The Western Light

By (author): Susan Swan

Mouse’s world is constrained by a number of factors: her mother is dead, her father – the admired country doctor – is emotionally distant, her housekeeper Sal is prejudiced and narrow, and her grandmother and aunt, Big Louie and Little Louie, the only life-affirming presences in her life, live in another city.

Enter Gentleman John Pilkie, the former NHL star who’s transferred to the mental hospital in Madoc’s Landing, where he is to serve out his life-sentence for the murder of his wife and daughter. John becomes a point of fascination for young Mary, who looks to him for the attention she does not receive from her father. He, in turn, is kind to her – but the kindness is misunderstood. When Mary figures out that the attention she receives from the Hockey Killer is different in kind and intent from the attention her Aunt Little Louie receives, her world collapses.

Set against the beautiful and dramatic shore of Georgian Bay, the climax will have readers turning pages with concern for characters they can’t help but love.


Susan Swan

Susan Swan is the author of author of eight books of fiction, including The Biggest Modern Woman of the World, which was nominated for both the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Books in Canada First Novel Award; the internationally best-selling Wives of Bath; and The Western Light, selected as one of the top ten novels of its year by the Ontario Library Association. Born in Midland, Ontario, she attended McGill University, was professor at York University, and chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Patrick Crean.


“Swan, the consummate storyteller, plays her hand shrewdly. There is just as much danger in goodness, she is telling us, as in evil.”
“A gallivanting read bound to become a classic.”
“Swan’s new novel is a tentative, fraught coming-of-age story about the complications of Mary’s desire—for the athletic and charismatic Pilkie on the one hand and her elusive father on the other … Swan’s representations of the two male figures emphasize them as opposing poles in Mary’s desire.”
“[Swan’s] poetic descriptions of Ontario’s harsh winter weather and adept use of colloquial speech … are particularly vivid, and help bring the world of the novel to vibrant life.”
“The timely subject of hockey concussions is absorbing, as is Swan’s consideration of broken minds… At the heart of the novel is a girl’s thoughtful deliberation on the mysteries of good and evil, and how they can be combined in the same person.”
“With its focus on winter in northern towns, pre-medicare medicine, hockey and the very relevant issue of concussions among professional athletes, Swan has added another gem to the Canadian canon.”
“Mouse Bradford is a unique and luminous creation … Gentleman John Pilkie, the hockey killer with a heart of gold, is dressed and ready to become a legend.”
– Paul Gross

“Swan’s elegant diction and structural flow is seamless. This is a novel for all generations.”
“Canadian literary icon Susan Swan is back … Once again, Swan expertly takes on what it meant to be a girl in a time when being a girl was no piece of cake.”

“Readers will revel in the familiar details of home coupled with a dramatic plot.”


  • OLA Evergreen Award 2013, Short-listed
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    288 Pages
    7.75in * 5.26in * .90in


    August 01, 2014


    Cormorant Books



    Book Subjects:

    FICTION / Literary

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