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Fiction Literary

Girlfriend on Mars

by (author) Deborah Willis

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Jun 2023
Literary, Humorous, Science Fiction
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2023
    List Price

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A funny, poignant, and page-turning debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.

Amber Kivinen is moving to Mars. Or at least, she will be if she wins a chance to join MarsNow. She and twenty-three reality TV contestants from around the world―including a handsome Israeli soldier, an endearing fellow Canadian, and an assortment of science nerds and wannabe influencers―are competing for two seats on the first human-led mission to Mars, sponsored by billionaire Geoff Task. Meanwhile Kevin, Amber’s boyfriend of fourteen years, was content going nowhere until Amber left him―and their hydroponic weed business―behind. As he tends to the plants growing in their absurdly overpriced Vancouver basement apartment, Kevin tunes in to find out why the love of his life is so determined to leave the planet with somebody else.

An audaciously original debut from an “immensely talented writer” (Emily St. John Mandel), Girlfriend on Mars is at once a satirical indictment of our pursuit of fame and wealth amidst environmental crisis, and an exploration of humanity’s deepest longing, greatest quest, and most enduring cliché: love.

About the author

Contributor Notes

DEBORAH WILLIS’s last short story collection, The Dark and Other Love Stories, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her first book, Vanishing and Other Stories, was named one of The Globe and Mail’s Best Books of 2009, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for fiction. Her work has also appeared in The Walrus, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Iowa Review, Lucky Peach, and Zoetrope. She has worked as a bookseller at Munro’s Books in Victoria, BC, as a technical writer, and as a writer-in-residence at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, MacEwan University, and the University of Calgary. Deborah currently works as an editor at Freehand Books and lives in Calgary with her partner and daughter.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Girlfriend on Mars:

“Tender and funny, at once bizarre and achingly human, Girlfriend on Mars does the impossible and makes the journey to the Red Planet seem more believable than our own unsteady, beloved world. . . . A shimmering novel with a heart as vast as the cosmos itself.”
—Amanda Leduc, author of The Centaur’s Wife
“How did Deborah Willis manage to write about love, grief, corporate greed, climate change, and a reality show that sends two people to Mars with such grace and humour and compassion? Girlfriend on Mars blew my mind! This is one of the most original novels I’ve read in a long time.”
—Ann Hood, author of Fly Girl

“A compulsive blast of a read, Deborah Willis’s completely of-the-moment novel delivers a wry, witty, and ultimately moving commentary on celebrity culture and altruism, eco-posturing and sustainability, love and the relentless drive for more. Sharply observed, funny, and tender, Girlfriend on Mars will break your heart.”
—Jacqueline Baker, author of The Broken Hours

“Girlfriend on Mars is out of this world. Deborah Willis pushes the absurdly miserable, deeply addictive pleasure of reality TV to its only possible end, zooming from euphoria past satire to slam into real life and death. Prescient and poignant, Amber’s reality is an inch from coming true.”
—Marina Endicott, author of The Difference

Other titles by Deborah Willis