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Fiction Historical


A Novel

by (author) Anna Maxymiw

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Jun 2022
Historical, Occult & Supernatural, Feminist
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2022
    List Price

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Loosely based on the lives of real 17th-century figures, Minique is a fierce outsider narrative, a feminist fable, a survival story, and a turbulent romance rolled into one utterly captivating novel.

The buzzing in her head gets louder, like there are more bees, and the itching on the top of her mouth is everywhere now, all across her tongue and teeth and the inside of her cheeks, hot, hot, hot. She takes a breath and she sees these men in the forest, sees their hands covered in blood as they skin beavers, ripping the fur from the shiny meat.
Montréal, 1680s: Minique has a secret she can’t ever tell. She knows there are horrific consequences for girls and women who do not conform. She saw it with her own eyes when Anne, the aubergiste, was viciously marched through town and charged with crimes she didn’t commit. Besides, Minique has never had family members to tell. She remembers little of her mother, a fille du roi, who arrived in Montréal on a ship; she rarely sees her father, a coureur des bois who is often away; and she barely speaks with her Tante Marie, a stern, hard woman.
Years later, after a string of tragedies, Minique has abandoned the hostility of the town and its people. She has built a home for herself in the woods, outside the boundary of Montréal. But her solitary existence is interrupted when she learns that Antoine de Cadillac, an ambitious Frenchman with a violent past, is after a monopoly of the fur trade in New France. Though initially repulsed by his greed, Minique is powerfully drawn to him. Soon, their paths start to cross in unpredictable ways as Cadillac’s determination to learn more about the “witch in the wood” intensifies. They forge a reckless, passionate connection with an ever-shifting dynamic that Minique welcomes until she realizes that everything—down to the core of who she is and the secret she carries—is at stake.
By turns fierce, gripping, poignant, and menacing, Minique is historical fiction with a contemporary twist. Here is a one-of-a-kind story about a woman’s reckoning with her own power and what she will do to protect it.

About the author

Contributor Notes

ANNA MAXYMIW's memoir Dirty Work: My Gruelling, Glorious, Life-Changing Summer In the Wilderness won the Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Award for Nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Maclean's, Hazlitt, and Maisonneuve, and has won a National Magazine Award. She lives in Toronto.

Excerpt: Minique: A Novel (by (author) Anna Maxymiw)

Cadillac smiles, revealing more of his sharp, crooked teeth. Faut aller chercher le loup, Minique suddenly hears in her head, the thin thread of Jeanne’s song from long ago. Have to find the wolf. Find him, so he can’t sneak up on you. Know him.

“Ma bonne mère,” he says, and his voice is taunting and sweet all at the same time, and the hair on the back of her neck rises at the same time her hackles do. “Why are you here?”

“To tell your fortunes, sirs,” she says, making sure that last word doesn’t sound at all deferential.

Cadillac’s smile widens; his eyes are still on her. She takes two steps forward, bringing her body to the table. This way, he’s forced to tip his head back to look up at her.

“See what you can tell me of the future. I don’t care about the past,” he says in a voice so low it feels intimate. And then he holds out his hand.

As she looks down at his face, which is somewhere between mocking and curious, something inside of her urges her not to take his hand. Touch this man, it warns, and something will happen.

But she grabs at him, perhaps more aggressively than he expects, because his fingers curl around hers, tightly, in—what? A warning? She shoots him a look, and he lets go, relaxing enough that his fin­gers curl open and the back of his hand rests in her palm.

She wishes that she had brought a deck of cards for fortune-telling; at least that way, they’d be safely across a table, not having to touch each other. Instead, the weight of his hand is stoking a tendril of something starting to uncurl in her gut, a tenuous thing, treacherous and ripe. It’s disgust at the men around her; disgust at the man sitting in front of her, at the blood she can smell on his hands. And it’s disgust with herself, at the heavy heat that’s unfurled along the muscles of her inner thighs, animal and profane.

Men who destroy aren’t men to be loved. She knows this. She knows that men who are constantly hunting, wanting, and consuming are men to be avoided. There’s always a deep hunger that gnaws at them, that urges them to take more, take more, take more. These hungry men keep their eyes on the tree-line; they search for fur, wood, something unseen. She knows this. She knows this because there’s a part of her that wants the same things, moans with the same hunger.

Cadillac stares at her silently, almost sulkily, as if she had been ignoring him. She’s reminded of a boy pouting, and she can’t help the smile that spreads across her mouth. His eyes snap to her lips, and he inhales, as if he’s about to start speaking, but she tightens her hand and her nails dig into the skin that covers the hardest bones. His eyes narrow, but she bows her head, her breath across his palm. If she wanted to, she could lean her body a little bit forward and the tips of his fingers, now rigid with surprise, would brush against her collarbone, the tops of her breasts. The muscles of his wrist tic, and she runs her tongue across the ridge of her teeth. Don’t feed the wolf, she thinks, but her brain is flooded with fog and hotness.

She closes her eyes and inhales for a moment. She can taste him still, sweet and metallic, like biting your tongue while biting into a candy. He looks hot. He looks feverish with need and appetite.

“What are you doing?”

She opens her eyes; he looks disgusted, but she wonders if that’s a cover for unease. There’s a coating of sweat on his upper lip and he’s moved his head incrementally back, away from her. She wonders how long she had her eyes closed for.

He’s staring at her with narrowed eyes, waiting.

“Gathering my thoughts,” she says.

His eyes get narrower, like he doesn’t believe her. But what can he say? This is her realm and her town.

She notices that his palm is shimmering with a light coat of sweat. She purses her lips and blows, and his fingers jerk.

This she can do. If he won’t be scared of her, then she’ll make him feel something else. The whole banquet has slowed down around them, gone from loud and glistering to muffled and shimmered at the edges of her vision. She doesn’t want to look from side to side, because she doesn’t want to take her eyes off of him, but she wonders if she did whether she’d see the men frozen like gargoyles. It’s just the two of them now, two masters of their own domains. She’s no longer a woman, fragile at the hands of men. Instead, she’s an equal. Tall. Strong. The creator of her own world.

“What do you see?”

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Minique and Anna Maxymiw
“I was completely bewitched by Minique—her struggles, her magic, her fierce curiosity and strength. This beautifully crafted novel is a timeless, bold wonder, the kind of tale that begs to be read by firelight, late into the night.” —Ami McKay, author of Half Spent Was the Night
"A hot and heart-racing debut novel that lives in the dark spaces between Madeline Miller's Circe, Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, and Marian Engel's Bear. A sexy, unflinching meditation on the breadth—and limits—of one woman's power." —Sean Michaels, author of The Wagers
“’Minique’ is an act of feminist reclamation and a feat of imagination.” Toronto Star

“From stern priests and grim neighbours to forbidden encounters and powerful witchcraft, Anna Maxymiw’s dazzling debut novel examines 17th-century Montréal through a feminist lens. Maxymiw is a spellbinding storyteller, and her book is an enthralling testament to the resilience of women.” —Apple Books Review

Other titles by Anna Maxymiw