In her early twenties, Alma met a treeplanter and fell in love — not with the man but with his strangely romantic work. Now, with a filthy, fly-bitten crew of misfits, idealists, and transients, she works to reforest the ravaged landscape of northern Ontario. In an emotional freefall after a passionate affair with a charismatic newcomer and a vicious attack, Alma retreats, pregnant and alone, to an abandoned mining settlement. There, with the help of the camp’s single inhabitant, she constructs for herself and her unwanted baby a world that grows more and more ominous.
To keep terror at bay, she weaves cloth from stinging nettle fibre. Like the peasant girl in the ancient Flemish folk tale who vanquishes her seducer by weaving him a nettle shroud, Alma faces her peril, and frees herself and her child. The Nettle Spinner is a stark, vigorous, and sophisticated debut novel that portrays sex with startling clarity and violence with peculiar tenderness.
“Brilliantly, this writer illustrates the need for an examined life. Analysis. Accountability. A responsibility that we have to the world around us, to each other, the earth beneath our feet … She manages, and often, to knock me off my feet in one sentence flat … Unconventional, dense, provocative prose.”– Globe and Mail
“Sections of The Nettle Spinner
are visceral and nasty and positively hum … Immensely satisfying, both as an elaboration of the themes Kuitenbrouwer took up in Way Up
, her earlier collection of short stories, and as a contribution to the tradition of sexy Canadian fiction written by women.”– Winnipeg Free Press
“In The Nettle Spinner
, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer intertwines an old-world tale of peasant love and a count’s power with the modern story of a wayward treeplanting crew. Where the former is traditional folk tale, the latter is feral, fecund, and sexually fierce. Kuitenbrouwer is a brawny, gifted writer. The Nettle Spinner
is one of those forceful, elemental novels where bliss and ache compound into an unexpected sublime.”
“Kuitenbrouwer uses a bold, unapologetic Canadian consciousness to explore existential concerns.”