WINNER OF THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
A PENGUIN BOOK CLUB PICK
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 explores unconventional connections and brilliantly redefines family.
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 was born in Trinidad and raised in Canada. In 2019 he won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for his first novel, Reproduction, which was published in Canada, the US, and the UK, and translated into Italian. His poetry collection, Personals, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award. His short story collection, Not Anyone's Anything, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada. His first book, You Know Who You Are, was a finalist for the ReLit Poetry Prize. Williams holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Toronto and has recently returned to that university as a tenured professor, after several years as a professor of poetry in the Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. His third poetry collection, Word Problems, was published by Coach House Press in the fall of 2020.
WINNER OF THE 2019 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 AMAZON CANADA FIRST NOVEL AWARD
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 TORONTO BOOK AWARDS
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD
“Reproduction is many things at once. It's an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography. It's a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress, persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again.” —Scotiabank Giller Prize jury citation
“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
“Innovative, smart, funny, joyous, poetic, generous and forgiving of human foibles. Reproduction is Williams’s first book of fiction, but it is clear he will be around for a long while.”—Aleksandar Hemon, author of The Lazarus Project
“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