Evie of the Deepthorn

By André Babyn

Evie of the Deepthorn
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A deeply affecting and daring novel about small towns, art, and loneliness.
“A gorgeous, urgent, nonlinear exploration of loss, belonging, rage, and connection, Evie of the Deepthorn announces André Babyn as an unmissable talent. ” — Grace O'Connell

What is Evie of the ... Read more


A deeply affecting and daring novel about small towns, art, and loneliness.
“A gorgeous, urgent, nonlinear exploration of loss, belonging, rage, and connection, Evie of the Deepthorn announces André Babyn as an unmissable talent. ” — Grace O'Connell

What is Evie of the Deepthorn?

It’s a cult Canadian movie that Kent looks to for inspiration as he struggles to understand the death of his brother. It’s a fantasy novel that Sarah wrestles with as she navigates a traumatic childhood and comes to terms with her failures as an adult. It’s a poem that motivates Reza to go on a pilgrimage from which he will not return unscathed.

Shifting and sometimes contradictory, Evie of the Deepthorn is about the search for answers — and escape.

André Babyn

André Babyn has an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto. His short fiction has appeared in Maisonneuve, the Fanzine, Hobart, Grain, and elsewhere. He lives in Toronto.


When I told Jeff that Lauren had said I should do my media classdocumentary on Durham, he told me it was a good idea. We werein the kitchen after school. He was making a peanut butter sandwichand I was still raiding the cupboards, looking for somethingbetter, without much hope of finding it.
It’s weird, but some days it is difficult for me to rememberJeff ’s face or voice. I know what he looked like — there are pictureseverywhere — and I know what his voice sounded like, butit’s one thing to know something and another thing entirely tohave that thing available to you, easily accessible, which you takefor granted until it’s gone.
But on this day, for whatever reason, it wasn’t hard. He wasright there in front of me, like he had never gone.
“It’s not a good idea,” I said. “Durham sucks. ”
Jeff agreed that Durham sucked, but he said there were lotsof ways I could do it, anyway. For instance, I could just set up thecamera on a tripod in the centre of town and leave it running fortwenty minutes.
Last year the documentary only had to be a maximum ofseven minutes (maximum! ) and Mrs. Scala (now on maternityleave) baked cookies for the final presentations. If I could remembernow who told me that media would be a cakewalk, I wouldegg their house.
“That sounds like it would be horrible,” I said to Jeff.
He said that it would be “conceptual,” and that I would seem“deep. ”
It was a good joke, but I knew that Wright would never buyit. He wanted something with a “traditional” narrative and atleast four cuts. At least, he had said. Bare minimum. And music,too. (We were supposedly being tested on our editing skills, butI wondered if he had foreseen himself watching twenty twenty-minutedocumentaries of twenty intersections. )
I also had my potential audience to consider.
“I want my documentary to be good,” I said. “I mean, at leastokay. ”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“That’s your problem,” said Jeff.
Jeff stopped getting decent grades after middle school, eventhough he was probably the smartest kid I’d ever known. Or atleast it sometimes seemed that way to me. His effort cratered afterthat. Or maybe it had never been very high to begin with, and itwas just that school was asking more from him. He claimed thathe didn’t care. That it wasn’t worth putting in the effort to dowell, to be liked, to not to stick out. That he was fine with the waythings were. Sometimes I believed him.
I’d heard Mom whispering to her friends on the phone thatshe thought he had “emotional problems,” but I always thoughthe was just misunderstood. That he’d find his way in some otherfashion, although not as radically as he hoped. It was too easy tosay he had problems and to leave it at that. If he had a problemit was that he wanted to turn the world to do his bidding, to foldit in half in order to solve a geometry question that only requireddrawing a line from one point to another.
“Why don’t you start with what you know?” he told me. “Isn’tthat what they always say? ’Start with what you know’?” He hada mouth full of peanut butter and Dempster’s soft whole wheatand some of it flew out and landed on the counter. He reachedhis hand out past me, toward the sink, letting it hang mid-air, andI interpreted his motion and threw him the rag hanging aroundthe faucet.
The problem was that I didn’t know what I knew.
According to an article I read a while back in the DurhamEnterprise, Durham is the fastest-growing small town within twohundred kilometres of the city of Toronto: “small town” beingdefined as containing less than twenty thousand people and“fastest-growing”determined via an aggregate score of year-to-yearpopulation growth, that population growth relative to theprevious year’s population, and relative growth of infrastructure.
After I showed the article to Jeff and told him that we finallyhad something to be proud of, he laughed and said that their criteriabasically meant nothing. It was just a way to get people wholive in Durham to feel like they’re important. Which they’re not,he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Duh. ”
But he looked at me like I was stupid and I knew then that Iwas, in a deep way, at my very core.
I was probably fourteen and I remember feeling that way allof the time.
It’s been two years since he died and I miss him a lot, enoughthat sometimes I pretend he’s with me, even to the point of makingup conversations with him about what I have to do for school.
If Jeff were still around he probably wouldn’t be at home anymore;he’d be working at some crap job and living on his ownsomewhere far away, or he’d have figured his shit out and be doingsome kind of mathematics or science degree at a university downtown. Or in another province, or country, or on another planet.
We were different in a lot of ways, but we had a lot of thingsin common, too. He wanted to get out of Durham by any meansnecessary.
So do I.

Here are some facts about Durham.
Durham, the municipality, counts about fifteen thousandresidents. We have an arena, a hospital, three strip malls, a bussystem, multiple hamburger places, two cemeteries, a newspaper,a Tim Hortons, a Pete’s Donuts, and a large chunk of real estateon Highway 89. We also have a single high school which is sharedwith all of the surrounding towns, including Saffronville, whichis notable because students who live in Saffronville are oftenmade fun of because it’s one of the few towns that is an evenbigger hole than Durham. We take a lot of pride in saying so. (Saffronville: half an intersection; one decrepit grocery store; anoff-brand donut place; three sneering teenagers on the main dragat all times, in basketball shirts without sleeves; scary dogs barkingsomewhere; an old man heavy in a torn white T-shirt lying onsomeone’s lawn, burping. )
In honour of our namesake, the late John George Lambton,first Earl of Durham, the high school is named Upper CanadaSecondary School and the K–8 elementary school is LowerCanada Junior Middle School. Old Lord Durham was the onewho drafted the report recommending the unification of the twoCanadas (hardly rocket science) back in the heady days of BNA(British North America, for the uninitiated). The symbolism isidiotic. Not only because our great pride is in being accidentallynamed after a man who helped destroy French and Indigenousculture in the service of our British colonizers. The sports teamsfor both schools have the same name, the “Canadas,” which, ifyou’re following carefully, you know means that the full namesof each team contains the semantically ridiculous repetition“Canada Canadas,” as in “Upper Canada Canadas. ” No oneactually says that, of course, because they’d sound like moronsif they did (instead, they eliminate the first “Canada”), but it’sthere, lurking underneath the scores on the morning announcements,cheers on Spirit Day, and the sentimental hoo-rahs in theEnterprise (“Bobby Booby, son of David and Liz Booby of BoobyAuto, north Saffronville, scored the lone goal in the Canadas’hard-working loss. ”)
Barring some miracle, the only teams our teams will ever playare teams from Canada, and so in that light, “Canada Canadas”becomes even more meaningless, both humiliating and demoralizingat once. At least if we were the Badgers or somethingwe could claim exclusivity until we met another team frompodunk-nowhere with the same spirit animal: at least a badger isfearsome, at least there is some menace in that name. And whatif, say, the Lower Canada Canadas did ever make it to a nationaltournament and ended up playing a team from Quebec? TheUpper Canada Lower Canada Canadas vs. the legitimately LowerCanada Kanata Canadiens —?
The problem with doing a documentary on Durham is thatteachers don’t usually like it when you’re too negative, even ifyou’re being realistic. I don’t know why. Maybe they get nervousabout the world they are about to throw us into, and they’d liketo keep us insulated from all of the shit we’re going to eat as soonas we get out.
But maybe it should be a documentary about how Durham isa hole and we are all trapped. Or about how I am going to get outof here somehow. Or about how if you live here for too long thehope in you dies and you become one of those walking corpsesworking at the Canadian Tire their entire lives. My cousin Petertold me last Thanksgiving that he saw an old friend of his therethe last time he visited, and that when he said hello his friendlooked right through him as he passed carrying a fresh shipmentof lacrosse sticks. There are teenagers and there are capital-AAdults with serious jobs and in-laws and mortgages and everyoneelse is dead, dead.
Can I put that in a school project?
Let me do you a favour.
When you pass through the pines flanking Highway 89on the approach to Durham you might feel light and cheerfuldriving in the sun, and when the town rises up in front of you,imagine that this is a place like any other, that we have lives here,that there is life, that in some haunted past or nostalgic future youmight settle down in the sun and the grass and the asphalt andbuild a home and have children …
But please don’t be deceived — keep driving.

My best friend Walid told me that I should do the documentaryon sex. I don’t know anything about sex — I mean, nothingfirst-hand — and he knows that. That’s the reason he suggestedit as a topic. He is a dick. I said I wasn’t sure what that documentarywould even be and he said, “Are you kidding?” and startedthrusting his hips at a locker. “You could make it, like, a naturedocumentary. ”
I told him to fuck off.
He said, “Okay, what if the documentary was about sex, but,like, actually in nature, with animals?” I thought that could bepretty funny. But I know even less about that than I do abouthuman sex, which I only understand on account of all the human“nature documentaries” I have watched online. But, uh, that’s atopic I doubt that Wright would let me explore. And I’m not sureI’d want to, anyway.
I didn’t know what my documentary was going to be about,but I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to inspire the same kinds offeelings in others that my favourite movie, Evie of the Deepthorn,did in me. I wanted to make people feel like there was somethingurgent rising up out of them, something beyond themselves thatwas scary and insightful and beyond their control. I think it’simportant for you to understand, too.


A puzzling, wonderfully strange book – a powerful and promising debut.

Evie of the Deepthorn finds magic in the details of everyday life and creates meaningful connections that vanish as fast as they are drawn.

Andre's writing is poised and mature and exceptional. The honesty and intelligence of his voice is so rare these days, in fiction. The believability of his central character never wavers and by the end of the book I was in tears. The book is layered and layered with mystery, poetry, suffering and hope, the best kind of writing. Really, truly, it's a stunning work and I hope you get a chance to read it.

A gorgeous, urgent, nonlinear exploration of loss, belonging, rage, and connection, Evie of the Deepthorn announces André Babyn as an unmissable talent. These characters leap off the page in Babyn’s vivid prose as they simmer in suburban bedrooms, explore strange, uncanny forests, and cross paths with one another in contradictory and mysterious ways. Unconstrained and wise, Babyn’s debut is a strange and beautiful gift.

Babyn's debut novel has moments of deeply affecting writing and captures the emotional void of depression and the fear that trembles alongside desire with a deft touch.

Evie of the Deepthorn challenges the psyche like a cautionary tale. By turns of heartbreak, dissolution, victory, and more, the prose is as poetic as it is haunting. A work for those with a daring heart.

Evie of the Deepthorn is a daring, inventive debut novel, and deeply affecting.

Babyn has a way with words. ..this book takes a unique approach to universal themes, rendering the struggles of adolescence, growth, and grief in poignant detail.

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