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
Inspired by true events, this story by Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author Pauline Holdstock tells of the incredible bond between a mother and daughter, and with gut-wrenching poignancy reminds us of the little things that make life worth living.
“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
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.
Coming out of an unhappy relationship and a stint at an artist colony, Charlotte, a writer, takes a job teaching at a private ESL college. There she befriends Renata—audacious, sexy, and as changeable as Proteus. “I have a story for you,” Renata says to her one day over lunch. She doesn’t elaborate further, but Charlotte soon discovers that she has found in Renata an unexpectedly passionate and compelling subject.
“Caroline Adderson is such a graceful and intelligent writer that the work that must surely go into creating her hilarious, prismatic stories is never betrayed in the language. There is no strain on the page, not a bead of sweat. I think of her as a writer’s writer. I envy her talent and learn from her sentences. The short story, Obscure Objects, is, I’m happy to report, Adderson at her glorious best.”
— Barbara Gowdy, author of Helpless and The White Bone
“Obscure Objects, Caroline Adderson’s fierce and affecting workplace comedy, is a deadpan gem: droll, moving, snapping-smart.”
— Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, and The Position
Some time after the incomprehensible death of his son, Joan Miró has settled into his new job working the overnight shift at a Hasty Market in Toronto. He has plenty of time to think beneath the fluorescent lights of the convenience store: of ghosts and late nights, of downtown living and dying, of customer service and self-preservation, of the beauty of the night sky, and of the attempts people make to connect with one another despite seemingly insurmountable distances. These fragments of life prove as difficult to make sense of as any code—until one night, when an extraordinary series of events suddenly teases a pattern from the dark.
“In this graceful, dark, and nuanced piece, Lana Storey reveals a private man unhinged by grief. These are events—and this a narrative—that will stay in my mind for a long time. Never one to shirk from difficult truths, Lana Storey writes in the tradition of George Saunders: an original, at times disturbing, but ultimately transformative worldview.”
— Carolyn Smart, author of Hooked: Seven Poems and At the End of the Day
“Cross Yourself is Lana Storey’s gorgeous swirling image constellation, a story about a man becoming unhinged from the universe and finding redemption in a downtown Hasty Market convenience store. A vibrant, beating heart of a short fiction, Cross Yourself is a vortex worth being pulled into.”
— Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of the 2005 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award finalist The Nettle Spinner
Romance is candlelight on cheekbones, blurring gazes and the press of heels on strange sheets. But what happens a year later? You’re sharing bath towels and bickering over who forgot to buy a light bulb. There is beauty in a familiar hand on the nape of your neck. There is love in waking up under a shared blanket. This story is about the romance of domesticity.
“Kirsty is one of the best and brightest . . . when I read her stuff I feel like I could taste it, chew it, roll it around on my tongue, the language is so delicious and sturdy and musical. She also has a knack for getting relationships exactly right in her writing, whether between parent and child or lovers or friends.”
— Amber Sparks, Fiction Editor at Emprise Review
Portraits of people marooned within themselves, trapped by their past experiences, by uncertainty and anxiety — individuals for whom each new situation is a grueling journey towards the present, a place where action and choice are possible. In Second World, Matt Cahill illustrates, with honesty and empathy, how the most important breakthroughs are not the life-altering revelations, but rather the minor miracles that get us through each day.
Catherine wants what Richard has: a richly decorated house, and a perfect, lavished-upon baby. Catherine also wants Richard: a disaffected diplomat whose true passion is for cinema. But Catherine is only the babysitter, and her envy—and its fallout—come to the fore when Richard is accused of a crime, and she must decide whether to help exonerate him.
“Laure Baudot’s prose is exquisite, patient, and sophisticated. In the Afternoon immerses you in the fascinating and complicated mind of a babysitter who is wise beyond her years, yet dangerously impulsive at the same time. This story is irresistible and heartbreaking.”
— Sarah Selecky, author of the 2010 Giller Prize–shortlisted collection This Cake Is for the Party
Toronto in the twenty-first century: At night, a beacon on a lonely ancient lake, a drainage pond from the last ice age. In the daytime, a bulwark of glass, glinting in the radiant sun. Joe, Mary, and her cat, Sam, sit in a lakeside condo, trapped by a crazed, mysterious sniper. What has become of their lives? What has become of their city? What has become of their century? As the situation begins to unravel, Mary finds herself wondering, “What would Margaret Atwood do?”