When I was in university, I had a professor with whom I took several poetry workshops. These were three hour workshops, often full of intense conversation. Sometimes they began at eight in the morning and we dragged ourselves out of bed, barely dressed, and read our poetry to each other before sitting in silence and letting our classmates gently tear us to shreds. Our professor was a young blonde woman who softened these blows to our egos with baked goods and thoughtful discourse. At 8am, she always had something she’d made for us earlier that morning. This was Carla Funk.
I’ve read Carla’s poetry and have a couple of her poetry collections. This is her first foray into a full-length, non-fiction book and I was curious to read about her own story. I knew she was Mennonite – the last name and the baking gave that away – but only knew her as a professor.
Every Little Scrap and Wonder isn’t a tell-all memoir or even one heavy on plot. It is divided in four sections, one for each season, but seems to jump around in time. Each chapter is its own vignette. Together we get a sense of Carla’s family and her small-town, rural community of Vanderhoof. There is a sense of two sides to both their family and their life. The devout, traditional Mennonite side of church and the support it comes with, along with the sometimes strict rules. And the other side of working class men and their card games and drinks in the workshop. There is the slaughtering of pigs and the foibles of a small town. My favourite small town story was when a helicopter dumped a load of ping-pong balls on the town’s inhabitants as a part of a contest. Mostly because I can almost imagine it happening in my own small town.
Carla is clearly a poet and there is a lot of beautiful writing and description here, though at times it leans to the overwritten. We are given hints to the dynamic of her family relationships, particularly with her father, but she never lets us entirely in and, in the end, we can feel the author holding us at arm’s length.
I can imagine that anyone who grew up in Vanderhoof or its surrounding area would greatly enjoy these snapshots of this particular life.