First Fiction Fridays: The Strength of Bone by Lucie Wilk
November 1, 2013
In what Joseph Boyden calls "a gorgeous debut" and Annabel Lyon praises as "an extraordinary look at the clash of worlds," this first novel by Lucie Wilk presents the crises that push both a Western doctor and a Malawian nurse to the brink of collapse. Readers of Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone) or Aminatta Forna (The Memory of Love) will find The Strength of Bone one of the few African medical novels to present a voice at once rigorously observed, emotionally immediate, and deeply compassionate.
Lucie Wilk grew up in Toronto and completed her medical training in Vancouver. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Journey Prize Anthology, longlisted for a CBC Canada Writes literary prize, and has appeared in Descant, Prairie Fire, and Shortfire Press. She practices medicine in London, UK.
Why you need to read this now:
At the hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, Bryce is learning to predict the worst. Racing heart: infection, probably malaria. He’ll send Iris for saline. Shortness of breath? TB. Another patient rolled to the ward. And the round swellings, the rashes with dimpled centres, the small rough patches on a boy’s foot? HIV. Iris will make him comfortable. They’ll move on.
Then there will be sleeplessness, rationed energy, a censuring of hope: the doctor’s disease. Iris sees that one all the time.
Henry Bryce has come to Blantyre to work off the grief he feels for his old life, but he can’t adjust to the hopelessness that surrounds him. He relies increasingly upon Sister Iris’s steady presence. Yet it’s not until an accident brings them both to a village outpost that Bryce realizes the personal sacrifices Iris has made for her medical training, or that Iris in turn comes to fathom the depth of Henry’s loss.
In what Joseph Boyden calls “a gorgeous debut” and Annabel Lyon praises as “an extraordinary look at the clash of worlds,” this first novel by Lucie Wilk presents the crises that push both a Western doctor and a Malawian nurse to the brink of collapse. Readers of Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone) or Aminatta Forna (The Memory of Love) will find The Strength of Bone one of the few African medical novels to present a voice at once rigorously observed, emotionally immediate, and deeply compassionate. Whether she’s describing the grasslands of Malawi, “that shrug and twitch in the wind like the hide of a beast,” or a young doctor’s first visions of cells enacting their cosmic war under the microscope, medical doctor Lucie Wilk writes biting emotion and a pathological eye for detail; she brings reason and faith together in an uneasy alliance; and she demonstrates how, in a place where knowledge can frustrate as often as it heals, true strength requires the flexibility to let go.
Praise for The Strength of Bone:
“A gorgeous debut.”—Joseph Boyden, author of The Orenda
“In supple, beautiful prose, Lucie Wilk recounts a doctor’s struggle with technology and faith, and with the mysteries of death and love … The Strength of Bone is an extraordinary look at the clash of worlds.”—Annabel Lyon, author of The Golden Mean and The Sweet Girl
"Wilk illuminates the differences between Malawian culture and that of the West while capturing both the fever-dream beauty and desperation of the country … Readers who enjoyed Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone may want to give this book a try."—Library Journal
"A lyrical debut novel."—CultMontreal
Read more about Lucie Wilk and The Strength of Bone here:
All Lit Up is produced by the Literary Press Group and LitDistCo. LPG and LitDistCo acknowledge the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council.
All views expressed by bloggers and contributors to the All Lit Up blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of All Lit Up or the Literary Press Group.
All Lit Up acknowledges we are hosted on the lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat. We also recognize the enduring presence of all First Nations, Métis and the Inuit people, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to meet and work on this territory.