The fact that As for Me and My House, Sinclair Ross’s first novel and the one on which his reputation rested for many years, was published in 1941 in the United States and not in his native Canada is indicative of the author’s early struggle for recognition in his home country. Previously, he had published several short stories that gained little attention, perhaps because of their rather somber view of the human condition as reflected in the lives of the characters: Canadian prairie dwellers during the Great Depression. A few copies of As for Me and My House sold in Canada, but the reading public there was not interested in the Canadian West, a region apart from the rest of the world, and the merits of the novel went largely unappreciated until publication of the New Canadian Library paperback edition in 1957. Today, As for Me and My House holds a secure place among the classics of Canadian fiction. Like Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), it is a parable by which a country can measure its imaginative life. In its complex rendering of humans struggling with inner conflict and the psychological effects of landscape and the elements, and in its richly resonant language, it surpasses the best of Frederick Philip Grove, the leading prairie realist before Ross, and it maps a fictional terrain that continued to be explored by Margaret Laurence, Rudy Wiebe, Robert Kroetsch, and others. Though Ross’s next two novels, The Well and Whir of Gold, fail to match the achievement of As for Me and My House, a renewing fourth novel, Sawbones Memorial, is of high quality.
In his best fiction, a sentence or two of Ross’s lean, spare, honest prose can illuminate the life of an entire community. In his best fiction, too, Ross has the ability to identify with his characters and with their time and place. Margaret Laurence once said that “he got his time and place in the prairies exactly right.” Ross could not have asked for a more satisfying tribute.