The Speed of Mercy
“Dark family secrets, the lore of the sea, and a tender, protective friendship between women all converge in The Speed of Mercy, an unusual and surprising story set in idyllic rural Nova Scotia. With subtle humour, Conlin picks the locks on the long-closed doors of two families and bares the ugly, painful skeletons everyone knew were there but chose to hide.”
Sylvia D. Hamilton, author of And I Alone Escaped To Tell You
“Christy Ann Conlin is a conjurer: of place, people, and the haunting past. I was instantly caught up in the darkly mysterious world and indelible characters she has brought to life. Gripping, suspenseful, and lyrically written, The Speed of Mercy caught me by the throat and didn’t let go.”
Alix Ohlin, Scotiabank Giller Prize–shortlisted author of Dual Citizens
In these evocative and startling stories, we meet people navigating the elemental forces of love, life, and death. An insomniac on Halifax’s moonlit streets. A runaway bride. A young woman accused of a brutal murder. A man who must live in exile if he is to live at all. A woman coming to terms with her eccentric childhood in a cult on the Bay of Fundy shore.
A master of North Atlantic Gothic, Christy Ann Conlin expertly navigates our conflicting self-perceptions, especially in moments of crisis. She illuminates the personality of land and ocean, charts the pull of the past on the present, and reveals the wildness inside each of us. These stories offer a gallery of both gritty and lyrical portraits, each unmasking the myth and mystery of the everyday.
“Conlin’s characters are fierce, lonely, dangerous, and wild. This is the best short story collection I’ve read in years.”
Annabel Lyon, author of Oxygen and The Golden Mean
“Christy Ann Conlin’s stories achieve a dizzying balance of light and dark — the magical with the murderous. Over and over again, Conlin masterfully depicts the lush, somehow uncanny splendour of high summer only to chill us with a counterbalancing night world of hidden creatures and terrible human secrets. The results make for mesmerizing reading.”
Lynn Coady, author of The Antagonist and Hellgoing
“If you have faith in Flannery O’Connor’s fiction, or if you watch Werner Herzog’s films with a sense of awe, then Christy Ann Conlin’s collection of stories is for you. Equal parts lovely and loathsome, terrifying and tender, this elemental book works with the rawest of raw materials. This is honest and revealing writing from an artist at the top of her craft.”
Alexander MacLeod, author of Light Lifting
“Watermark is propulsive. These linked stories are gothic dark and sparking with brilliant twists. Characters so vivid you can hear their voices, feel their pulse. Here are deep psychological fractures and betrayals, loss and longing. Adventure and abandon. Conlin’s characters are splendidly complex; they are sometimes prisoners, and sometimes breaking free. This book is a dangerous joyride.”
Lisa Moore, author of Caught and Something for Everyone
“From the Gothic heart of the Annapolis Valley to the dreamlike shores of British Columbia, these stories sparkle with wickedness and dark beauty, reminding us again that Conlin is one of Canada’s most daring and original writers. The range and breadth of style and voice in this collection is astonishing, and her gift for the uncanny is as assured as her masterful writing. Whether it’s through the skewed vision of a heartbroken widower or the vivid delusions of an unrepentant killer, she presents a moving and uncompromising exploration of the deep undercurrents of the human psyche, and the tricks that our minds play — on ourselves and each other.”
Kerry Lee Powell, author of Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush
“Watermark takes us beyond mere appearances, offering intimate portraits of characters you quickly realize you only think you know. These are powerful stories that tell secrets — that are interested in, and unafraid of, all the messy details that make up a person, a life.”
Johanna Skibsrud, author of Quartet for the End of Time and The Sentimentalists
“These stories are deliciously discomfiting . . . Suspenseful excavations of family secrets, as smart as they are creepy.”
The Memento is a dazzling, gothic and often mordantly funny meditation on the persistence of memory as a living, perhaps undead thing. The summer Fancy Mosher turns twelve, she goes to work at Petal’s End, the rotting, sprawling mansion perched on the cliffs of The Bay of Fundy. Owned by the Parker family, abandoned after the First World War, and briefly revived as a convalescent hospital during the next, it has been kept barely standing for years. The remaining Parkers—Estelle and her daughters, the beautiful, talented Pomeline, and the young, mercurial Jenny—now ruled by fading matriarch Marigold, return for one final visit. But we come to realize that, like the children in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the children here are not entirely innocent or naïve.
Marigold, having suffered a stroke, lives in fey twilight, only half-hearing the sinister and sordid goings-on that are slowly closing in on her family. Her son, Charlie, died at Petal’s End many years before, as a result of what is insisted was an accidental hanging. When she decides to give a late summer garden party, Marigold finally becomes a witness to her own complicity. But the reckoning she has so feared, and so scrupulously avoided, is only beginning.
Salvation resides in Fancy Mosher’s quest to accept what could either be a gift or a curse. Fancy may have inherited her grandfather’s power to see and commune with the dead, what the Mosher family calls the memento. The memento shows itself to each person who possesses it in different ways; just as memory often materializes unbidden, so too can the dead. Fancy is the sole hope for learning what the dead want and how to appease them.
“Nothing short of dazzling . . . The dizzying speed of revelation produces, in its masterly way, the effect of what T. S. Eliot calls ‘genuine poetry.’”
Toronto Review of Books
“The Memento is a classic spine-tingler, centering on a haunted house and children hovering between evil and innocence, power and vulnerability . . . Conlin’s novel lingers on relationships between children and servants, children and their (often absent) parents, and elderly relatives — all within the span of one sultry, sordid summer.”
Globe and Mail
“The Memento is a novel of the uncanny, drawing together a coming-of-age story with elements of ghost stories, haunted houses, family curses, and folk tales. It’s a dizzying feat . . . a masterful accomplishment from a powerful writer.”
“Expertly weaving gothic elements, maritime superstition, and the lingering effects of grief, The Memento is an eerie return to form — ceaselessly tense until the last page.”
“Trust in Christy Ann Conlin. Follow the mythic thread she has expertly woven through this rich labyrinth of a novel and you will be transported. This is the work of a master storyteller operating at the height of her craft.”
Alexander MacLeod, author of Light Lifting
“In this exuberant novel, Christy Ann Conlin offers us a grab bag of gothic delights — a creaking groaning mansion, a precocious twelfth-century-born twelve-year-old, tea parties with the dead, and an unnerving number of fleeting darting “somethings” only glimpsed in the corner of your eye. Wildly imaginative.”
Caroline Adderson, author of Ellen in Pieces
Twenty-one-year old Seraphina Sullivan flees her wedding, taking refuge in one of her father’s antique outhouses. Here, she finally confronts the secrets and lies buried in her past. In this wholly original novel, Seraphina longs for a cosmopolitan world but she’s trapped in traditional seaside Nova Scotia. The dramatic landscape and magnificent North Atlantic ocean shape her as much as the traditional culture and rigidly gendered expectations. Seraphina sweeps us into her exhilarating, poignant, and often hilarious journey as she rebels and flees from oppressive rural Nova Scotia to London bars, to strip clubs on the docks, through mental hospital wards and rehab centres, then back to pie factories, country roads, sweeping verandahs and row boats in serene Lupin Cove.
Seraphina’s first-person narrative is propulsive and lyrical, shifting effortlessly between past and present, evoking an array of off-beat characters. Serrie’s best friends, Dearie and Elizabeth, are both dreamers living lives dictated by generations of expectation and oppression. Dearie, the anglicized Acadian who wants to go to New Orleans to find her Cajun relatives, Elizabeth, who fears adult responsibility and scarcity of opportunity. There is Chester, who Seraphina meets in a psychiatric hospital, a man who believes he is a lobster. Seraphina’s brother Percy is a concert violinist who hides in music. Martha, Seraphina’s bitter and exhausted mother, must come up with a scheme to make money to save the family from being homeless. She coerces Seraphina into a complicated scheme which ends in disaster.
Seraphina’s growing despair and sense of disillusionment spiral her towards a climax that is at once unexpected and yet inevitable. Heave is a wholly original coming of age novel that explores what one generation inherits from the next and bursts with relentless hope for the sweet losers who need it most of all.
Full of wonder and delicate despair, Seraphina Sullivan longs for the world, but she’s trapped, just like Dorothy in Oz. Serrie’s got a nasty secret. It’s festering inside her, because in the gothic Annapolis Valley, you don’t show and you never, ever tell.
Finalist, Amazon.ca First Novel
Finalist, Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award
Finalist, Dartmouth Book Award
A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book
Globe and Mail bestseller
Toronto Star bestseller
“This is a wildly energetic debut, alive with characters so vivid they very nearly eclipse one of the tenderest, truest depictions of Nova Scotia life and landscape I think I’ve ever read.”
“Some books, such as this debut novel…should arrive with the kind of label that come on cigarette packs: WARNING: Excess of Talent, Visceral Reation May Ensue. Conlin has produced an extraordinary book that won’t soon be forgotten.”
“Conlin proves herself a keen observer of family life, adept at teasing out the loose ends and following them to uncover the lumps and knots in the fabric.”
“Fresh as a Sea Breeze”
“Highly visual and visceral prose…Right from the first line Heave is a crazy ride”
Halifax Daily News
“One book I will not be passing on is Nova Scotian writer Christy Ann Conlin’s marvellous first novel Heave. This book prompted a whelp of excitement from me. “
Noah Richler, National Post
“Simply a marvellous book . . . The writing is fine, smooth, and tight. This is an honest tale of family love and hate . . . Heave is a powerful book. It’s hard to believe this author is just beginning. I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next.”
Globe and Mail
“Conlin’s debut is sharp…Her sentences are fluid, long and brim with emotion much like Jack Kerouac’s coming of age stories” New Brunswick Reader
“Conlin recalls J.D. Salinger” The Gazette (Montreal)