First Fiction Friday: What Remains of Elsie Jane

What are the lengths you’d go to see someone you loved, one last time? Such is the question at the centre of Chelsea Wakelyn’s hilarious and heartbreaking debut novel What Remains of Elsie Jane (Dundurn Press), when titular character Elsie Jane loses Sam, the man she thought she’d grow old with.


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What Remains of Elsie Jane (Dundurn Press, 2023)


Chelsea Wakelyn is a writer, musician, and mother to two lovely, eccentric humans. She lives on Vancouver Island. What Remains of Elsie Jane is her debut novel.

Why you need to read this now:

Examining the ceaseless labour of motherhood, the stigma of death by drug poisoning, and the allure of magical thinking in the wake of tragedy, What Remains of Elsie Jane is a heart-splitting reminder that grief is borne from the depths of love. Emily Austin calls it “poignant, laugh-out-loud funny, weird, and heartbreaking.”

With a raw and honest look at how deep in the pits of grief someone could go, Chelsea Wakelyn paints a not-so-pretty picture of Elsie Jane’s spiral into her grief and how messy it can get. We see Elsie Jane poring over Sam’s old love letters, pacing her house restlessly trying to look for the signs of drug use she missed, bickering with his ghost and those of her dead parents night after night. As the year unfolds and Elsie is still paralyzed by grief, she becomes obsessed with a local murder mystery, attends a series of disastrous internet dates in search of her new soul mate, and solicits a spacetime wizard via Craigslist who will bring her through the cosmos back to Sam so she can save him. Sounds unconventional, right? By the end of this book, you’ll just want to give Elsie Jane one big hug to make sure she knows she’s OK.

X + Y

What Remains of Elsie Jane equals the heartbreaking, well-written portrait of grief after losing a partner from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking plus the messy, darkly funny spiralling mother trope from Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

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Many thanks to Rajdeep Singh at Dundurn for sharing What Remains of Elsie Jane with us! You can buy the book in paperback or as an accessible epub now.