by Meghan Rose Allen
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.
LEFT AT THE LAKE, we’d wait for Doug to take us home. Doug, who had told my mother he would love her as long as the integral of ex equalled ex itself, reassured us with his lopsided grin, slathered us head to heel with a vile, cantaloupe-tinged unguent of calamine lotion, bundled us in beach towels, and strapped us to the front seat of his truck.
“You two ever hear the expression ‘all happy families are alike’?” he’d ask Paulie and me on the long drive back to town. Each time we shook our heads no, this conversation being part of the process, part of the ride. “All this is going to make the two of you something special,” Doug told us. “All this is going to make the two of you extraordinary.”
FOUR MINUTES YET YEARS Apart. Underneath the bold newspaper headline sat a grainy, ridiculous picture of us and two nurses, each holding a clock and a calendar. Isabel Elisabeth Ingram, born 11:59 p.m. on December 31, Pauletta Marie at 12:03 a.m. the next day. Forever separated by two hundred and forty seconds of the clock. Further removed by the Kawartha Separate School Board.
“They can’t both go,” a secretary told my mother the first day of kindergarten. “That one doesn’t make the cut-off.” She pointed towards me even though she meant Paulie. “They gotta be five by December thirty-first. She’s not five until January.”
We stood in the office, awkward in the same way we’d been during my mother’s surprise pregnancy with Michael. A year before, we didn’t know how we would manoeuvre around each other’s bodies as a family of five, didn’t know how quickly our time as a family of five would pass. Gone without any physical marker but our new-found inability to return to functioning as the Ingram quartet.
And as we stood there did my mother try to convince her? Did she argue, make a fuss, wave the stamped and approved registration forms in the secretary’s face? Did the unmalleable secretary wheel her chair back to get further away from us, worried that we were contagious, that our bad luck was a disease easily caught by being in close quarters with us? There’s a blank spot in my memory, like an aura of a migraine in my head.
“If I make an exception for you, then everyone will know,” the secretary told us, her voice shrill and clipped. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other children.” There wasn’t another child in the catchment with a January birthday for five years on either side; we’d be long forgotten by the time a similar situation could present itself. But the secretary, convinced of our guilt, was punishing our parents by punishing me and Paulie instead.
As I waved out the classroom window, Paulie didn’t wave back. She stared at me, dragged her unwilling feet back home, and waited for another year.
“The Peterborough Examiner?” Nuala asked me upon seeing the clipping, magnet-affixed to my parents’ refrigerator. “Isn’t that Robertson Davies’s paper?”
“Yeah, like in the fifties. Worst editor the Examiner ever had.”
“Really?” She looked puzzled.
“Sure, ask anyone around here,” I told her. “It’s a known Kawartha fact.”
I RENAMED MYSELF MICHAEL in an attempt to change the narrative of my parents’ lives. I joined groups and went to the clinic, but “They don’t think you belong here,” a nurse explained when my quotidian appointment was cancelled. “You don’t fit the profile.”
Nuala was on the street corner outside as I tried to buy hormone injections, giving illegal clean needles to junkies who shopped the corner block too. Like I was a kitten, she took me home and I gave up pretending. I went back to being Izza, identical twin sister to Paulie, older sister to Michael, long deceased.
about the author
MEGHAN ROSE ALLEN has been a fiction writer her entire life, although until recently she has spent more time writing and reviewing scientific articles than having anything to do with fiction. Perhaps one day she will quit her day job and write full-time. Meghan received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Dalhousie University and she currently resides in Ottawa.
by this author
June's mother is getting married and there's nothing June can do about it. Counting down the days to the wedding while trapped with a sort-of friend and unwanted family-to-be at their lakeside cottage in the Kawarthas, June searches desperately for a way to make the world - and her life - stand still.
from the library
A woman wakes up in bed beside her ex-boyfriend and is at loss to explain how she got there. Inexplicably drawn to stay, she scours every square inch of the apartment they used to share, noting the traces of her presence that linger on, as well as the empty spots that conspicuously mark her absence. The deeper she digs, the more she understands how imperfect her relationship was – and the less willing she is to come up for air.
New wife and mother Julie is a woman struggling to find her place. Her dilemmas, while modest, feel harsh, and reflect the ways in which women were once denied control over their own bodies. Her first steps toward independence bring great pain—and not only to herself. With sparing, incisive prose, Cynthia Flood unravels what it meant to be a married woman in post-war era Vancouver, creating an evocative and even unsettling experience for the reader.
“With a precision of language that startles and delights, Cynthia Flood offers glimpses of those moments in which the essence of an entire life is revealed.”
— Nancy Richler, author of The Imposter Bride
“What a great story! Told in terse, restrained sentences, yet opening to a lush and radiant heart, Addresses captures the anguish of a marriage gone off the rails, and the moments of redemption that arrive from unexpected places. Flood’s use of language is uniquely her own–staccato, clean as a knife, and brilliant. Cynthia Flood has done it again.”
— Shaena Lambert, author of Radiance
“The abruptness of the title tells so much about this exquisitely drawn story by Cynthia Flood. ‘Tell the truth but tell it slant,’ Emily Dickinson advised, and that’s always been the approach Flood has preferred for her bone-china fictions, edging into them sideways. Once escorted into the story’s arrhythmic heart, we readers have no choice but to immerse ourselves in a world long gone but still very much with us, to emerge both shaken and stirred.”
— Dave Margoshes, author of A Book of Great Worth
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
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
On an isolated English beach a man looks back on his school days, recalling the joy and torment of a secret love affair with a boy full of strange ideas, a boy obsessed with the language of the King James Bible. Moments from their relationship return to him: the hidden meetings on the beach, the first attempts at sex, the boredom of a school assembly in summertime, the cruelty of a young English teacher. But most of all he remembers the boy’s words. They’re words that, years later, will haunt him as he tries to come to terms with the person he has become.
“Psalm 77 is the type of story that one wants to read over and over, searching for meanings previously unseen. It is laced with the hidden, the secret, the sacred. From the sand dunes and their private longings in school to the verses, the imagery, and the final paragraphs, there is so much to uncover . . ." (Read full review)
— Amanda Miller from shortsundone.ca
The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive:
by Kirsty Logan
Embark upon these twenty short, scrumptious flights of fancy from the unmistakable pen of Scott Prize-winning author Kirsty Logan, and you will be astounded, titillated, disturbed, amused, heartbroken, and above all, astonished.
“Logan crafts an exquisitely wrought diorama full of tenderly compelling characters; observations about grief, worship, social order, and human nature, and a love that transcends definition.”
– NPR on Logan's debut novel The Gracekeepers
In this unexpectedly dark character study, Jessica Westhead puts you in the shoes of an apprentice forced to listen to a seasoned wedding DJ as he lectures on the tricks of the trade. Emboldened by the captivity of his audience, the DJ's 'humorous' observations and grievances claw deeper and deeper, betraying ugliness at the core.
“In the still-frothing wake of And Also Sharks, here’s another sadly hilarious and hilariously sad Jessica Westhead story with bite. The self-deluding wedding DJ in The Lesson is a perfect addition to Westhead’s bent gallery of sympathetic sad sacks blustering their way through work and love ever after.”
— Zsuzsi Gartner, author of All the Anxious Girls on Earth and the 2011 Giller Prize–shortlisted Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
A small-time internet scammer is shaken from her somewhat safe new life when an investigator arrives with questions to do with her erstwhile "period of moral decline" — specifically, the whereabouts of a young woman whose brief, bright friendship nearly steered her from the stability she now craves.