“I was in an archetypical realm, a limitless, timeless world of pure wilderness.”

The Perfection of the Morning: An Apprenticeship in Nature by Sharon Butala is a memoir set on the open prairies. This autobiographical book follows her own physical and spiritual return to nature after uprooting from her life as a teacher in Saskatoon to move to a cattle ranch in rural Saskatchewan.

Exploring big ideas of spirituality and female identity through deceptively simple stories from her life, Butala’s memoir remains thoughtful and interesting even twenty-five years after it was first published.

I feel like I have been appreciating books where authors write about their own experiences more and more nowadays and respect the bravery it takes for authors to examine their own life and experiences for the public eye. Sharon Butala’s autobiography does just this, discussing her marriage, her identity, and the process of creating this memoir within the pages of The Perfection of the Morning. Appropriately titled, this book also focuses heavily on the meaning of nature in Sharon’s life and her rediscovery the natural world after years of living in the city. Chapter to chapter, this memoir details Butala’s exploration of her sense of self, reaching backwards in time to her childhood in the prairies to her re-acquaintance with rural Canada.

Intense spirituality

There is an intense spirituality throughout The Perfection of the Morning that Butala seems to have access to in her dreams or in the quiet moments in her life, like catching her husband napping under the open sky or pausing during a walk to take in nature.

My gut reaction to her autobiography, interestingly enough, was that I was reading a story written by one of Margaret Atwood characters – maybe the young woman from Surfacing all grown up.

There was something specifically observatory about how Butala thinks about her life on the Canadian Prairies that adds a little bit of intrigue to the memoir. Instead of being active in the events that happen in The Perfection of the Morning, Butala depicts her life in a very in-the-moment way as it floods over her, like a dream or a landscape that she wanders through.

After discovering that this novel was set in Saskatchewan, I was excited to read about the experience of someone living in the prairies, a part of Canada I’m completely unfamiliar with. The Perfection of the Morning went above and beyond in depicting the beauty of the prairies.

This novel brought me as close to enjoying nature as I think I could get without actually going outside, all while exploring the eccentricities and beauties of life on a cattle ranch. This book is rooted in a tradition of storytelling that really brings Butala’s experiences to life in a way that add a little bit of magical escapism to my life.

Though definitely a story I think I would have enjoyed more if I was older, I think that The Perfection of the Morning would have something special to share with someone at any point in their life. 

Grace Guy

Grace Guy was born and raised in Yellowknife, and has been writing book reviews featuring Northern and Indigenous content for NNSL Media since 2019. Now, after completing her master of arts at the University...

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