First Fiction Fridays: The Whole Beautiful World

October 13, 2017

In her debut collection of short stories  The Whole Beautiful World (Brindle & Glass), Melissa Kuipers channels her own experiences living in rural Ontario to create the fictional small town of Talbot, and then fills it with characters both dysfunctional and darkly funny. Her cast is primarily made up of women and girls who are by turns jealous, protective, well-meaning, and impatient (one of them even wants to perform an exorcism).

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The Whole Beautiful World (Brindle & Glass, October 2017)



Melissa Kuipers was born and raised on an egg farm in Aylmer, Ontario, and she grew up in a tight-knit Dutch-Canadian Christian community. She holds a Masters in English in the Field of Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. She has been published in the Rusty Toque, Grain, Joyland, Ryga, Qwerty, and the Puritan. Melissa lives in Hamilton, Ontario, with her husband, Mark, and infant son, Elliott. This debut collection of short stories, The Whole Beautiful World, will be launched at Bryan Prince Booksellers in Hamilton on October 26.


Why you need to read this now:

Dysfunctional families, unrealized dreams, traumatic accidents, crises of faith, and accidental cults are but a few of the adventures awaiting you in Melissa Kuipers’ debut collection of short stories. But despite the heavy subject matter, The Whole Beautiful World reminds you that there is honesty, beauty, and humour to be found in even the darkest of days and the direst of situations.

A pious girl prays for a miracle to make her beautiful but deliver her from vanity. A jealous teen comforts her roommate through an unwanted pregnancy and delivery. A young child’s irritation with her overbearing playmate drives her to protect her twin brother in an unexpected way. A charismatic university student’s ego explodes as he accidentally starts a cult. A well-meaning girl impatiently awaits her mail-order holy oil, looking forward to the day she can perform an exorcism on her hyperactive little brother.

With compassion and subtlety, Kuipers crafts a world of young, vibrant, complex, primarily female characters whose internal struggles manifest in their most intimate relationships—where quirky personalities explore a gamete of relational experiences as they strive to make meaning of their pain; moments of truth and revelation are hard earned, and often unwanted; and redemption is fleeting and infrequent, but occasionally evident in a sliver of empathy or self-awareness.

Inspired by her own upbringing in rural Ontario, Kuipers has rooted each of her characters in the fictional community of Talbot—a small and insular rural community where conventional values and religious influence convene to create a community of understanding and closeted judgment, warmth and animosity, strength and fear.

Full of dark wit and enhanced by a lifetime of observation, Kuipers’ understated style pulls inspiration from personal experience to present a collection that is fresh, compassionate, and wholly original.


What other people are saying:

"In this soft-sold and pithy new collection of short stories, Kuipers presents a myriad of complicated Canadian women... The stories are tight and deeply entertaining; readers will likely gobble the whole book in one satisfying sitting... a sly and slim collection." —Booklist

"Kuipers' light touch and eye for telling details will keep the reader wanting more. A collection of delicate sketches that mark Kuipers as a writer of promise." —Kirkus Reviews

“I loved these stories. Melissa Kuipers’ voice is honest, original and sometimes very funny. Her stories of teenage life in churchy small towns deliver punches above their size. Observant, ironic and questioning, she is never predictable. Amidst the crowd of emerging writers pay attention to Melissa Kuipers.” —Katherine Govier, author of The Three Sisters Bar and Hotel

"In subtle, understated prose, yet with deep compassion, these stories reveal the private hopes, secret loves, and stinging regrets that complicate the lives of young girls and women.” —Hugh Cook, author of Heron River

“Kuipers recovers for us the intimate world of youth on the lip of adulthood: their loneliness, self-consciousness, spiritual longings, self-castigations, dreams. Trapped in poverty or their own bigotry, adults mostly fail them woefully, but this is not a dark book. The Whole Beautiful World is written with compassion and a resonant wisdom.” —Rosemary Sullivan, author of Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva


X plus Y:

The Whole Beautiful World is the small-town understanding of Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness and the unexpected character behaviour of Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find.




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Thanks to Tori at Brindle & Glass for sharing  The Whole Beautiful World with us! For more debut fiction, click here.


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