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Small Reckonings

About the Book

The Burke family story is about physical and emotional isolation in the 1920s and 1930s when homesteaders scratched out a new existence on the prairie. William, an adventurer from New Zealand, brings his bride to the freshly broken earth of his farm near Watrous, Saskatchewan. Violet, the child born ‘feebleminded,’ plunges her mother Louise – a woman burdened with a secret – back to a time of guilt and regret. The child draws out goodness and loyalty in her neighbours, Hank and Emily. But tragedy upends this family, taking the reader at breakneck speed toward forgiveness and the realization that no one is infallible. An intricately-told historical drama set in Depression-era rural Saskatchewan (with) modern connotations broaching our current conversations around trauma, consent, and sexual assault… scenes from Small Reckonings linger, resonate in the mind. – Hicks Award 2019 Judges Elisabeth de Mariaffi and Rabindranath Maharaj Small Reckonings is a graceful, poignant debut novel, with the strong character of Violet at its heart. Considered vulnerable by her community, she turns out to be feisty and courageous. Her story, and that of her family, unfolds against the sweep of prairie with compelling power. Karin Melberg Schwier has given us a novel to treasure. – Anne Simpson With beautiful writing that will resonate with readers who know these prairie skies, but also with readers who long to explore this country of ours, this nuanced and powerful book is a stunning exploration of love, disability, family and loss. – Alice Kuipers

About the Author

A freelance writer, editor and illustrator, Karin contributes to Saskatoon HOME and Prairies North magazines. She began her writing career as a reporter for a northern Alberta weekly newspaper while still in high school. A series of profiles she collected for the paper on pioneers of the Peace River country was published as a book, Yesterday’s Children, when she was 17. She worked on a dairy farm in New Zealand after high school. In Saskatchewan, she spent over 25 years in communications work for an advocacy organization for people with intellectual disabilities, and produced an award-winning newsmagazine. Karin has written five non-fiction books and two illustrated children’s fiction books exploring the lives of people with disabilities, and edited several others. Actor Benjamin Bratt performed a piece from Speakeasy: People with Mental Handicaps Talk about Their Lives in Institutions and in the Community (Pro Ed, 1990) as a dramatic reading at the Santa Monica Playhouse in 2011. Couples with Intellectual Disabilities Talk about Living and Loving (Woodbine House) followed in 1994. One best seller, co-authored with Dave Hingsburger, Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters with Intellectual Disabilities (Paul H. Brookes, 2000), was translated into German, Italian, and Korean. Another critically acclaimed work, co-authored with daughter Erin Schwier, a professor of occupational therapy, is Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections: People With and Without Disabilities Together at Mealtime (Paul H. Brookes, 2005). She edited Hear My Voice: Stories Told by Albertans with Developmental Disabilities Who Were Once Institutionalized (AACL, 2006). Flourish: People with Disabilities Living Life with Passion (Copestone), was launched in 2012. Other creative non-fiction has appeared in anthologies in Canada and the U.S. In 2013, Karin received a YWCA Women of Distinction Award (Arts, Culture and Heritage) for her writing on disability issues. She lives in Saskatoon with husband Richard, Professor Emeritus, University of Saskatchewan, and son Jim, a veteran YMCA volunteer. Small Reckonings is her first novel. A sequel is underway.

2021 Book Awards