Night in the World

By Sharon English

Night in the World
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A 49th Shelf 2022 Book of the Year

A tender ensemble novel about coming home to oneself and one's family through the beauty and soulfulness of Earth, even in an age of unravelling.

Brothers Justin and Oliver have never been close. Justin owns an iconic Toronto restaurant and ... Read more


A 49th Shelf 2022 Book of the Year

A tender ensemble novel about coming home to oneself and one's family through the beauty and soulfulness of Earth, even in an age of unravelling.

Brothers Justin and Oliver have never been close. Justin owns an iconic Toronto restaurant and lives with his wife and daughter in Baby Point. Oliver, a former environmental reporter, does admin for a local gym and rents an attic apartment. Yet both men know their worlds stand on the brink. With their mother's abrupt death, each sets out to set things right: Oliver to reclaim a beloved home, Justin to save one that's falling apart.

Intersecting Justin's and Oliver's journeys is Gabe: a budding biologist enchanted by the underappreciated beauty of moths, and conflicted by the demands of scientific scrutiny. As the brothers' pursuits take them from Toronto Island to the Humber River, from drugs and transgressive art to meetings with imperiled activists, Gabe stakes everything on a glimpse of a new possibility.

Sharon English has penned a tender and powerful novel about the claims places make on our hearts, and how journeys into darkness are sometimes necessary to see through catastrophe. Night in the World explores the need to end our separations from each other and from nature -- coming home, at last, to a beleaguered yet still beautiful world.

Sharon English

Sharon English has published two collections of short stories, Uncomfortably Numb and Zero Gravity, as well as stories and essays in numerous journals. Zero Gravity was longlisted for the Giller Prize and ReLit Award, and included in the Globe & Mail's Top 100 titles for the year. Originally from London, Ontario, Sharon lived for many years in Toronto and now makes her home in Nova Scotia.


"Night in the World is a splendid and searing novel, pressed up against the tremours of our times. I read it compulsively, astonished by the way Sharon English turns Toronto inside out, making the city a wild and watery landscape, bringing the beyond-the-human close. With dextrous language and expansive love, English creates complex characters struggling to find their truths in a fraught world ultimately hopeful and vital. The novel offers us everything we need from fiction right now. " -- Catherine Bush, author of Blaze Island and The Rules of Engagement

"Once started I couldn't stop reading, and the intensity and engagement increased as each page turned. I could speak of the book in traditional ways: the story, the characters, the extraordinary prose, the insight, intelligence, skill. .. But there's something else. Sharon English has written the compelling, the irresistible text, in which the natural world is what compels. This is a wildly important book, brilliant, necessary. " -- Deena Metzger, author of La Vieja: A Journal of Fire, A Rain of Night Birds, and Ruin & Beauty: Selected Poems

"In Sharon English's astounding new novel Night in the World, we come to understand that our world teeters on the edge of losses so radical no one can fathom the consequences. Complex, deeply imagined characters: two brothers, a budding but conflicted moth biologist and the wild landscape of Toronto (every bit as powerful a character as the humans) navigate new paths, as each of us inevitably must.

Read this novel: Sharon English is a deeply reliable guide to place and possibility. " -- Susan Cerulean, Author of I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird: A Daughter's Memoir

"Justin and Oliver are estranged brothers who are both nearing a breaking point in their lives; Gabe is a biologist in love with moths. With astonishing skill and insight, English immerses us completely in each of these characters' psyches and their worlds: the world of night clubs and coke addiction, of anti-fracking activism, of academic research and perhaps most unforgettably, of moths. Shadowing all three lives is the fact of climate dissolution, and a relentlessly extractive and dissociated human world. As in Powers' The Overstory, human and nonhuman life are densely entangled. Chapter titles alternate between "River" "Island" and "Lake" and water is what ultimately draws the three main characters together; the city of Toronto, where these bodies of water are located, is shown to be home to a vast urban wilderness. Night in the World is a novel about loss and endings but it also pulses with revelation: moonrise in a Toronto ravine, the nighttime miracle of moths, bonds between humans that reassert themselves in unexpected, defiant, beautiful ways. " -- Lise Weil, author of In Search of Pure Lust and editor of Dark Matter: Women Witnessing

"An intelligent and compelling novel that hits at the heart of what is happening to society and to the earth in our dire times. Sharon English interweaves stories of three people who are deeply affected by what humans have done to the natural world and to the way we live. . . As [Night in the World] proceeds, the author brings to the fore the beauty and the desperate needs of the earth, the water, and all that needs to change if we (and not just the human "we") are to survive. " -- Maya Spector, author of The Persephone Cycle

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