Lake of the Prairies by Warren Cariou

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320 pages hardcover
Finished books available


Canada: Doubleday


<Warren Cariou (Photo: Robert Tinker)
(Photo: Robert Tinker)

Warren Cariou grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and has worked as a construction worker, a technical writer, and a political aide. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Toronto and now teaches Aboriginal Literature at the University of Manitoba. His first book, The Exalted Company of Roadside Martyrs: Two Novellas (Coteau, 1999), garnered rave reviews, and his memoir Lake of the Prairies won the Drainie-Taylor Prize and was nominated for the Charles Taylor prize.

Lake of the Prairies
A Story of Belonging

by Warren Cariou


  • Shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, 2004
  • Chosen as a Globe and Mail Notable Book of the Year, 2002
  • Winner of the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize, 2003

Lake of the Prairies coverJust over the Montana border is Eastend, Saskatchewan, home of Wallace Stegner. Warren Cariou's story begins 400 miles north of there, in a town located in a part of Saskatchewan that does not exist in popular imagination: a treed province of rocks, water, and muskeg. Removed from prairie traditions, Meadow Lake is enclosed in the ethos of the north, where there is magic in a story and fiction is worth much more than fact.

Grounded in the fertile soil of Meadow Lake are two historical traditions — Native and settler. Cariou's maternal grandparents were European immigrants. Their stories lived alongside Native legends in Cariou's boyhood imagination and as he dug for arrowheads, spear points, and stone hammers, he stumbled upon evidence of centuries of Cree setlement in the area. But the tragic history of how these traditions came to share the same home would remain hidden from Cariou until much later. In the schoolyard and on the street corners he witnessed the discrimination, distrust, anger, and fear directed at the town's Cree and Metis populations — prejudices he absorbed as his own.

As an adult Cariou has been forced to confront the politics of race in Meadow Lake on a number of occasions — some horrific, others surprising. He learned that Clayton Matchee, a rambunctious Native boy with whom he had gone to school, had been taught to hate so profoundly that he could be involved in a torture and murder that would shock the world. And then Cariou discovered secrets that his family had kept hidden for generations, secrets that would alter forever his sense of identity and belonging in Meadow Lake.


“In Lake of the Prairies: A Story of Belonging, Warren Cariou tells a suspenseful drama of family secrets, exile and unexpected origins. As he awakens to his Métis roots and reveals how myth, place and community prejudice are tragically interconnected, Cariou writes with a strong and poetic vision to show how stories may separate or bring people together.”  — JURY CITATION, Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, 2004

“With the publication of Lake of the Prairies, Meadow Lake is now officially on the Canadian literary map, and so is Warren Cariou.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Lake of the Prairies is a lovely book. Dive in and enjoy.”  — THE CALGARY HERALD

“Warren Cariou is humorous while always being thoughtful, and his descriptive power is exceptional. He is one of the very best young writers of our time.”  — ALISTAIR MACLEOD

“Cariou's writing achieves everything great art should aim to do. It finds something basic and universal in all of us, the beautiful and the profane, and gracefully delivers us to a more enlightened understanding of the relationships that bless and haunt us all.”  — DENNIS BOCK

“This memoir is beautifully crafted, artful in its construction, and as with all good memoir is, in the end, truly penetrating in its analysis-by-hindsight of what can happen to those less privileged than Cariou himself was, in such a backwater as Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. His evocation of this historic area of forests, marshes, muskeg and lakes reveals a world we otherwise would not have been fortunate enough to know.”  — SHARON BUTALA

Praise for Warren Cariou's The Exalted Company of Roadside Martyrs

“Merciless black humour surges in waves through the ingenious plotting of [The Exalted Company of Roadside Martyrs]’s opening novella. The second novella, Lazarus ... remains an adroit probing of faith and responsibility.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“Cariou’s debut [The Exalted Company of Roadside Martyrs] is more than merely promising; it heralds the arrival in Canadian fiction of a fine, new storyteller.”  — NATIONAL POST



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