Monday, February 22, 2010

Fiction: Sweetness from Ashes by Marlyn Horsdal

It surprised me to learn that Sweetness from Ashes (Brindle & Glass) was Marlyn Horsdal’s debut novel. Those deeply entrenched in Canadian writing -- especially from the Western part of the country -- know her name well. From 1984 until 2002, she was co-publisher of the small but esteemed Horsdal & Schubart Publishing imprint. She has edited many very good Canadian authors and I’ve always known her own voice held clarity and sense, though it turns out I must have known this through her non-fiction and essay work.

It was, however, unsurprising to discover that Sweetness from Ashes is a confident and accomplished debut. An exploration of family feuds and secrets, Horsdal leads her readers across Canada and to parts of Africa on a journey of familial discovery. As those of us who read a great deal of CanLit know, such journeys often end in shame and heartbreak. Refreshingly, though, Horsdal’s vision is a more mature one. She leads us across her vistas with a sort of vibrant abandon. I loved Sweetness from Ashes. It’s a book for which I feel I’ve waited a long time.

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