Meadowlark

By Wendi Stewart

Meadowlark
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Winner of the Cover Design Award and Shortlisted for the Fiction Trade Book of the Year Award at the 2016 Alberta Book Publishing Awards!
Shortlisted for the Second Annual Kobo Emerging Writer Prize -- Literary Fiction!

When her family's car goes through the ice on Rainy Lake ... Read more


Overview

Winner of the Cover Design Award and Shortlisted for the Fiction Trade Book of the Year Award at the 2016 Alberta Book Publishing Awards!
Shortlisted for the Second Annual Kobo Emerging Writer Prize -- Literary Fiction!

When her family's car goes through the ice on Rainy Lake one cold March day in 1962, six-year-old Rebecca Archer is the only person her father is able to pull from the sinking vehicle. But as Rebecca grows up in a farmhouse haunted by the absence of her mother and baby brother, raised by a man left nearly paralyzed with grief, she wonders if her father really did save her after all.

Eventually, though, Rebecca finds solace in the company of her friends: Chuck, the sensitive son of a violently abusive father; and Lissie, an Aboriginal girl being raised alone by a perfectionist white mother. As these three young people protect and support one another, Rebecca discovers that by saving Chuck and Lissie, she may also save herself.

In her debut novel, Wendi Stewart tells the luminous, deeply imagined story of a young woman's hard-won triumph over heartbreaking personal tragedy.

Wendi Stewart

Wendi Stewart grew up on a farm in Northwestern Ontario and now makes her home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. She has been published in The Antigonish Review, The Leaf, the Owen Sound Sun Times, and in Every Second Thursday (Glenmalure Publications). She currently has columns appearing in the Fort Frances Times and the Chronicle Herald. Her first novel, Meadowlark, was released Fall 2015.

Excerpt

One

My mother pulls her knees up in the big chair by the morning window. That's what she calls it, the morning window, where she sits to forget she lives in a place where winter comes and stays too long. Godforsaken, she says at times, when she thinks she can't possibly bear one more minute of a northern Ontario winter.

It was here, she said, pointing to the ground beneath her with an angry jab of her finger, that the glaciers stopped and burped, leaving a tract of farmland in between the rocks and lakes, along the Rainy River, before they, the glaciers, continued on with their gouging and tearing up the soil and scraping down to the bare rock, carving out the Canadian Shield. She shivers and pulls her shoulders up and closes her eyes, probably trying to imagine that winter has gone, that the sky is blue and warm and calm.

"As if England's any better," my father says, an accusing tone in his voice as he flings insult for insult. My mother never lets on, shakes her head and closes her eyes.

The rising sun shines in through the window's glass and drenches my mother in light, the many shades of yellow woven in and out of her hair pulled back in a braid. Her hair is almost always tied back, gathered with her magic fingers, fingers that work on their own without her eyes, without a mirror. I can't remember her hair ever hanging loose. She holds a white porcelain mug up to her face, the steam from the coffee rising up around her. She breathes in as though the smell itself might warm every cell in her body. She looks like she is dreaming.

I want to stand in front of her and memorize the details of her, the colour of her cheeks, flushed slightly on either side, her eyebrows thick but perfectly shaped, her lashes long and sweeping, her eyes a deep blue, somewhere between blue and green, a single dimple, the mirror image of mine, on the left side, a deep fissure where I am tempted to place my finger, wiggle it to see where the hole goes. I want to memorize the way she runs the backs of her fingers along her jaw and drops her eyes when she is tired, as if her mother might have done the same when my mother was little, a genetic motion. I want to memorize how she stands up tall, her back arched with her hand on her forehead, her teeth together, a look that says I've had enough, a warning to everyone but me.

Reviews

Praise for Meadowlark:
"Wendi Stewart's Meadowlark is lyrical and vivid, startlingly fresh writing about childhood and loss, decaying dreams, bravery and the everyday brutality that is sometimes visited upon the damaged and the innocent alike. It is about the fast, inviolate friendships that see us through. Stewart creates characters that will last. Here is ultra-wise and propulsive writing about all the small dramatic moments that loom large and make us quake. "
~ Lisa Moore, author of Caught and February
"Stewart's story reflects self-discovery in the midst of suffering. Meadowlark is a novel of tragedy infused with hope and survival. "
~ Kirsten Parucha, Quill & Quire
"Wendi Stewart has a smart and compelling heroine in Rebecca Archer. "
~ Chelsea Rooney, National Post
"Read it for Wendi Stewart's powerful evocation of loss and for the hope held throughout that these orphans will find some escape. "
~ Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail

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