About the Book
Consider the Sunflowers by Elma (Martens) Schemenauer paints a colourful picture of life on the home front during World War II and after. As the story opens, 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 her half-Gypsy boyfriend Frank Warkentin. Obsessed with the dashing Frank, Tina leaves her job in Vancouver and marries him.
However, her joy is soon overshadowed by loneliness on Frank’s farm in the prairie community of Coyote (based on Elma’s childhood home near Elbow, Saskatchewan). Tina’s loneliness deepens when she realizes she was mistaken in believing her husband to be a Christian. She tries to win Frank to faith in Christ, but he says she should accept him as he is, not nag him to change.
When Frank shuns local Mennonites because some of them scorn his mixed parentage, Tina is torn between her Mennonite heritage and her husband. Their son’s death drives the couple farther apart. Then Tina’s former Vancouver boyfriend shows up, setting off a series of events that send her and Frank stumbling toward a new understanding of love, loyalty, faith, and freedom.
Municipality of Coyote, Saskatchewan, March 1940
Tina felt like liverwurst in a sandwich, trapped in the stalled truck between her dad and the man he wanted her to marry. Rich, boring Roland Fast.
From the looks of things, she might not survive to marry anyone. Freezing to death seemed more likely. All she saw through the windshield was blowing snow. Occasionally she glimpsed the fence beside the ditch they were stuck in. Beyond the fence, only a wilderness of white glittering in the afternoon light: no Saskatchewan prairie, no horizon, not even a telephone pole.
She stamped her boots, trying to warm her icy feet. She should never have agreed to come along and sketch Roland’s horses. She liked horses, but getting stranded in a blizzard wasn’t supposed to be part of the deal.
To be fair, she couldn’t blame Roland and her dad. They weren’t expecting this storm. It had howled in from the northeast with hardly a whimper of warning.
Her nostrils tingled with cold and the green-banana stench of Roland’s hair oil. She pulled the collar of her jacket higher, nudging him with her elbow. “How about trying the ignition again?” If they got the truck going, they’d at least have some heat.
Roland slumped over the steering wheel, his apple-cheeked profile making him look younger than his twenty-eight years. “It’s no use. This stupid truck isn’t going to start.”
“Don’t blame the truck, Roland,” Tina’s dad said. “There’s probably snow in the engine.”
Roland’s sigh puffed out white in the frigid air.
Tina almost felt sorry for him. According to Roland, his 1940 Ford was the most modern half-ton on the road. No other new model had such a powerful engine. But all that horsepower under the hood was useless without a spark to get it going.
Something like her and Roland. There wasn’t any spark between them.
Her dad shifted on the seat, jostling her onto Roland’s wide shoulder.
She edged away. “Could we brush the snow out of the engine?” she asked, sounding more hopeful than she felt.
Roland gave her a bleak smile, his face too close to hers. “I doubt it in these conditions.”
“Okay, I just thought I’d ask.” She didn’t know how Roland felt about her. He was awkward with women, but she sometimes caught him watching her with a certain softness in his eyes.
Whether he was interested or not, she should quit letting her parents throw them together every time she came home from Vancouver. She should simply tell her folks, “Look, I don’t want you interfering in my life. I’m a grown woman; I’ve got a job in the city. Anyway I’m in love with someone else.”
She shuddered to think of the avalanche of questions her parents would ask. She wasn’t ready to answer them, not yet.
The wind whooped around the truck, rattling the windows.
Roland reached behind the seat, grabbed his hat, and plunked it over his blond curls. “I think we should walk to Frank’s house. It’s the closest.”
Tina’s heart jumped at the mention of the man she loved, but she kept her expression blank. She didn’t want her dad or Roland guessing how she felt about Frank. They’d be shocked. Her dad would scold and rage. He wanted her to marry a church-going Mennonite, preferably the owner of this impotent truck.
About the Author
Elma (Martens) Schemenauer was born near Elbow, Saskatchewan, in a community like the fictional Coyote. “As I grew up,” she says, “I sank deep roots into prairie life and the traditions of my extended Mennonite family.” Elma became a teacher and later moved into a publishing career in Toronto. She’s the author of many books including Yesterstories, Canada, Russia, Jacob Siemens Family Since 1685, and Hello Ottawa. Among books she has edited are The Unseen Hand [published by Gospel Folio], Playing Like Timothy [published by Hutterian Brethren Book Centre], and To the Ends of the Earth [published by Canadian Bible Society].
In 2006 Elma and her husband relocated to Kamloops, British Columbia. There she writes, blogs, and takes walks on grassy hillsides that remind her of her prairie roots. She is active in several writers’ organizations including The Word Guild, and enjoys speaking to groups of writers and others.
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