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Fiction Family Life

North East

by (author) Wendy McGrath

NeWest Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2014
Family Life, Literary, Coming of Age
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2014
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2014
    List Price

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In North East, Wendy McGrath expands on the story she began with Santa Rosa, as a working class couple living in 1960s Edmonton drift further apart while their young daughter tries to understand something she senses is hiding under the surface of her family and her neighbourhood. A visit to her grandparents' farm in the country reveals the abject poverty the couple came to the city to escape, and the internecine marital strife that threatens to be born anew.

McGrath's crystalline, evocative prose conjures an image of the past that defies nostalgia, conjuring images of a city that is in the midst of rewriting its own history. Through the all-seeing eyes of her child protagonist McGrath conjures indelible scenes of harsh domesticity and small victories, of endless summertime days spent around the home and evenings at the drive-in theatre.

About the author

Wendy McGrath's most recent novel Broke City is the final book in her Santa Rosa Trilogy. Previous novels in the series are Santa Rosa and North East. Her most recent book of poetry, A Revision of Forward, was released in Fall 2015. McGrath works in multiple genres. BOX (CD) 2017 is an adaptation of her long poem into spoken word/experimental jazz/noise by QUARTO & SOUND. MOVEMENT 1 from that CD was nominated for a 2018 Edmonton Music Award (Jazz Recording of the Year). She recently completed a collaborative manuscript of poems inspired by the photography of Danny Miles, drummer for July Talk and Tongue Helmet. Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction has been widely published. Wendy lives in Edmonton, Alberta, on Treaty Six Territory.

Wendy McGrath's profile page


  • Short-listed, Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction
  • Short-listed, ReLit Award

Excerpt: North East (by (author) Wendy McGrath)


The basement in October.

Her mother lifted the ring in the door that was cut into the floor of the kitchen. The door opened to a dirt basement where she did the laundry with a wringer washing machine. Christine imagined the door led to a secret passage, a way to some magical place.

The only light that shone down there was the band of light from the kitchen. Illuminating the flimsy stairs, which were more like a ladder, leading straight down into the earth. Her mother descended into this place of dirt walls a wringer washing machine with a framework of shelves to hold the jars of canning she had put up. The smooth cold glass the thick silver lids tightened tightened tight.

Sometimes Christine was allowed to come down the stairs with her mother. The sound of water as the machine churned the clothes we were swimmers in the lake the smell of earth the dirt walls steam rising from the belly of the machine and there was the light on the rows of jars filled with colour with the red of raspberry jam with the blue-purple of chokecherry jelly the soft pink of crabapple jelly the complexity of relish. Surrounded by colour by earth by water by the smell of soap the taste of the colour the sweet taste of raspberries chokecherries. She inhaled and held her breath. Living in a secret painting underground undersea. The taste of colour the taste of red and pink and purple. She is happy. This day is full of colour and she can taste it on her tongue the sunlight red and yellow and orange so happy she is afraid to say anything. She doesn't want to open her mouth she wants to keep the taste of these colours on her tongue and this happiness inside her. She wants to keep this moment with the sun shining and her mother in the basement humming and the noise of the washing machine and the smell of earth and soap. She wants to be able to keep this moment forever somehow so the happiness can't get away from her and disappear the way it seemed to in this house.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for North East:
"The interplay between form and content is masterful."
~ Rona Altrows, Alberta Views
"[e]ven as the memory of Santa Rosa seems at risk of disappearing from the city's consciousness entirely, McGrath's fiction provides a bolt of hope. Her trilogy, once complete, may be the most visible and lasting tribute this neighbourhood has left."
~ Michael Hingston, Edmonton Journal
"... crystalline moments of poetic clarity."
~ Jade Colbert, Globe and Mail

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