cover image Quint


Dionne Irving. 7.13, $19.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-73617-672-6

Irving’s impressive debut follows a set of quintuplets born in Canada in the 1940s and based on the historical 1934 Dionne quints, freshly reimagining their exploitation from several points of view. The first and most whimsical is that of “Sister,” an unnamed sixth identical Phalene sibling who died at birth and was secretly buried by her father. There’s also the quints’ mother, Catherine; their father, August, a poor farmer; Dr. Emile LeFevre, who exercises unrelenting control over the children’s living conditions from the moment of their birth; Anthony Rhys Osborne, the bureaucrat turned impresario who whisks the children away from their parents, makes them legal wards of the Crown, and appoints himself their guardian before building Quintland!, where the growing girls are exhibited from infancy on, as if in a zoo. As the sisters mature—and not all of them survive past adolescence—they learn to rely on each other for protection and a badly needed sense of what is actually real. The well-paced plot includes arson, an attempt to escape from Quintland!, a fatal accident, and more, all handled with aplomb. Much has been written about the real-life quintuplets, including another recent novel, but Irving does justice to the novel’s inspiration. (Aug.)