"Langhorst’s characters and their world will stay with me for a long time. A totally absorbing read."
After working as an arts administrator and a teacher at St. Peter's College and the University of Saskatchewan for many years, Barbara has now moved back to Edmonton, AB, where she shares her townhouse and its tiny perfect kitchen with her husband and their much-beloved pets. Her first book, restless white fields (NeWest 2012), won the 2013 Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book of the Year in Alberta and the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Book Award. Her debut novel, Want (Palimpsest Press 2018), was a finalist for the Regina Public Library’s Book of the Year Award in 2019. Her second novel, The Winter-Blooming Tree, was released in October 2021 by Palimpsest Press. She now teaches writing and English at MacEwan University and is working on her fourth manuscript, a collection of interwoven nonfiction stories about the uncanny in human and non-human lives.
Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild
The Writers’ Union of Canada
Writers’ Guild of Alberta
The Winter-Blooming Tree
Lyrical, sassy, and wry, The Winter-Blooming Tree is an intimate, poignant rendering of a ‘cold season’ in a marriage of many years. Langhorst portrays her characters’ inner lives and daily tussles with life’s challenges during a flashpoint of familial crisis with compassion and warmth. The Winter-Blooming Tree is also a story of the north. The novel’s lush, sensory world with its “tall dark spruce,” “waving pines,” “pale ribs of aspen and papery birch” and forests in which “deer and foxes slipped by, brief shadows in sunlight” offers much reading pleasure. A rich meditation on memory, and how past trauma and grief figure in the present; set against this, and woven poetically throughout, is forgiveness, and hope. Langhorst’s characters and their world will stay with me for a long time. A totally absorbing read.
— JEANETTE LYNES, author of The Small Things That End the World & The Factory Voice
The Winter-Blooming Tree takes us into a household of missed communications and misread silences. At the heart of the story is Ursula, who’s sealed herself off emotionally from those who love her and even, heartbreakingly, from herself. In shining prose, this brave novel makes a close exploration of a troubled family, and of one woman’s fear and confusion as she struggles to understand the layers of her own psyche. Like Ursula and her family, readers will feel the tension of standing at the water’s edge, readying themselves for a bracing dive.
— LEONA THEIS, author of If Sylvie Had Nine Lives
Barbara Langhorst deftly captures the dynamics of a family in flux. Each character is convincingly authentic and the conflicts they struggle through are startlingly relatable. The author clearly knows all three protagonists exceptionally well; she has made a study of their complicated dynamic and has written them with love and empathy. By the end, readers will be rooting for them and championing them on!
— Prairie Flower Reads, Sept. 2021
Hear the first chapter of
The Winter-Blooming Tree at the River Volta Reading Series:
A dream kitchen. An idyllic life on the Canadian Prairies. The untangling of generations of secrets. In her debut novel Want, Barbara Langhorst reconsiders the family drama in the age of climate change and global conflict.
Funny and crisp, Want is the brilliantly relatable story of a woman who has to choose between the lifestyle she’s always wanted and the one that just may mean her family’s survival. Barbara Langhorst’s Want will keep you laughing and guessing until the end.
Want is a terrific book — original, provocative and very well written!
— GAIL BOWEN
A cast of characters we can all recognize - trying to hide a secret which almost destroys them. What we all 'Want' is peace of mind and acceptance. Langhorst weaves this pathway - both for the reader and the characters she creates.
— CAROL ROSE DANIELS
In comical parody and solemn realism, Want constructs a cogent narrative of our time. It compellingly speaks of a home that is lost and ardently sought. Its nimble wit and strong realism unnervingly depicts a world dangling, personally and environmentally, on the edge of disaster.
— DENNIS COOLEY
Want is an intimate meditation on our modern spiritual dilemma: what it means to both want and to be found wanting. Barbara Langhorst offers a witty account of interiors and interiority, an illumination of all the places we call home.
— MÉIRA COOK
This timely novel turns corners unexpectedly, like most renovations. An engaging and humorous family portrait of life on the Canadian Prairies where past collides with present and “want” leads to what really matters. Brimming with energy—from the everyday to the otherworldly—a story packed with feeling and light.
— CATHERINE GRAHAM
Oh, this is a rollicking ride of a novel as a woman buffeted by the terrors of the modern world tries alternately to buy or run her way out of the collapse to come.
— BILL ROBERTSON, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Oct. 18, 2018
It’s an odd experience, reading a novel about apocalyptic fears during a pandemic...In Want, Langhorst explores what it means to want, not only in terms of material possessions, such as a new kitchen, but also family connections. Delphine and her siblings, Emma and Paul, spend much of the novel reminiscing about their past: their grandparents, who homesteaded in northern Saskatchewan, and their mother, who died when Delphine was nineteen. Paul wants the family to escape civilization and resettle on the grandparents’ land; Delphine waffles between staying in a home she loves, despite its flaws, or agreeing to Paul’s vision of the family reunited, living on a back-to-the-land compound.
— Kat Cameron, Prairie Fire, Oct. 26, 2020
In this first novel by Edmonton-born poet Barbara Langhorst, Delphine and Hugo are living on their dream hobby farm in Saskatchewan, but something is missing. Delphine lusts after home improvement, and can’t resist poring over interior design magazines and websites. One day while browsing online, she orders a new kitchen by mistake. A complex plot unfurls involving marital and economic tension, mental illness, spiritual crisis and survivalism. Langhorst has a wonderful sense of humour, and with delicious irony she shows how the couple’s perfect kitchen doesn’t end up bringing the happiness it promised.
— JoAnn McCaig, Alberta Views, June 1, 2019
restless white fields
Langhorst seeks to objectify grief, mapping the work of mourning onto the white field of the page, trying to transmute the personal into persona. This book is an archeology... These lines aren’t talking-cure...restless white fields is a powerful and fascinating text that deconstructs the "broken economies" of grief.
— KEVIN McNEILLY, Canadian Literature, 219
Instead of a narrative, the sequence of poems in this book creates a picture of the world as viewed by someone grieving, where nature is not a metaphor for the poet’s violent family history…This world isn’t sparse, as one might expect, but full of endless links and associations, and even something like humour.
— BETH LANGFORD, filling station, 54
Langhorst conveys the enduring nature of that pain in the poignant image of a spring snowfall (the murder/suicide occurred in May) … what impresses most about Restless White Fields is Langhorst’s intricate skein of grief’s “entanglements,” and her struggle to make “contemplation a countermeasure to violence.”
— BARBARA CARY, Toronto Star (online and in print)
Langhorst’s restless white fields is a collection of dark undertones, which by itself don’t make it a dark or pessimistic book, although it might possibly be a necessary book … Langhorst’s poems are an enviable expression and exploration of structure and highly mature rhythms, and a book that would be difficult to not see on award shortlists.
— ROB McLENNAN, rob mclennan’s blog, DUSIE
Restless White Fields moves from the risk-it-all of the personal to a plenitude of wisdom. Barbara Langhorst takes us on a journey, first into darkness and silence, then back to the reassurances of language itself, of love itself. She makes poetry new.
— ROBERT KROETSCH
Barbara Langhorst’s unsentimental sequence of experimental poems revisits profound loss.
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