by Ken Shipley
Review by Stewart Geen
How much suspense does a story need? Just enough to keep you reading. Ken Shipley knows how to do that. Whether it’s a page and a half about herding turkeys, or three pages about counting crocodile eggs while crocodiles are in the neighbourhood, or just two paragraphs about a bear wanting your breakfast, Ken’s stories hold you.
The stories are all short. That’s another good thing about them. LeapTurkey is a big book, but it’s easy to read because each item is so brief. Read a few pages, put the book aside, go back to it again after a few days. You could take months to read LeapTurkey, finding it fresh and engaging every time you open it and be sorry when you come to the last page.
There are at least two kinds of pleasure available to the reader: recognizing something familiar and being exposed to something different. Speaking personally, I enjoyed reading about Ken’s life on a farm in the 1930s and 1940s. There aren’t many of us left who remember that. There were hardships? Wonderful! Wouldn’t do it again, but it was great at the time.
On the other hand, there are Ken’s experiences camping and canoeing in Canada, his two years in Africa with CUSO, his subsequent travels through various African countries, South America and the Caribbean, then back in Ottawa renovating an old house – I myself would avoid all of that. For example, I would never undertake a DIY that required a ladder. In fact, I’d avoid one even if it didn’t require a ladder. I wouldn’t travel up the east coast of Africa myself, let alone with wife and kids. But I’ll read about it, wondering what dreadful thing will happen next.
Ken and his wife Carol have lived in Ottawa for 40 years, 32 of them in an old fixer-upper on exquisite Brown’s Inlet in the Glebe and for the past eight years and counting on beautiful tree-lined Avenue Road in Old Ottawa South.
If you’ve read this far, you still don’t know the main reason for reading LeapTurkey. In these days of COVID-19, you need to spend time with a book that will make you smile, even make you laugh out loud. Ken Shipley has a gift for finding the pleasurable, the humorous and the hilarious in his eventful life.
And he’s a croquet player. I don’t know what to think about that, except we can be grateful that it was Ken’s urge to write a book about croquet that got him started and led to the book we now have. The croquet stories are pretty funny too. And by the way, it was a brilliant editorial decision that placed the croquet section at the end rather than at the beginning.
I must add I think it’s a bit unfair that with all Ken’s various talents (he can do plumbing, be an administrator for CUSO, ride a horse, sing, win the heart of a pretty girl), he can also write really well – as if writing was all he ever did. Yes, it’s not quite fair.
Stewart Geen is the author’s cousin by marriage. He’s a former English teacher who lives in Paris, Ontario.
LeapTurkey…and Other Stories, by Ken Shipley, is available from firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-234-1862 and from Octopus Books, 116 Third Avenue.
Ken Shipley, author of LeapTurkey …and Other Stories