Wait Softly Brother
From lost siblings to the horrors of war to tales of selkie wives, Wait Softly Brother is filled with questions about memory, reality and the truths hidden in family lore.
After twenty years of looping frustrations Kathryn walks out of her marriage and washes up in her childhood home determined to write her way to a new life. There she is put to work by her aging parents sorting generations of memories and mementos as biblical rains fall steadily and the house is slowly cut off from the rest of the world. Lured away from the story she is determined to write – that of her stillborn brother, Wulf – by her mother’s gift of crumbling letters, Kathryn instead begins to piece together the strange tale of an earlier ancestor, Russell Boyt, who fought as a substitute solider in the American Civil War. As the water rises, and more truths come to the surface, the two stories begin to mingle in unexpected and beautiful ways. In this elegantly written novel Kuitenbrouwer deftly unravels the stories we are told to believe by society and shows the reader how to weave new tales of hope and possibility.
ALL THE BROKEN THINGS
A novel of exceptional heart and imagination about the ties that bind us to each other, broken and whole, from one of the most exciting voices in Canadian fiction.
September, 1983. Fourteen-year-old Bo, a boat person from Vietnam, lives in a small house in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto with his mother, Thao, and his four-year-old sister, who was born severely disfigured from the effects of Agent Orange. Named Orange, she is the family secret; Thao keeps her hidden away, and when Bo's not at school or getting into fights on the street, he cares for her.
One day a carnival worker and bear trainer, Gerry, sees Bo in a streetfight, and recruits him for the bear wrestling circuit, eventually giving him his own cub to train. This opens up a new world for Bo--but then Gerry's boss, Max, begins pursuing Thao with an eye on Orange for his travelling freak show. When Bo wakes up one night to find the house empty, he knows he and his cub, Bear, are truly alone. Together they set off on an extraordinary journey through the streets of Toronto and High Park. Awake at night, boy and bear form a unique and powerful bond. When Bo emerges from the park to search for his sister, he discovers a new way of seeing Orange, himself and the world around them.
All the Broken Things is a spellbinding novel, at once melancholy and hopeful, about the peculiarities that divide us and bring us together, and the human capacity for love and acceptance.
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's writing is full of dark humour and razor-sharp insight. Catching human fallibility head-on, she demands examination, confrontation, and a reckoning of pain with beauty.
With blood on his hands, Curtis Woolf flees his home in New Mexico for Canada, where he starts a religious commune, the Family. There he heals others and preaches pacifism while enduring the torment of this own damaged soul. Then his lover, Martha, finds his gun and goes south to discover the truth, whatever that might be. Curtis sets out to bring her back, lest the Family fall apart. In the half-light of a nursing home sits Hollis, dragon lord of a lost Mormon line, who has anointed Curtis, damned him, and now awaits his return.
THE NETTLE SPINNER
Weaving together Alma's story with an ancient Flemish folktale about a peasant girl's magical hold over a lustful count, Kuitenbrouwer links the power of narrative with the passion for self-realization. The Nettle Spinner is a gritty, sensuous debut that portrays sex with startling clarity and violence with peculiar tenderness.
In her early twenties, Alma met a tree-planter and fell in love — not with the man but with his strangely romantic work. Now, after several seasons of planting trees out west, the tough-minded hero of Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's visceral first novel has come home to northern Ontario to help reforest the ravaged landscape with a gang of filthy ex-hippies and idealistic students. Baking by day in the hot sun and tormented by mosquitoes and blackflies, Alma and her fellow planters relieve their backbreaking toil at night with sex, dope, and alcohol. But her brief passionate affair with a charismatic newcomer named Willem raises the ire of Karl (whose amorous attentions she has deflected in the past), and he viciously rapes her. Pregnant and alone, Alma flees to an abandoned mining camp where she and Willem once made love. There, with the help of the camp's single weird inhabitant, she constructs for herself and her unwanted baby an increasingly ominous new life.
In an emotional spectrum ranging from corrosive grief to murderous recklessness, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's characters make — or fail to make — the constant adjustments necessary to stay fully human. By intention or accident, each character steps into a more comprehensible life or crosses into seductive darkness.
In the thirteen stories that comprise Way Up, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's canvas stretches from downtown Toronto to isolated farms, from the Canadian Shield to Nova Scotia and Europe, and even into outer space. In "The Last Magic Forest," she turns her Gothic imagination loose in the bush of Northern Ontario, where tree planters have developed a unique culture. In this wasteland of clear-cutting and scarifying, the concept of "nature" overturns everything readers (and tree planters) expect. When Kuitenbrouwer takes a Canadian tree planter to Belgium in "What Had Become of Us," only the outer topography changes. In the superficially more cultivated European forest, the value and meaning of human life depends on the inner topography the forester brings with her from the Ontario bush. In other stories, Kuitenbrouwer's characters engage in a continual play with perspective, in a perpetual balancing act.
What Had Become of Us
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's haunting short story "What Had Become of Us," is from her 2003 debut book of short fiction, Way Up. Published on the occasion of Goose Lane Editions's 60th anniversary, it is also part of the six@sixty collection.