by Robert J. Wiersema
From the bestselling author of Before I Wake and Bedtime Story.
A child who has only ever known the British Columbia farm of his birth finds himself caught between what once was and what will be. Not even the wonders of a travelling circus can ease his sadness and fear - that is, until he discovers a secret beyond his imagining.
I WAS ELEVEN YEARS old the day the last circus came to Henderson. It was late August, just before the Labour Day weekend, when the world would start to change and grow cold. The leaves were dry in the trees in the woods along the edges of the fields, not coloured yet, but you could feel it coming. The air was already chill in the mornings when I was out doing my chores. It was sweltering by noon, but the mornings were a hint of what was to come.
I was in the west field, far from the house, when the first of the trucks went by. I was going to bring the cows in from the pasture for milking, watching the tall grass as it whipped black lines of dew on the legs of my jeans, and probably wouldn’t have even noticed the truck – there was nothing unusual about trucks with rattling, roaring engines going too fast up the road out front of the farm, farting thick blue exhaust – if not for the horn.
The whole world seemed to jump, startled by the metallic braying that started off like a distraught donkey before dissolving into a hysterical laughter that echoed in the small vee of the valley. Twisting my back faster than my legs could turn, I almost fell over as I spun toward the road.
The caravan stretched as far as I could see, all the way down to the bend at Charlie’s place, maybe farther for all I knew, a ribbon of colour threading between the green of the fields.
I took a step toward the fenceline, toward the road, as the lead truck approached. It was red. You could tell the colour had once been as bright as a fire engine, but now it had faded to a rusty shade, all soft rounded lines and a bubbled hood. The truck was pulling a trailer, a battered silver Airstream, and it seemed to be barely holding together. I could hear the rattle of the frame even over the roughness of the engine.
The windshield was caked with dust; it was impossible to see the driver, but as the truck started to pull even with me, a bare arm extended from the window, gesturing in a way I couldn’t quite understand. Was it a wave? A salute?
I jumped almost as high when the horn sounded for a second time, and I could have sworn that I heard a laugh from inside the truck as the arm pulled back in and the window rolled up partway.
But I wasn’t looking at the arm, not anymore, or at the window. I was looking at the sign on the driver’s side door, the rough sketch of a rounded tent, circled by the words Zeffirelli Brothers Circus and Marvels.
Circus and Marvels.
I forgot about the cows, forgot about everything else. I turned and ran back toward the house. The wet grass slapped at my legs, sprayed as high as my face as I ran.
The caravan unspooled alongside me, faster than I could keep up, and I kept glancing sideways at the vehicles as I ran, the ragged edge of my breath as loud as the engines. Everything I saw, every fragmentary glimpse, felt like a promise: an old VW bug painted with DayGlo flames that I just knew was full of clowns, I could picture them spilling out the doors – onetwothreetwelvenineteen – each of them gaudier, more laugh-terrifying than the last. Another truck, this one a battered, rusted green, struggled to tow a trailer so huge I marvelled that it could move at all, the whole side of it covered with a painting of a trio of jungle cats, a lion, a tiger and a panther, garish and cartoonish, but they looked like they might leap off the truck, spring toward me without warning. A wheezing Winnebago, decorated with a painting of a beautiful woman, long red hair seeming to float behind her, the green of her eyes mirroring the scales of her tail ...
about the author
ROBERT J. WIERSEMA is a writer of fiction and non-fiction and a reviewer who contributes regularly to several national newspapers. He is the bestselling author of three novels – Before I Wake, Bedtime Story and Black Feathers – along with a novella, The World More Full of Weeping, and an autobiographical tribute to Bruce Springsteen, Walk Like a Man. He lives in Victoria, BC, and teaches creative writing at Vancouver Island University and Camosun College. His first collection of short fiction, Seven Crow Stories, will be published in Fall 2016.
from the library
In the Afternoon
by Laure Baudot
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
by Caroline Adderson
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
by Andrew Forbes
An electrical engineer who has lost almost everything - his marriage, his job, his father - retreats to his garage to re-evaluate and reorganize the various loose ends of his life, and ends up assembling a thermonuclear device instead.
by Andrew Forbes
A recruiter for a Division I college basketball team travels to a town in hopes of finally convincing the year's prize high school prospect to play for his team. Over several days, he reflects on his love of the sport, his respect for the kids, and a job that forces him to sweep sentiment aside in order to get results.
“Andrew Forbes' The Gamechanger is a powerful work from a point-of-view — that of the scout, the talent evaluator — which is not often seen or done convincingly, as it is here. A story about fathers and sons, about fate, and about the implicit savageries that lurk at the heart of the sports we love and the teams we cheer for. This is wonderful, raw writing.”
— Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone and Cataract City
“A fascinating look at the relationships a recruiter has to manage, from the sacrifices of being away from their family, to dealing with rival recruiters, prospects and their friends and family ... a very nuanced and layered approach that goes beyond just a man with a job to do at a gym.”
— Alex Wong, stevenlebron.com
by Jessica Westhead
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
by Kirsty Logan
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
by Pauline Holdstock
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