A hilarious, surprising and poignant love story about the way families are invented, told with the savvy of a Zadie Smith and with an inventiveness all Ian Williams' own, Reproduction bangs lives together in a polyglot suburb of Toronto.
Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers are dying. Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family, come together only because their mothers share a hospital room. When Felicia's mother dies and Edgar's "Mutter" does not, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as Mutter's caregiver. While Felicia and Edgar don't quite understand each other, and Felicia recognizes that Edgar is selfish, arrogant, and often unkind, they form a bond built on grief (and proximity) that results in the birth of a son Felicia calls Armistice. Or Army, for short.
Some years later, Felicia and Army (now 14) are living in the basement of a home owned by Oliver, a divorced man of Portuguese descent who has two kids--the teenaged Heather and the odd little Hendrix. Along with Felicia and Army, they form an unconventional family, except that Army wants to sleep with Heather, and Oliver wants to kill Army. Then Army's fascination with his absent father--and his absent father's money--begins to grow as odd gifts from Edgar begin to show up. And Felicia feels Edgar's unwelcome shadow looming over them. A brutal assault, a mortal disease, a death, and a birth reshuffle this group of people again to form another version of the family.
Reproduction is a profoundly insightful exploration of the bizarre ways people become bonded that insists that family isn't a matter of blood.
IAN WILLIAMS is the author of Personals, shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award; Not Anyone's Anything, winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada; and You Know Who You Are, a finalist for the ReLit Prize for poetry. He was named as one of ten Canadian writers to watch by CBC. Williams completed his Ph.D. in English at the University of Toronto, mentored by George Elliot Clarke, and is currently an assistant professor of poetry in the Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. He was the 2014-2015 Canadian Writer-in-Residence for the University of Calgary's Distinguished Writers Programme. He has held fellowships or residencies from the Banff Center, Vermont Studio Center, Cave Canem, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Palazzo Rinaldi in Italy. He was also a scholar at the National Humanities Center Summer Institute for Literary Study and is a judge for the 2018 Griffin prize. His writing has appeared in several North American journals and anthologies.
“Poet Ian Williams experiments with structure to tell a classic love story. . . . Reproduction is reminiscent of Miriam Toews’s novel All My Puny Sorrows in its balance between grief and humour. It’s an intergenerational story told in an unexpected way.” —Quill & Quire
“Ian Williams delivers a promising first novel. Reproduction manages to be witty, playful, and disarmingly offbeat—even as it hums with serious themes. . . . Reproduction serves as a literary representation of the various intersections of culture, race, and gender in contemporary Canada, it is a mirror with graffiti/social commentary both humourous and powerful scrawled all over it.” —Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Toronto Star
“[D]riven as much by its relationships as its characters, and is intensified and enriched by an inventive style that borrows from Williams’s giant poet’s brain.” —The Globe and Mail
“[A]n intergenerational novel . . . that examines how love can supersede blood ties. [Reproduction’s] complicated path mirrors how many families are built on experiences that don’t make the photo albums, and illuminates how dark and painful moments can share equal space with joy and laughter. . . .With Reproduction, Williams joins authors like David Chariandy and Catherine Hernandez—whose recent novels are set in Scarborough—showcasing the bounty of stories of those who live beyond the CN Tower’s shadow.” —Sue Carter, Toronto Star
“The startling brilliance of Ian Williams stems from his restlessness with form. His ceaseless creativity susses out the right patterning of story, the right vernacular nuance, the right diagram and deftly dropped reference—all in service of vividly illuminating the intermingled comedy and trauma of family.” —David Chariandy, author of Brother and I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You
“Reproduction’s genius is its weaponized empathy, the precision-etched intensity of Williams’s gritty, witty, wholly unsentimental exploration of the collision of human hearts and the messy aftermath. Love and its lack form a spectrum that the characters bounce between, searching for connections, redemption and meaning.” —Eden Robinson, author of Trickster Drift and Son of a Trickster