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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Home > McGill News > 2002 > Fall 2002 > Reviews


neoprehistoric. Rasa, featuring Erin Best, BA'00, and Sandy Morris. 2001.


Showcasing the partnership of vocalist Erin Best and guitarist Sandy Morris, Rasa's debut album of popular music demonstrates that the easternmost province has a reservoir of talent beyond the familiar Celtic fare.

First-time listeners may find themselves making inevitable comparisons to recent Canadian female folk-pop successes such as Sarah McLachlan and Sarah Harmer, but Best is no mere copycat. Her rich, deep vocals blend with the guitar-driven arrangements in this collection of songs that are smooth and soothing; the orchestrations are complemented by clever and sometimes thought-provoking lyrics. Stand-out tracks include the opening "Short Circuit," "Helix" and "Suggestion," as well as a cover of the Box Tops' classic "The Letter," a unique reworking of an old reliable that further showcases Rasa's broad musical skills.

With Rasa earning a nomination as Best New Group of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards and neoprehistoric already getting significant airplay on Canadian radio stations, this is an album to snap up now before everyone else discovers it.

The Russians Emerge, Abbeville Press, 2002, $75. Photographs by Heidi Hollinger, BA'90, text by Jonathan Sanders.


McGill News cover girl (Spring 2001) and photographer Heidi Hollinger has produced a collection of ten years' worth of her images of both ordinary and prominent Russians. An accompanying 25-page text by historian and veteran CBS news correspondent Jonathan Sanders details some of the major events occurring in the "drained swamp that is post-Soviet Russia," along with a history of Russian photography and a rather glowing chronicle of Hollinger's own rise to celebrity status.

At once repellent and fascinating, Hollinger's photographs clearly bear out Sanders' summing up of the huge societal shift in Russia: "For a very small minority, change has heralded a gilded age, in which fabulous wealth was suddenly possible. For the vast majority, however, life has become appalling and raw." In Hollinger's introduction, she describes hitching a ride to New York in the private jet of a prominent Moscow businessman who touched down in London "to pick up sushi." But her life in Moscow has not always been one of luxury and her remarkable portraits of Russians whose "bad dreams became nightmares" are touching.

Like the baby on the cover, Russians were tightly swaddled for decades by the constraints of Communism. The swing from total control to complete freedom has resulted in a citizenry that is anxious and confused, and a country desperately searching for a middle ground. The Russians Emerge is a compelling record of this extraordinary and traumatic time.

"Until You Are Dead": Steven Truscott's Long Ride Into History, Knopf Canada, 2002, $24.95, by Julian Sher, BA'75.


Long before television brought real-life courtroom drama into our living rooms, the Steven Truscott case was followed by people all across Canada. In 1959, Truscott was convicted at age 14 of the rape and murder of schoolmate Lynne Harper, becoming the youngest Canadian to be sentenced to hang and among the last to receive a death sentence before capital punishment was outlawed by Parliament.

Although his sentence was commuted to life, Truscott served ten years in prison for a crime that he still maintains he did not commit. In Until You Are Dead, journalist Julian Sher points out serious errors in the investigation and trial that might well have resulted in an unjust conviction.

Producer of an award-winning documentary about Truscott for CBC's fifth estate, Sher spent four years researching every facet of the case. Probing like the most passionate of defense attorneys, he painstakingly analyzes and then deconstructs much of the case against Truscott, citing the omission of pivotal witnesses, the shoddy collection of evidence, and a host of so-called experts whose testimony was absolutely inconsistent. Sher follows Truscott's story through his trial, incarceration and appeals, to the recent application for complete exoneration, thanks largely to what he found through his research. The federal Justice Minister has now agreed to review the file.

Legal eagles, historians and true crime fanatics alike will enjoy the book, which, although long, is written in an easy, novelistic style that makes it an engrossing read. Although Sher's prose occasionally rings with sensationalism, Until You Are Dead is overall a serious and provocative look at the shortcomings of the Canadian justice system and the importance of seeking truth even 40 years after the fact.

When a Parent is Sick: Helping Parents Explain Serious Illness to Children, Pottersfield Press, 2001, $12.95, by Joan Hamilton, MSc(A)'85.


Coping with a life-threatening illness can be overwhelming, but when the patient is a parent, he or she has even more to deal with -- deciding how, and how much, to tell the children. Joan Hamilton, a clinical nurse specialist in cancer care, advises against what might be the first instinct -- to protect the children by shielding them from the truth. Hamilton advises telling the children what's going on as soon as possible and as fully as appropriate for their ages. Her helpful book offers concrete suggestions for what to say to children at different ages and what their reactions are likely to be. Her experience with families dealing with cancer has taught her that children can harbour emotions that parents might not anticipate; for example, feeling guilt for not being sick themselves or for wishing that it was the other parent who was ill, feeling fear that they caused the illness, or feeling anger because their lives have been disrupted.

There are chapters on what to do when a parent is dying and after a parent's death. Hamilton also includes the names of dozens of books for parents and for children to read themselves, as well as the titles of several videos and a number of related websites.

Contributors: Jean Edelstein, BA'03, Diana Grier Ayton

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