Review of Buffalo Flats

Buffalo Flats Buffalo Flats
by Martine Leavitt
Middle School, High School    Ferguson/Holiday    240 pp.
4/23    9780823443420    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780823443758    $9.99

Based on family history, Leavitt’s coming-of-age story is set in an 1890s Mormon settler community in Southern Alberta, Canada, at the eastern edges of the Rockies, and focuses on seventeen-year-old Rebecca. In an opening both startling and humorous, Leavitt begins: “Rebecca had heard her father and others call this land God’s country often enough that she wasn’t as surprised as she might have been to come upon him…He was dressed in his work clothes, but you knew God when you saw him.” It’s fitting that many of Rebecca’s consequent ups-and-downs are driven by the desire to own the very piece of “God’s country” that she finds so beautiful—an ­outlandish ambition for a woman. With her mother’s support, she determines to earn the exorbitant $480 it will cost to buy the quarter section; in the meantime, her close-knit family and community offer rich, unpredictable ground for her efforts to learn and live with integrity—and without complaining. Ventures into midwifery and nursing with her mother; ­calamities of weather, domestic violence, and a devastating flu; ­competition for romance and talk of women’s suffrage: all are fodder for Rebecca’s ­articulate, funny ­self-examination and deepening growth. Always sensitive to the ­beauties of earth and sky, Rebecca longs for a return of the elk and buffalo, part of the author’s tacit ­acknowledgment of local Indigenous peoples and the damage wrought by white ­expansion. Leavitt’s writing is suffused with the beauty of the earth and sky.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.