Book Review: Every Little Scrap and Wonder by Carla Funk

Every Little Scrap and Wonder – Carla Funk (Greystone Books, 2019)

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.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Every Little Scrap and Wonder by Carla Funk”

  1. Ooh, those poetry workshops sound challenging! I did some fiction workshops which were hard enough, but I wouldn’t have managed poetry. But it must be a very interesting experience to read your professor’s work after the fact!

    1. Overall, they were pretty fun and I learned a lot. I took fiction as well and that definitely felt like it came easier but it was also nice to do them in tandem. I try to keep up with the careers of my former professors – I do find it really interesting to read their work now with a little bit more distance from them simply being my teacher!

    2. Doing workshops in tandem sounds stressful but also very educational- one of my favorite things about reading widely is seeing the what’s the same/different across genres, which I think could be really interesting in writing across genres at the same time, and studying them at that level!
      And I understand keeping an eye on your professor’s careers as well, though for me I’m more interested in seeing what becomes of my TA’s! (I did my undergrad at the University of Iowa so a lot of my writing classes were taught by grads in the Iowa writer’s workshop, and some of them go on to do some interesting things.) One of my TA’s (Jamel Brinkley) was even a finalist for the national book award last year! I haven’t read the book yet but I have a copy on hand, because I’m definitely interested to check out his work outside of school. As it’s something I haven’t actually done yet, I enjoyed your insight!

    3. I think reading profs or Was work can give you a good insight into what they value when it comes to writing and it can kind of humanize them too. I like seeing their strengths and weaknesses and the glimpses of their personalities, especially sometimes a very different glimpse than you see in class! That’s so great that you had those connections to the Iowa writer’s workshop – some of my favourite writers have been through there!

  2. This book sounds just downright lovely! I’m going to see if I can get it at the library or through an ILL, and I will send this review on to my friend Jessica, who was raised Mennonite. That’s so nice that your professor brought baked goods. I brought donuts ONE time when I was teaching…..and it was during Lent at the University of Notre Dame, so not one person ate a donut. I’ve never felt so blind in my life.

    1. She always told us she just loved to bake but I think it was also her way of softening the blow of 8am workshops! I had a fiction prof who would bring in beer for us on the last class of term!

      Hahaha! I’m laughing at the bringing of donuts to Notre Dame during Lent! I observe Lent but I’m not Catholic so we don’t really do dietary restrictions, and I can totally see myself doing something like that!

    2. I was so embarrassed. When I was teaching there, I was 23 — not that much older than the students. One young lady kindly wrote that she has best wishes for me and my future days as a more “seasoned” professor.

    3. Oh man, that would be hard! When I started in university, my profs and instructors all seemed sooo much older and now I look back and realize some of them were pretty close to my age!

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