After Alice

By Karen Hofmann

After Alice
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Afterretiring from the heady world of academia, Sidonie von Täler has returned tothe small Okanagan Valley town she escaped in her youth for the lights of thebig city. The family orchard has since gone to seed, and ever decades laterSidonie still finds herself living in the ... Read more


Overview

Afterretiring from the heady world of academia, Sidonie von Täler has returned tothe small Okanagan Valley town she escaped in her youth for the lights of thebig city. The family orchard has since gone to seed, and ever decades laterSidonie still finds herself living in the shadow of her deceased older sisterAlice.

As she gets down to work sifting through the detritus ofher family’s legacy, Sidonie is haunted by memories of trauma and triumph inequal measure, and must reconcile past and present while reconnecting with thefamily members she has left.

Karen Hofmann’s debut novelblends a poetic sensibility with issues of land stewardship, socialstratification and colonialism, painting the geological and historicallandscape of the Okanagan in vivid and varied colours.

Karen Hofmann

Karen Hofmann grew up in the Okanagan Valley and taught creative writing at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia, for many years. She now divides her time between Vancouver Island and the BC Interior. A first collection of poetry, Water Strider, was published by Frontenac House in 2008 and shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Prize. Her first novel, After Alice, was published by NeWest Press in 2014, and a second novel, What is Going to Happen Next, in 2017. Her short fiction has won the Okanagan Fiction Contest three times, and “The Burgess Shale” was shortlisted at the 2012 CBC Short Fiction Contest. Karen Hofmann is an avid walker, and her writing explores the landscapes, both rural and urban, of British Columbia as well as the personalities and social dynamics of the inhabitants. Her latest novel, A Brief View from the Coastal Suite, was released in spring 2021.

www.karenhofmann.com

Excerpt

STYX

The5:40 from Calgary, descending to the runway a kilometre to the south, rattlesher roof and screams, all throat and flash, over the little frozen lake. Explosions of scarlet and green light track down the lake, pulse through theice. The leafless aspens flare silver, copper, and are reabsorbed intodarkness. The jet’s scream drops an octave, glissando. A spectacle of dragons,a kind of Valkyrie ride.

It’s her signal to close her laptop,abandon her work for the day. She stretches and blinks, tumbles from the tightinterlocking puzzle of her mental work, of her reading and writing, into thejet’s destruction of silence, into the late afternoon of her empty house, assome component might peel from a shuttle and spin out into thevoid.

She had not thought, signing the papers for the housepurchase, about the runway. Had not thought—entranced by the house, which inAugust had been full of light and space; entranced by the green and breezinessof the valley, a long slip of light, air, shade, and Montreal sultry andcrowded; entranced by the real estate agent’s phrases: deer, ducks, lakepath—she had not thought. She had seen only the lake, sparkling; the bobbingwaterfowl.

She had forgotten how, even as a child, she hadthought this area a bleak pinch of the landscape, a dark and dismal passage. The hills in this stretch of the valley low, blocky, not pleasing. A sort ofrocky knob, just to the south and west of the lake, scattered now with dead anddying pines, blocking the light, the sun setting behind it by early afternoon. The least desirable land in the whole of the valley.

Reserve land,of course: what was given back to the original inhabitants as least valuable. Rocky, boggy land; the little lake, shallow and muddy, an afterthought in avalley famous for its lakes. Given back in treaties, this unprepossessing twistof the valley. A shameful illiberality. And now she has bought a house here, abargain because on leased land.

Reviews

"After Alice hasthe makings of a CanLit classic, with complex characters, heavy themes donewith a light touch, and expert pacing. Did I mention that this is KarenHofmann’s first novel?"
~ Laura Frey, Reading inBed

 

"For the beauty ofits narrative descriptions, but also for many other reasons, AfterAlice deserves a place among the best of new Canadian literaryfiction. "
~ Julienne Isaacs, The Winnipeg Review

"Iwelcome Hofmann’s refreshing voice with this wonderful book, one of the mostinteresting and exciting that I’ve encountered in ages. "
~ KerryClare, Pickle MeThis

"This novel accomplishes so much … After Alice firmly places[Hofmann] as an exciting new voice on the CanLit scene. "
~ KatMain, Alberta Views

 

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