds and hard times. Trying counts, even if we may not believe it at the time. Thanks for reminding us of that fact, Elma. Well worth reading!
Date published: 2015-07-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Tale of Marriage, Faith and Mennonites Consider the Sunflowers is a historical romance played out against the backdrop of World War Two: a tale of marriage, faith and Mennonites. Consider the Sunflowers brings to life a vivid patchwork quilt of characters and a realistic setting of the Saskatchewan prairies. Who should flighty Tina marry? Dull, but wealthy Roland, who is the choice of her parents? Frank the dashing half Gypsy? Or Victor, the Baptist? Schemenauer does an excellent job of revealing her characters' minds; it’s not always pretty and charitable thoughts either- jealousy, anger, prejudice and the endless go around of justifying decisions as humans are bent to do. The book avoids a formulaic approach. Twists, turns and the characters' quirks keep the reader turning the pages until the end. In all, a delightful read, full of all the snippets of Mennonite and agricultural life that only an “insider” could know.
Date published: 2015-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Review by Wanda Bennett, another Saskatchewan girl. Consider the Sunflowers is a 1940’s prairie love story. But it is no ordinary love story. It is a story with family dynamics, past loves, a nosy neighbor, tragedy and a crisis of faith. There is Tina’s dad who wants her to marry Roland, a Mennonite like them but Tina’s dream man is a handsome and exciting Gypsy Mennonite. Victor, a past love of Tina’s from Vancouver, pops in and out of the story at the most inopportune times, innocently and perhaps not so innocently, causing all sorts of trouble and uneasiness for Tina and Frank. Then like every town, Dayspring’s nosy neighbor seems to always be saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. She has a good heart, but she sure is annoying! There is also a local girl in Frank’s past that wants him all to herself and when Tina spots Dorrie sneaking into their wedding, there are fireworks! Like every marriage there are ups and downs and Tina and Frank face their share but there are some that try their union. Frank can be touchy and prickly and keeps Tina on edge. Tina wants trees by the house and Frank likes a wide open view. But it is the loss of their second child that is truly devastating. In her grief, Tina withdraws into herself and questions whether God is even there. Her mother consoles her with the story of the loss of Tina’s sister and Tina, in her desperate grief, “groped toward her mom like a ship toward its harbor.” Frank was feeling the loss of his son in his own way. “How could he explain? Since Herbert’s death, he seemed to have lost his concentration. He felt like a machine whose controls had gone off-kilter. He needed to reset himself somehow.” Frank leaves to work in Montana. Consider the Sunflowers is beautifully written from the heart. The author can make you feel just how Tina and Frank feel and when Tina or Frank ask heart-felt questions, I felt I had asked the same questions of myself. I have read Consider the Sunflowers twice and the second reading was just as good, and perhaps better, than the first. I think you will enjoy the book as much as I did. While reading, I flagged some of my favourite places because they were beautifully poetic and thoughtful. Let me share some with you: “Dorrie – the name skittered across Frank’s conscience. What if she came in right now and saw him watching Tina like a cat stalking a robin?” “She wanted to be his bride. She wanted it more than anything in the world. But could she trust him enough to bet her life on him?” “Her heart felt like a blind sparrow crashing from one rib to the other.” “She wasn’t even sure she believed in God anymore. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that God, or somebody a lot like him, was always just around the corner, keeping score.” “Frank’s laugh was as sharp as a Russian thistle.” “The night air smelled of clover. From the barn came the fluted whinnying of an owl. High overhead, the stars glittered like peepholes into heaven.” “She hadn’t been able to pray since baby Herbert’s death. But she needed the Lord tonight. Can you hear me?” “Leave Frank to me.” (God’s answer to Tina’s worries.) “She disappeared into the kitchen, her voice following her like a tail.” “His and Tina’s love was a more gradual kind, a kind that improved over time.” “Tina closed her eyes. Frank’s words were like a kiss from God. She leaned into it. Savouring its sweetness.”
Date published: 2015-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended Tina’s father wants her to follow Mennonite tradition. He also wants her to marry Roland, a rich man, but she’s in love with Frank, a half-Gypsy who doesn’t share her faith. The novel pulled me right in with an extremely visual opening scene. Tina, her father Obrom, and Roland are trapped in a snow storm when their truck gets stuck in a ditch. This in 1940 Canada, and winters are brutal. Not far from there, however, is Frank’s farm -- Frank, the half-Gypsy Tina is in love with -- and after much effort the trio makes their way to the farm. By alternating the chapters from Tina’s viewpoint to Frank’s, the author offers glimpses inside the love they share as well as the obstacles standing in their way. For example: what would Obrom do if Frank asked for Tina’s hand? Get very mad. Also, Tina wants to follow tradition Frank is not keen on following. Aware of this, he wants to break it all off, as he and Tina weren't that good together. Too many rules, angry words, accusations. The author does a masterful job describing time and place. When Tina moves to Vancouver to work as a secretary, we see through her perusal of the Vancouver Sun, that Hitler still threatens to invade Norway. Germany and Italy to form alliance against UK. America remains neutral but for how long? Also, in Vancouver, Victor Graft, a carpenter, enters the story. While Tina corresponds with Victor and sees him, her heart remains with Frank, the half-Gypsy back home. Eventually, Tina and Frank find their way back to each other when she returns to Dayspring. The author’s descriptions of place and character are beautiful, with lines like: Frank with eyes so brown. She could lose herself in those eyes, follow their promises to the ends of the earth. Theirs is not an easy relationship, and that is what captivates. Frank is an interesting but complex character. Having lost his mother as a child, he carries a certain burden with him, a situation complicated by the fact that he’d rather associate with Scandinavian and British than Mennonites in Tina’s community. When they do become a couple, the tension only intensifies. We see Tina struggle to accept life on Frank’s farm as she hopes that even though he doesn’t accept her faith he will change. Later, we see her suffer a close and personal loss, a serious test of faith. The author leaves us with a sense of hope, beautifully accentuated by artistic descriptions. Be sure to read the timeline at the very end. It summarizes the history of Mennonites who emigrated from Russia to North America as well as those who came from Switzerland and Germany. I very much enjoyed reading this novel and highly recommend it.
Date published: 2015-04-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a hoot! Marian Schraeder's review I loved your opening line – feeling like liverwurst in a sandwich – who wouldn't want to keep reading? The book was full of suspense. Many times I chuckled at the Plaudietsch (Low German) expressions, nicht, shteefmuttachye, (I really had to study that one) and the characters, Obrom, Adeline, Lottie and more. What a hoot. I particularly liked the way you closed your book; with an invitation for salvation. Here is the opportunity for any reader to make that commitment. God bless you for that. This is the first time I can say that I know the author of the book I have read, outside of The Bible, of course.
Date published: 2015-02-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Review by Joan Soggie of Elma's hometown, Elbow, Saskatchewan Winter storms and Saskatchewan sunsets. A farming community in the Canadian prairie. Nosy neighbours and judgemental churchgoers. Birth, death, love and betrayal. Author Elma Schemenauer’s clear prose and colloquial language immediately set the reader at ease. Yet this quiet little book, as unassuming as a housewife’s apron, contains all the elements of human drama. Frank and Tina’s lives are ordinary. But as Mark Twain famously said, “There is no such thing as an ordinary life.” Set against the background of a Mennonite community in the 1940s, the story unfolds through first Tina’s and Frank’s alternating viewpoints. Tina – pretty, self-willed, enjoying her newfound freedom as a secretary in Vancouver- vacillates between desire for a stable marriage and love for her half-gypsy, not quite Mennonite, hometown boyfriend. Frank, sullen, dark-browed and unpredictable, haunted by insecurity, cannot give up his oh-so-proper yet passionate sweetheart. Both have deep ties with their community through family, church, school friends and neighbours. Some of those ties are burdensome, heavy with painful memories. Some are sweet and life giving. Sometimes irksome neighbours turn out to be the best friends. Sometimes good friends cause unexpected heartache. Author Schemenauer grew up in a community much like her fictional “Dayspring in the Municipality of Coyote, Saskatchewan.” Her intimate and affectionate understanding communicates itself to the reader as the story unfolds. Her characters accurately reflect the time and place. Roland’s “ancestors had the same Dutch-German-Mennonite background” as Tina but was to her “as boring as turnips.” Frank “was hot peppers, red cabbage and wild mushrooms.” Frank’s heart “rears like a startled horse” and Preacher Schellenberg meets his wayward parishioner “near the Boston fern, under the picture of the Last Supper.” The solid ordinariness of everyday life in a mid-20th century prairie town underlies every sentence. Yet the story, while shaped by the time and place, by major events like the World War and minor events like bad weather, turns on the characters themselves. This is not a simple boy-meets-girl love story. The characters wrestle with their own selfishness, doubts and spiritual hunger. Tina, Frank, Roland, Victor, Dorrie all grow, change and take on a reality of their own. The outcome, like life itself, is ambivalent and not an ordinary fairytale ending. Elma Schemenauer has shown in Consider the Sunflowers the extraordinary struggles and joys implicit in everyday existence. This is a good read for anyone who enjoys the timeless human drama. The final pages of the book trace Mennonite history from 1525 to the present and will be of special interest to those with a Mennonite background or anyone interested in church history. The study questions included make this an especially good choice for a book club or literature class.
Date published: 2015-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mennonite story set in the 1940s Tina Janz, her father, Obrom, and Roland Fast, the man Tina’s father wants her to marry, are caught in a Saskatchewan blizzard. My senses are so piqued as I jump into the first scene of the story that I shiver in the biting wind, the pelting snow, fearful of the disappearing fence posts that are supposed to lead these people to safety. An apt beginning to a book about troubled relationships and, ironically, hope. Tina does not want to marry “rich, boring Roland Fast,” because she is in love with dark, handsome Frank Warkentin, a half-Mennonite, half-Gypsy much maligned in the Mennonite community of Dayspring, Municipality of Coyote, Saskatchewan in 1940. Tina’s parents only want the best for her, but she has a mind of her own. She’s sure that if she can marry Frank, he will fulfill her purpose in life. Frank is attracted to Tina partly because she is proper, something he secretly aspires to be. Haunted by his mother’s desertion in childhood, he reacts with distrust and anger to the meanness of those around him. This burden proves a considerable obstacle to his happiness and the achievement of his inner goals, both in his own life and in his marriage. Consider the Sunflowers involves many intricate relationships including love triangles, childhood abandonment, societal insecurities, spiritual hypocrisy, peer friendships, to highlight a few. Characters are realistic, portrayed with both strengths and weaknesses, acting/reacting in plausible ways. Settings mirror the dreary isolation Tina feels on the treeless prairie of southern Saskatchewan, yet also offer a hint of hope for something better ahead. The book is hard to put down, with tension-filled chapter endings and well-crafted flashbacks, as well as a tightly wound plot. Elma Schemenauer, seasoned author and editor of more than seventy books, enriches this difficult story with figurative language apropos of the farming community of the 1940s: “Sunlight was spilling across the snowdrifts like broken egg yolks,” and “more wide awake than a pig the day before a sausagemaking festival.” The people of Dayspring still remember much of their homeland in Russia before immigrating to Canada, and “Hitler’s War” is constantly in the news. Consequently, the Mennonites are suspicious of outsiders and remain resistant to infiltration by “English” people. Schemenauer has included an impressive, comprehensive Mennonite timeline at the end of the story as well as a study guide for readers. An excellent work worthy of recommendation. Paperback 299 pages $19.95, ISBN 978-0-88887-575-4, AVAILABLE FROM THE PUBLISHER, Borealis Press . Also available online at Chapters Indigo by about November 15. E-book coming in 2015. For more information, please visit
Date published: 2014-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historic Mennonite tale--a parable of God's care Tina Janz feels torn between her parents’ wishes that she marry an upstanding (but boring) Mennonite boy and her desire for the man she loves—Frank Warkentin, the son of a Mennonite father and Gypsy mother. But the tug-of-war in Elma Schemenauer’s novel Consider the Sunflowers is more than between just Tina and her parents. For handsome, dashing, funny Frank doesn’t share Tina’s Mennonite faith. She soon discovers he has a violent temper. And his farm is far from town—something that doesn’t suit Tina well at all. Schemenauer takes us on a literary journey that spans the years from 1940-1947 in the lives of Tina and Frank. The place is Coyote, Saskatchewan—a fictional town near Outlook, populated by a Mennonite and non-Mennonite mix. Frank is attracted to other Mennonite outcasts like Dorrie Harms and hangs out with Scandinavian friends Thor and Leif while Tina feels torn between both worlds. Schemenauer’s familiarity with the Mennonite lifestyle, ways of thinking, and speech mannerisms is evident throughout the book (she is of Mennonite extraction). Thus from the opening words I felt I was in an authentic world. All the Na yo’s (p. 28), sentences ending in yet (“In Saskatoon yet” – p. 128), already, and nicht (“We should have your wedding on Saturday nicht?” p. 153) rang true for me, as someone who grew up in the same people group. The story, told through Tina and Frank’s points of view, follows the ups and downs of their relationship all the while exploring many themes: how we’re molded by early experiences, what comprises love, aspects of marriage including the importance of honesty and transparency, how choices we make have consequences, what it’s like to be a Mennonite, what it’s like to be a Mennonite on the fringes, how religion and faith differ, and the overarching importance of forgiveness and trust in God no matter what the fine points of one’s creed might be. Tina’s realization of this comes after a long crisis of faith. Told in Schemenauer’s understated yet picturesque style, it is one of my favorite passages in the book: “Can you hear me?” she asked. A coyote howled in the pasture. A gust of wind ruffled Slim’s coat. As it lifted Tina’s hair off her forehead, Jesus seemed to speak to her. Not in words. More like flowers opening in her heart. I love you, he said. Do you believe that? Her reaction after she senses her brief conversation with Jesus is over is similarly subtle but full of wisdom that resonates with truth: “…she expected to feel something like holy fireworks in her heart. Instead she felt only a new orderliness, like her thoughts were sorting themselves into new file folders. She crossed the silent kitchen, climbed the stairs, and eased herself into bed” – p. 157. “Consider the lilies…” Jesus said, as He pointed out the necessity of a simple day-to-day faith in God to counter the fears and anxieties of life. In Consider the Sunflowers Schemenauer draws our attention, through Tina and Frank, to the God who still longs to be trusted with the minutiae of ordinary existence. The story is supplemented by a Mennonite timeline explaining the origin and migrations of this ethnic and religious minority. Study questions at the end of the book will be helpful for reading clubs and home school study.
Date published: 2014-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Richly-woven tapestry of prairie life in the 1940s Tina and Frank marry for love?or at least fascination?but it's a rocky trail. They each have insecurities, attitudes and suspicions, and Tina is keeping a secret that may come back to hurt them both. Consider the Sunflowers is a skillfully crafted literary novel that opens a window onto small-town life in World War Two-era western Canada. Little snippets of news and daily life help us understand the times, while Tina's and Frank's efforts to save their marriage will resonate with readers today. Readers learn about Mennonite culture and prairie life, and about feeling like an outsider. There is a spiritual thread that's organic to the novel, but it's not about preaching. It's about how the believers live their lives. Frank is honest about his inability to believe. We also see the effects of self-pity, complaining, self-exclusion and manipulation, and in the seeing we may gain insight into our own lives. There's a point in the story where Tina sees an amplified negative trait in another character and realizes she needs to change herself. As we watch her begin to change, it might inspire us to do the same. [Advance review copy provided by the publisher]
Date published: 2014-11-11