A Prairie Girl

Living in Baghdad

Non-Fiction - Biography
403 Pages
Reviewed on 11/12/2023
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

Jan Keating, grew up in the small prairie city of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada. She received her high school education at Weyburn Collegiate Institute and her post secondary education at SIAST. She re-entered the work force as a working mom (with two daughters) as a secretary and Desktop Publisher for SaskPower Corp. Upon her retirement, she began painting and writing. Her years of desktop publishing for the corporation gave her a reasonable amount of skill and confidence to approach writing.
In 2020, she was prompted by her interest in a story pertaining to the Saskatchewan Hospital in Weyburn (a care facility for the mentally ill) to write her first book, A Normal Boy: Living in an Asylum. Later that same year, due to the corona virus pandemic, Jan found the isolation period a perfect time to begin writing her second book about Sarah Powell, titled, A Prairie Girl: Living in Baghdad. Both books are inspired by true stories and both have a connection to Weyburn.
The author and her husband currently live in their waterfront home at Kenosee Lake, Saskatchewan, during the summers and in California during winters. She enjoys her art, writing, reading, golfing, boating and fishing as well as time with family and friends. Her love of the surrounding beauty inspires her art and is a perfect setting for her writing.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

A Prairie Girl: Living in Baghdad is a work of non-fiction in the biography, cultural writing, and family drama subgenres. It is suited to the general adult reading audience. Penned by author Jan Keating, this true account reveals the remarkable life of Sarah Powell, a woman born in the Canadian prairies in 1908. The narrative traces her unconventional love story with Dr. Mohammed Fadhel al-Jamali, an Arab Muslim, and their journey from the plains of Saskatchewan to the tumultuous landscapes of Baghdad in the 1930s. Against the backdrop of cultural clashes, familial challenges, and historical upheavals, Sarah becomes a pillar of strength. The focus extends beyond her personal life to encompass her professional achievements, including her role as the Head of English at the University of Baghdad.

Author Jan Keating crafts a vivid narrative, seamlessly blending personal and political threads to achieve an immersive experience into a cross-cultural love story set against the canvas of historical events. The prose is so beautifully smooth that it often feels like you’re reading a sweeping novel of adventure, heartache, and personal drama, only to be starkly reminded that this incredible woman and her story are real. Sarah's resilience and commitment to family shine through as she navigates a life that spans continents, cultures, and tumultuous times, with some really progressive and uplifting moments that show us how harmony can and should be achieved the world over. The book not only narrates the challenges faced by Sarah but also serves as a lens into the complex socio-political landscape of Iraq, offering a lot of educational value about world history, too. Overall, A Prairie Girl: Living in Baghdad is a testament to love, courage, and the indomitable spirit of a woman bridging worlds, and I would highly recommend it to fans of fascinating biographies everywhere.

Ali Al-Dahwi

Ali Al-Dahwi El Paso, Texas and Baghdad Iraq
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book written about an amazing and outstanding Lady. Great Work
Reviewed in the United States on March 20, 2021
Verified Purchase
I met Dr. Jamali and Mrs. Jamali in Tunis. I heard many stories from family members about them. This book provided me with a deeper insight of this great family. The author did a tremendous job painting a proper picture of the story. I recommend that this work be translated to Arabic as many Iraqis would love to read about Dr. and Mrs. Jamali. By the way currently the main street into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is called Dr. Fadhel Al Jamali Street. I hope another one should be established with Mrs. Jamali’s name. To the author I say many thanks I truly enjoyed the book, and will get copies to my daughters.


5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story
Reviewed in the United States on September 24, 2020
Verified Purchase
Jan Keating captures the grit of the girl from the Canadian prairie as she moves to Iraq, marries an Iraqi politician, has three sons (one of whom contracts encephalitis), and copes with the turmoil that became her life. Quite the life. Quite the story!

Ms W Tingle

Ms W Tingle
5.0 out of 5 stars A Prairie Girl Living in Baghdad
Reviewed in Canada on September 24, 2020
Verified Purchase
Jan Keating’s meticulously researched book inspired by a beautiful old character house( a.k.a.the Powell House) in her hometown is truly a love story with equal parts courage, sacrifice, heartbreak and triumph woven throughout its pages.
Sarah Powell was born in 1908 in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada where she grew up in a happy home with her parents and four siblings. She attends school and lives a charmed life on the burgeoning prairies. After graduating from high school she leaves Weyburn to attend university in the USA where she meets and falls in love with an Iraqi man, Fadhel al-Jamali. She eventually moves to Iraq and marries Fadhel and lives a remarkably busy life teaching and raising their three sons, learning to speak Arabic, running a busy household, dealing with her oldest son’s arrested development, all while remaining devoted to and supportive of her husband’s political career. She returns to Canada and the USA to visit family on a couple occasions and although she misses her family she is steadfast in her resolve to forge a new life pursuing a career, making and entertaining friends, learning the customs, language, and nuances of her chosen country. She becomes well-known and respected in her community and well-loved by her husband’s family.
Keating delves into the delicate political situation in Iraq and surrounding area in great detail, as it is central to the situation that nearly costs Fadhel his life.
The Jamalis face many challenges throughout their lives together: political unrest, flood, separation, imprisonment, finding a suitable arrangement for their son, health issues to name a few, but their love and devotion to each other sees them through it all. I highly recommend this book.

Amazon Customer

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book by Jan Keating
Reviewed in Canada on September 25, 2020
Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Prairie GirlLiving in Bagdad! It was incredibly well researched and an amazing story of the life of Sarah Powell, from little old Weyburn, Sk. When I read the first part of the book of her life growing up in Weyburn, I could only imagine similar experiences for my Grandmother's family who resided in a community close to Weyburn around this same time period. I was so impressed with Sarah's family with their support for her to pursue a university education in the late 1920's and of the progressive thinking of her husband, Dr. Mohamed Fadhel al-Jamali. What an incredible challenging life she led and what incredible perseverance Sarah had in pursuing what was best for her son and other special needs children and adults. I would highly recommend this book! Well done Jan Keating! I look forward to reading your other book, A Normal Boy: Living in an Asylum.

Afaneen Kubba

5.0 out of 5 stars Life is not always perfect , but it's always what you make it .
Reviewed in Canada on December 14, 2020
Verified Purchase
As an Iraqi - Canadian I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a real page turner and I salute the writer Jan Keating.
Sarah Powell Jamali was an extraordinary woman who left her hometown in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and moved all the way to the other side of the world to settle down in Baghdad, Iraq. She fell in love with a very decent man, Mr. Fadhil Jamali, whom she met at university in the United States and later were married. Dr. Jamali became government minister then later prime minister of Iraq . Sarah Powell went through lots of struggles while living there, including caring for her ill son and also with political issues that shook their lives.
I recommend this book .

Linda Hilderman

4.0 out of 5 stars Comments on "A Prairie Girl Living In Bagdad."
Reviewed in Canada on October 15, 2020
Verified Purchase
I was initially drawn to "A Prairie Girl Living In Bagdad" because it promised lots of hometown history which appealed to the nostalgia in me. I was soon drawn into Sarah's intriguing story of family, romance, faith, politics, culture, heartache and espionage. Congratulations to my former high-school classmate on another well-written, heartwarming and well researched book. Her first book "A Normal Boy Living In An Asylum" had me hooked ! Waiting for her next book. Keep them coming !

Terry Blankley

4.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing story and true.
Reviewed in Canada on November 30, 2020
Verified Purchase
Lots of interesting history regarding the middle east in the 50's 60's and up. .Like Ms Keating's other book it would make a great tv series. I will read it again!

Norma Pulfer

5.0 out of 5 stars Avery interesting read!
Reviewed in Canada on November 4, 2020
Verified Purchase
A very interesting read ... especially since it is linked to my hometown Weyburn Saskatchewan. This is Jan’s second book...she loves human interest stories... and ... this is certainly evident in her recent book...A PRAIRIE GIRL.
Customer image

jane johnston

5.0 out of 5 stars A Prairie Girl Living in Bagdad -
Reviewed in Canada on December 11, 2020
Verified Purchase
A study in contrasts of Cultures and fascinating history of the Middle East -a great read!


5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful writer
Reviewed in Canada on September 23, 2020
Verified Purchase
fantastic read, Jan Keating really gets you into the book and hard to put down when you start reading it.


5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read!
Reviewed in Canada on September 10, 2020
Verified Purchase
A Prairie Girl is an intriguing read that provides a glimpse into a unique and challenging life during tumultuous times.

Karen Kallen

5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book
Reviewed in Canada on November 21, 2020
Verified Purchase
great history and story

i Charter and Tow

5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting
Reviewed in Canada on November 12, 2020
Verified Purchase
Great read.

Sheridan Abells

5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible story by a talented storyteller!
Reviewed in Canada on March 14, 2023
This is a very well researched portrait of a fascinating woman.
Sarah Powell was a small town Saskatchewan girl who's life journey was extraordinary.
Jan Keating takes us through Sarah's passages with a writing style that's eminently readable.
I very much enjoyed this read and highly recommend it!


5.0 out of 5 stars Jan Keating was surely 'chosen' to chronicle this extraordinary true life tale
Reviewed in Canada on November 8, 2021
Hours and hours and hours of research have obviously gone into Jan's story. Not to mention writing and writing and editing. Talk about talent; not only is Jan a visual artist but an accomplished writer. I am in awe.

A page turner for sure, the narrative flowed beautifully and there were no 'low' spots. The way in which Jan portrayed the relationship between Sarah and Fadhel and their unwavering love and loyalty to one another, was captivating. It rang true.

The saga of Laith, the eldest of Sarah and Fadhel's sons, was indeed heart wrenching. Although his difficulties were the result of the complication of encephalitis from measles, what a travesty it was. Especially for Sarah, as she was tasked with procuring appropriate care for him over the years, particularly at a time when resources for such a condition were few and far between.

As for political ramifications, Jan's story adds to the reader's knowledge of the conundrum the Middle East in general has experienced. And continues to experience. How Fadhel, a rare human being, faced his professional and personal challenges with such integrity and dignity, is beyond understanding!! Truly.

A lovely surprise early on in the book was to see my grandparents, Lillian and George Beischel, and my father Freddy and his sister Evelyn, show up in this historical account. What a small world. Having grown up in Weyburn, I was also fascinated to learn of some of the history of earlier times.

Jan is to be admired and thanked for bringing this fascinating family memoir so appealingly to life. I look forward to her next book!

Sarah Carson

5.0 out of 5 stars Courage and Faith
Reviewed in Canada on October 4, 2021
This book captured my attention from the very first page.
It's a chronological report from 1888 to 2000 about true love,hope,family bonds,courage and the faith of Sarah Powell.
The author pulled me into the story. I felt I was there feeling Sarah's struggles.
Well done Jan


5.0 out of 5 stars A Prairie Girl Living in Bagdad
Reviewed in Canada on December 20, 2020
This is the second book that Jan has written in which she focussed on a person from Weyburn’s past and shaped a story around each life. The premise of each book is true, but rather than viewing the person through a historical lens, Jan put herself in the shoes of the individual and wrote story.
Jan devoted a lot of time and effort into researching the life of Sarah Powell in A Prairie Girl Living in Bagdad. The story of an American banker and his family moving to Weyburn in the early 1900s was challenge enough, but following the family to Iraq and Europe was another feat. She found Sarah’s living children and relatives who provided family photos, references, and resources that provided Jan with the context to her story. The insight of the Middle East in 1950s and 1960s provided an interesting background of the woman’s life and emphasized her challenges and her strengths.
Jan has a creative writing style where she visualizes the person and makes the story come alive. I felt as though I knew Sarah, Fadhel, Laith, Usameh, and Abbas. Great read.


5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story about one woman's strength
Reviewed in Canada on December 10, 2020
Jan Keating has written an incredibly well researched story about the strength of one prairie woman ,Sarah Powell, who followed her dreams during a time in history when women were not encouraged to do so. I read this book in one sitting and would recommend it as a definite keeper. Amazing second book from author Jan Keating. I would also recommend adding her first book, A Normal Boy, Living in an Asylum, as well.