Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Contemporary Women

Beginning of Was

by (author) Ania Szado

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Apr 2013
Contemporary Women, Friendship, Family Life
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2004
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2013
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it



What would you do if you lost everything?

Following the deaths of her alcoholic husband and young daughter in a car crash, Marta Fett flees her small-town Ontario home for Toronto. She finds herself seeking refuge at a downtown church—not because she’s religious, but because she can think of no other place that would harbour a person as irredeemable as she imagines herself to be in her daughter’s death. She begins to develop tentative relationships at the margins of this community, growing close to an old woman who is preparing to die and to a quiet young girl her own daughter’s age. But there is no escaping the past. Powerful memories insinuate themselves into her new life. And she soon discovers that only by revisiting her past will she find the means and the strength to face the future.

About the author


Ania Szado’s novel Beginning of Was was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Best First Book, Canada/Caribbean), nominated for the international Kiriyama Prize, and was named a NOW magazine Top Ten book. She lives in Toronto.

Ania Szado's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“A beautiful book, honest, unflinching and sometimes almost unbearable in its intensity, yet in the end also hopeful and oddly buoyant.” - Nino Ricci, author of Lives of the Saints and The Origin of Species

“Rich with observations about the twists and turns in life … Szado’s tale comes in a refreshing new voice.” - Toronto Star

“Szado’s prose is restrained and powerful … It isn’t just the story, compelling as it is. Szado evokes our own history of grief and loss and opens us to the fears that haunt our dreams. Ultimately, it is through her fiction that we come to understand how to proceed.” - Ottawa Citizen

“A lyrical evocation of grief, Beginning of Was explores the nature of the human heart with elegance and compassion.” - Helen Humphreys

“Szado’s debut novel, Beginning of Was, tells an emotionally taut tale of trauma without clichés or sentimentality … She also knows how to ratchet up the tension … The surprise book of the year.” - NOW magazine

“This is an auspicious debut and a welcome addition to the range of contemporary Canadian novels that explore survival in the face of despair and loss.” - National Post

“A sparingly written, subtle exploration of personal tragedy and how to survive it, how to cling on, as onto a rock face—slowly inching towards the possibility of a future.” - D.M. Thomas

“Beginning of Was is all touch. Ania Szado communicates the feeling of contact and makes a beautiful ache.” - Gord Downie, author of Coke Machine Glow

“Ania Szado shows once again how Canadian writers can portray with stunning virtuosity the telling details and little events that make a life.” - The Hamilton Spectator

“Szado shows an immense talent for resonant and surprising imagery.” - Quill & Quire

Other titles by Ania Szado

Related lists