Christy Ann Conlin, Down Home in the Summer
By Marie Cameron

Dearest,

Well, through a marvellous coincidence, I came across this review at Topaz Literary: Salt Water, Myth, and Memory: The Speed of Mercy by Christy Ann Conlin.I was overjoyed with this incredible literary critique by Lindsay E. Hobbs, how the review itself is so skillfully written. Lindsay E. Hobbs is my ideal reader, the kind I imagine when I’m writing.

“If I told you that there are scenes both of blueberry picking and blueberry jam-making, that the cast is almost entirely female, and that much of the novel consists of the inner workings of a 54-year-old woman’s mind, you might be left with a certain kind of impression. 

Reader, you would be wrong. 

This is an unusual and compelling novel, one that braids together elements of family drama, psychological realism, thriller and suspense tropes, and magical lore, with chapter titles that read like poetry and engaging female characters whose depths are as fathomless as the ocean that links them together.

Topaz Literary
Christy Ann Conlin on the fathomless ocean

The Characters in My Fiction

 The characters in my new novel are women of all ages, especially middle aged and the elderly, characters who are people of colour, working class and working poor, women who struggle with mental illness. And women who all dazzle at the edges, who are able to piece together clues in dangerous times and solve a decades old murder, and bust a dark men’s society. How can they do this? Because no one is really paying attention to them. But they pay attention to everything. They see what no one else sees and hear what no one else hears.

However, the real key to this book for me was way that it gave voices to people who are marginalized by society. Stella, Dianne, Seraphina, Granny Scotia—these main characters are all women who are dismissed by society as mentally ill, elderly, living with dementia. This novel gives them not only voices, but agency, and I absolutely loved reading about a cast of women whom society underestimated.

TOPAZ LITERARY

Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Penelope Farmer and painter, Maud Lewis.

These renegades populate my fiction, in particular The Speed of Mercy. I found it intriguing when I was writing the book and the hero of the characters were drawn from real life, real women who in different ways lived isolated and lonely lives all the while taking up space through their work, the work through which they live on. In The Speed of Mercy, Stella seas the work of Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson and Penelope Farmer. She also is influenced by the life of painter, Maud Lewis.

Halifax, March Break, on our way to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to see “The Maud Lewis House”.

I promise you I will write another letter about these writers and their roles in The Speed of Mercy. I’ll also write more about Maud Lewis the painter, who lived not that far from me. We’ve been to her house in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia many times with the children. It’s always a bit surreal to see it there, as a piece of found art, when we use to drive by it, all abandoned and in decay. That’s where I got the idea for Stella to visit the house, both at the original site when it was a house, and then at the Gallery, when it became…art.

But that’s for another note.

Until then, I salute you and wish you the brightest and sparkliest days of summer.

Happy Solstice,

Christy Ann

P.S. Check out Topaz Literary.