Lethbridge sits squarely in the Canadian province of Alberta, in the heartland of a great and endless prairie. It is not in any way an extraordinary place, small by American standards, and like many such cities and countless similar towns, possessed with a character and sense of identity almost impossible for outsiders to absorb, understand, or appreciate. But in this remarkable book, and especially through the luminous, revealing, and exquisite photographs of Geoffrey James, this small city takes on a life and assumes a grandeur all its own. James has managed to do for Lethbridge what Walker Evans did for dirt poor Alabama and what Ansel Adams did for Yosemite; he has taken the place and made it his own. He has captured the essence of people, architecture, and vistas on film, and he has not neglected to record the often uneasy alliance existing between a magnificent landscape and the inevitable invasion of tasteless modern tract housing blighting the perimeters of so many North American cities.

His expressive photographs are accompanied by a revealing text by Rudy Wiebe who, in recording and retelling brief and illuminating stories, draws out the many layers of history, memory, and characters that combine to convey the sense of the land, the water, and the weather, the human comedy and often tragedy, that have informed this small town for generations.

Rudy Wiebe was born in an isolated community of German-speaking Russian Mennonites in Saskatchewan, Canada. After graduating from the University of Alberta and the University of Tubingen in Germany, he taught at Goshen College in Indiana while remaining dedicated to his Canadian identity in his writing. He has published ten books, many of which concern the lives of marginalized people in rural Canada, and has twice received the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. He is currently a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, where he has taught since 1992.