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Fiction Literary

Deep River Night

A Novel

by (author) Patrick Lane

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Feb 2019
Literary, Psychological, Small Town & Rural
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
    List Price

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From bestselling author Patrick Lane: In the style of Cormac McCarthy, Russell Banks, and Annie Proulx, Deep River Night is set over the course of forty-eight hours in a remote sawmill community, where violence, complicity, and inaction run deep.

World War II vet Art Kenning is the alcoholic first-aid man in an isolated sawmill village in the interior of B.C., where he dreads the sound of the five whistles that summon him to the mill floor whenever a worker is hurt. Traumatized by an incident in Holland, when he stood by while members of his unit committed a horrific act, he loses himself in drink, and in memories of the love affair he had with a woman in wartime Paris. But the sad comfort of his self-imposed detachment is shattered when one of the most powerful men at the mill arrives at his door late one evening to ask for his help. What unfolds over the course of that night and following day will force Art to confront acts of evil, both in the present and the past, as well as the tragic consequences of his own inaction.
     Alternating with Art's story are the stories of Joel, a teenaged runaway who owes his life to Art; Wang Po, the mill's cook and a survivor of the Rape of Nanjing; Alice, a young Indigenous girl sold from a residential school; and Cliff, a Metis man with a hidden past. These lives, and more, intertwine to reveal a complex, morally ambiguous community where the undercurrents of violence and complicity are never far from the surface.
     Writing with exquisite precision and emotional force, Patrick Lane gives us a novel whose darkness is fractured by moments of light. Deep River Night is a riveting story about the burden of bearing witness to a terrible crime.

About the author

Patrick Lane, considered by most writers and critics to be one of Canada's finest poets, was born in 1939 in Nelson, BC. He grew up in the Kootenay and Okanagan regions of the BC Interior, primarily in Vernon. He came to Vancouver and co-founded a small press, Very Stone House, with bill bissett and Seymour Mayne. He then drifted extensively throughout North and South America. He worked at a variety of jobs, from labourer to industrial accountant, but much of his life was spent as a poet. He was also the father of five children and grandfather of nine. He won nearly every literary prize in Canada, from the Governor General's Literary Award to the Canadian Authors Association Award to the Dorothy Livesay Prize. In 2014, he became an Officer of the Order of Canada, an honour that recognizes a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree. His poetry and fiction have been widely anthologized and translated into many languages. His more recent books include Witness: Selected Poems 1962-2010 (Harbour Publishing, 2010), The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane (Harbour Publishing, 2011), Washita (Harbour Publishing, 2014; shortlisted for the 2015 Governor General's Literary Award), Deep River Night (McClelland & Stewart, 2018) and a posthumous collection, The Quiet in Me (Harbour Publishing, 2022). Lane spent the later part of his life in Victoria, BC, with his wife, the poet Lorna Crozier. He died in 2019.

Patrick Lane's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Deep River Night:

“Patrick Lane is one of the finest writers I know.” —David Adams Richards, author of Principles to Live By
“In a novel that journeys from wartime Europe and China to the remote interior of B.C., Patrick Lane offers us a wise, profound meditation on loss, longing, and the struggle for redemption. It is a work of art in which every sentence sings, revealing love and beauty hidden in unexpected lives and places. Deep River Night is a wonder.” —Guy Vanderhaeghe, author of Daddy Lenin and Other Stories
“The power of Patrick Lane’s prose springs from lived experience, shaped and tempered by the astonishing skill acquired through a lifetime in poetry. Lane has history with this world, these men—the kind of history that sticks in the mind’s eye—and he lays bare the inner workings of a broken mind, sheltering against the unbearable past and bombarded by it anyway. This a mourning book, elegiac, bloody, all fire and ashes, but taking great care for what gentleness may be left in the world.” —Marina Endicott, author of Close to Hugh
Ablaze with a savage compassion, Deep River Night is a vast, sweeping novel of war, loss, violence, and forgiveness. This is Patrick Lane’s song of experience, written in a prose of shadow and light, exquisite as an ink painting, exploring the ways the past will not leave us alone. It is a gorgeous, furious achievement, a work of art of the highest order.” —Steven Price, author of By Gaslight

“It’s a book that touches on greed, power, destruction, responsibility, loss. . . . But, in the end, Deep River Night is a novel that shows that, even amid the darkness, there can still be a little light.” —Vancouver Sun

Deep River Night doesn’t shy away from brutality, but it’s nevertheless a delicate piece of fiction, organized around states of psychological as well as physical fragility. . . . It’s the author’s command of language—the subordination of plot to poetry, in a way that doesn’t slow the one or hyperbolize the other—that holds the massive enterprise together." —Quill and Quire

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