cover image The Clay Girl

The Clay Girl

Heather Tucker. ECW (Perseus/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-77041-303-0

Tucker’s triumphant debut novel is the story of a childhood lost, a family found, and a coming-of-age, recounted in precise and poetic language. Harriet Appleton is eight years old, the littlest of the six sisters scattered among their relatives after a tragedy befalls the already struggling family. Sent to Nova Scotia to stay with her aunts Mary and Nia, who rename her Ari, a name she keeps, she finds herself safe and loved for the first time in her life. The idyllic period is cut short when Ari’s mother insists that she be sent back to her family in Toronto. Ari will spend the rest of her childhood trying to get back to the only place where she was allowed to be a child. She is aided by sympathetic teachers and a beloved stepfather, held back by her mother’s cruelty and a sense of duty to protect her step-siblings. Ari writes, “all the houses that have kept me, slept me, have written their own songs,” and indeed the broken homes that Ari moves between, while devastating to consider, contribute to the intricate beauty of the tale. It is at times difficult to read, but this novel is worth every moment of pain and every tear. Agent: Hilary McMahon, Westwood Creative Artists. (Oct.)