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Fiction Short Stories (single Author)

Instructions for the Drowning

by (author) Steven Heighton

Initial publish date
Apr 2023
Short Stories (single author), Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

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“To say Heighton is an immensely talented writer is true enough but insufficient ... As good a writer as Canada has ever produced.”—National Post

A man recalls his father's advice on how to save a drowning person, but struggles when the time comes to use it. A wife’s good deed leaves a couple vulnerable at the moment when they’re most in need of security—the birth of their first child. Newly in love, a man preoccupied by accounts of freak accidents is befallen by one himself. In stories about love and fear, idealisms and illusions, failures of muscle and mind and all the ways we try to care for one another, Steven Heighton’s Instructions for the Drowning is an indelible last collection by a writer working at the height of his powers.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Steven Heighton (1961–2022) was a writer and musician. His nineteen previous books include the novels Afterlands, a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, and the bestselling The Shadow Boxer; the Writers' Trust Hilary Weston Prize finalist memoir Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos; and The Waking Comes Late, winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Instructions for the Drowning

"This last collection is one to be savoured."
—Toronto Star

"Masterful ... the Joycean stories collected in Instructions for the Drowning are searing reminders: that the other side of rage is a vale of tears."
—Foreword Reviews (starred)

“As a poet and later as fiction writer Steven Heighton had this stunning range of voice in his stories. He would go anywhere. He always surprised you. His death as a still young writer is a tragedy and a great loss. He was a writer who grew so much with each book. You could always witness it happening.”
—Michael Ondaatje, author of Warlight and The English Patient

"Steven Heighton is one of our most ethical, profound writers. These stories face delusion and illumination, rebellion and surrender, they shock with their beauty and their understanding. The characters, living and dead, are gatherers of knowledge yet the deepest parts of themselves come alive in all they cannot know. Heighton leaves us an unforgettable work that, through its rigour and exactitude, finds within itself a desperately moving liberation."
—Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Praise for Steven Heighton

“[A] brilliant storyteller … [His] exquisite, powerful meditations on who we are place Heighton among the great Canadian writers … His focus is contemporary, but he is a practitioner of the old school, a writer for those who love to read widely and deeply.”—Donna Bailey Nurse,
Literary Review of Canada

“The key to the book’s force is Heighton’s imperative to humanize and individualize everyone he encounters ... These are not statistics but people, each sensitively depicted ... A stunning book, by turns heartbreaking and affirming, fundamentally human in its depth and scope.”Quill & Quire (starred review)

“Vivid and powerfully drawn ... The Shadow Boxer is an energetic, fluent and interesting novel by a writer who has already shown himself to be gifted, capable of exploring and experimenting with language.”—Times Literary Supplement

“Heighton works (and plays) with words in wondrous ways few contemporary poets even dream of attempting, let alone conquering.”—Judith Fitzgerald, Globe and Mail

Other titles by Steven Heighton