The Fictional, or the Non?


Mrs. MikeYesterday after I’d sent in my column for the Sewanee Mountain Messenger, a review of the classic YA novel, “Mrs. Mike,” by Nancy and Benedict Freeman, I entered the first moments of what will likely be an off-again, on-again battle against winter weariness.

I felt the more ashamed of that state because 1) after all, up till a few days ago, I’ve been able to wear shorts. And 2) because of ¬†Katherine Mary O’Fallon, aka Mrs. Mike, the 16-year-old sent from Boston to Calgary to convalesce from pleurisy (trains run south as well as north: you have to wonder why her mother didn’t put her on the Southern Crescent for Florida.) Who promptly marries Sargeant Mike Flannigan of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And travels with him by dogsled far, far north into a land where the Northern Lights play and snowshoes are a more familiar sight than bare toes.


cold canada

So much for convalescing.

Except that oddly, the young Mrs. Mike does. In fact, she thrives on the challenges endlessly thrown her way, including the bitter cold and an almost endless winter.

Now, how can I complain about our paltry 22 degrees?

Thus discouragement deepened.

Then my daughter pointed out that though “Mrs. Mike” is based on real people and a true story, it is, none the less that: a story. Written down. With who knows how much edited out. Including, perhaps? moments–hours? days?–when the isolation, the cold, the bleak, seemed too much for her, too.

Rather like that other intrepid survivor of another wilderness, Laura Ingalls Wilder. We know from Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, that Ingalls left out a great deal, including the death of a baby brother and the time Pa sneaked them out of town to avoid paying the landlord. Apologies if I’m bursting your Little House bubble, but–there were a lot of grim moments in the Ingalls household. Moments possibly not conquered by Pa’s fiddle-playing or Ma’s smile. Moments when things just remained, well, grim.



I could pretty easily concoct aka write a version of winter life here which portrays me gliding through obstacles like cold and chronic illness with as much of a feisty and maybe even humorous spirit as Mrs. Mike. And who would know the difference?

Well, unfortunately, I would. Because I live in the non-fiction, non-photoshopped version. But maybe I can figure out a way to step through the looking glass into the other?






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s