by Star Spider
In the late 60s, the newest member of a group of all-female pearl divers — the ama — sees her life, and the lives of those dear to her, disrupted by an unlikely force: a James Bond film that sends American men to Japan in search of their own personal 'mermaids'.
WE CALLED HER AMAKO, child of the ama—the women of the sea, on the shores of Kuzaki—because no one knew her real name and she was the best of us, a master deep diver who worked with her brother off a small, green fishing boat. I first saw her when I was twelve years old, a terrified novice shallow diver huddled in the corner of the amagoya, the small hut built for the ama. Papa had sent me to Kuzaki to live with my cousin Hiroko and his wife Nori because we needed money. I was to learn the secrets of the ama and find the richest abalone, those who hid the largest gems in their whorling folds.
Coming from inland Kyoto, I had never seen the ocean before and its endless horizon and undulating mass intimidated me. I watched the ama chatter and prepare for the day, washing their hands in small bowls of water and stripping down to their bare skin with only a small loincloth to cover them. Their fleshy breasts swayed to the rhythm of the waves and I felt out of place—an earthy inland child, banished to the realm of Suijin, the water god. There was a small stone plaque in the corner of the amagoya depicting a wave and a fish, a sign of respect for Suijin. It was meant to bring good luck to the ama, but only brought me fear and trepidation.
My brother Ryou used to tell me tales of the ama dancing with sharks and jellyfish. Poisoned and devoured. He liked to scare me and he would throw his head back and laugh as my brow creased with worry. But it wasn’t he who would have to journey below the surface of the mysterious ocean, so what did he care for my fear? I begged Papa to let me stay in Kyoto. I promised to work in the fields from the golden start of the day into the darkest night. But he knew of the ama and the riches of the sea and would have nothing less. He was not an unkind man, just demanding. Mama would have let me stay, I know it, but Mama was long gone and so I was all alone—small and scared.
about the author
STAR SPIDER is a writer from Toronto, Canada where she lives and works with her awesome husband Ben Badger. Star is represented by Carrie Plitt of Conville & Walsh and she’s hoping to have her first novel published soon. In her spare time Star is going to school and writing short stories which can be found in many places including A cappella Zoo, Necessary Fiction, The James Franco Review, Flyleaf Journal, Gone Lawn, Open Pen, Apeiron Review and Klipspringer Magazine. starspider.ca
from the library
Charlotte is on the cusp of adolescence, and her world is being turned upside down. Unable to turn to her distant mother or absent father, she searches for guidance on the streets of downtown Toronto—and discovers God (or some version of Him) in the gutter.
“The Last Judgment is a story that penetrates into the heart of childhood sadness. Charlotte is without tools to fix what is broken, except for the incredible force of her will. The connections she makes between religion, parental failure, sexuality, and love make perfect sense because they are told in her bell-clear voice. This story is warm and tragic and, at moments, grimly funny.”
— Rebecca Rosenblum, author of Once and Road Trips
Health care workers on a night out unwind, allowing the anxieties and passions they've had to suppress on the job finally uncoil, like tendrils creeping out into the world - and into each other. Written with empathy and panache, this story is a portrait of briefly flaring humanity - of people granted a temporary reprieve from professionalism, and not quite knowing what to do with it.
“At the Bar is Rosenblum at her best - exploring the complicated nature of work and relationships with her trademark perceptiveness, humour, and compassion, and creating characters that will stay with you long after the story is over.”
— Amy Jones, author of What Boys Like and Other Stories
A man in the throes of a breakup is selling all of his possessions on Kijiji and Craigslist. Greg’s couch, his VHS tapes, obsolete desktop computer, and cow-shaped clock – it all must go. Between pot smoking, pizza eating, and watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, he meets with would-be buyers, taking his old life apart piece by discount piece in order to figure out what went wrong.
The anarchic relationships holding together a group of teen girls - whose lines between love and hate, jealousy and loyalty, are not so much drawn as they are furiously scribbled - are put to the test at an unforgettable birthday party. This story captures all the angst and uncertainty of adolescence, with prose as sharp and jarring as a smashed kaleidoscope.
“Rarely an author comes along whose work hits you with the impact of a slap. I have had this experience with the work of Jayne Anne Phillips, with Lorrie Moore and Mary Gaitskill; most recently I have felt this on discovering the writing of Kirsty Logan. Her work is elegant, minimal, and innovative, but underlying it all is a great passion. If the world is a place where talent is recognised—in time, I believe, we may come to say her name alongside the aforementioned.”
— Ewan Morrison, author of Swung
After undergoing a cosmetic treatment to recover her lost youth, a middle-aged woman finds herself reconnected to her alienated daughter - a young woman still searching for her own path in life - in an unexpected and incredible way. A modern-day fable from two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize nominee Pauline Holdstock.
“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
“Holdstock’s writing manages to be both heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed ... sad passages, ghostlike recollections, written almost from the vantage point of the present, establish the book as a great work of fiction.”
— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves . . . In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
Deep in the heart of Ontario cottage country, Izza Ingram’s biological family disintegrates when her parents become trapped in a moment Izza can barely remember. Lost to their parents, she and her sister Paulie form an unlikely family unit under the guidance of their parents’ friend Doug. In this trio of their own making, Izza, Paulie, and Doug try to navigate the differences between the families we are born into versus the families we choose.
At the Chickasaw Motel, three generations of the McGuinness clan are led by their elderly and overbearing patriarch. Only little Riley, “the smartest f-ing kid”, is spared the brunt of Grandpa McGuinness’s cruelty; ironically, it is his encouragement that provides her with a way out.
As a boy, Timmy (Sir Timothy Brian F. the Fantabulous) tells tall, tragic tales to get attention from the adults in his life - particular his busy mother and Dr. Bass, his nerdy-cool neighbour. As a young man, his escalating lies destroy his relationships, alienate his loved ones, and land him in hot water with police; but that doesn’t stop him from crying wolf again and again.