Since the death of her parents in 1791, Lily McEvoy has lived as a recluse in her isolated Armagh County manor with her two maidservants and Titus, the farmhand who has become her whipping boy. But tonight, the heiress is expecting company. Her guest is Master Anselm, the legendary stone cutter who has transformed the estate’s abandoned salt mine into an immense funerary monument to the memory of the McEvoy family, sculpting bas-reliefs in the chapels, crypts and tombs he has carved out of the rock salt of its cavernous walls.
Lily is sniffing powdered salt in the attic as she summons the shadow of her father, the cruel Irish Rear Admiral Magnus McEvoy, hero of the capture of Quebec and absolute master of his estate, and of her mother, the mysterious Laurence, she of the webbed feet who emerged from the river of a stormy night.
But the same salt that has preserved Lily’s memories is desiccating her. Her obsession with the past now risks transforming her, like Lot’s wife, into a pillar of salt—crystallized by the family’s abominable secrets. These secrets, and the instrument of her revenge, she will today finally reveal to Anselm over their precipitous evening meal.
Drawing from the history of the conquest of Quebec and Irish legend, this is an exotic new way to tell a very old story.
Born in the Town of Mount Royal in Quebec, Martine Desjardins worked as an assistant editor-in-chief at ELLE Quebec magazine for four years before leaving to devote herself to writing. Presently she works as a free-lance rewriter, translator and journalist for L’actualite, an award-winning French-language current affairs magazine in Canada. Her first novel, Le cercle de Clara was published by Leméac in 1997, and was nominated for both the Prix littéraires du Québec and the Grand prix des lectrices Elle Québec in 1998. It has been published by Talonbooks in English as Fairy Ring.
Fred A. Reed
International journalist and award-winning literary translator Fred A. Reed is also a respected specialist on politics and religion in the Middle East. After several years as a librarian and trade union activist at the Montreal Gazette, Reed began reporting from Islamic Iran in 1984, visiting the Islamic Republic thirty times since then. He has also reported extensively on Middle Eastern affairs for La Presse, CBC Radio-Canada and Le Devoir. Reed is a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for translation.
Award-winning author and literary translator David Homel also works as a journalist, editor and screenwriter. He was born in Chicago in 1952 but left at the end of the tumultuous 1960s and continued his education in Europe and Toronto before settling in Montreal in around 1980. He worked at a variety of industrial jobs before beginning to write fiction in the mid-1980s. His six novels to date have been translated into several languages and published around the world.
“Mining from the past, Desjardins extracts treasures without 'getting caught,' and surfaces like a breath of fresh air. A Covenant of Salt marries literary traditions in a sleek gothic ceremony, silvery salt sprinkled like confetti and the Saint Lawrence coursing through.
— Montreal Review of Books