Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 17 to 18
- Grade: 12
- Reading age: 18
When Lizzy is forced to move to the Adventist commune of Stillwater, she is sure the end times have begun. She’s not wrong.
Sixteen-year-old Lizzy is trapped, caught between her passion for science and the teachings of her Seventh-day Adventist father and Mennonite mother. But she isn’t the only one with problems: her mother, Marie, is increasingly reliant on prescription medication to recover from a car accident that might – or might not – have been deliberately caused by her husband, Daniel.
In a bid to regain his social standing and self-esteem, Daniel moves the family to an Adventist commune in BC’s Okanagan Valley, where Lizzy meets another recent arrival with secrets of his own. He helps her establish a clandestine connection to the outside world that she hopes will help her curb her tongue and retain her sanity long enough to finish high school, but her plans change when her younger brother, Zach, is threatened. Lizzy and Zach flee to Marie’s childhood home with their reluctant mother in tow. When her father arrives to take his family back to Stillwater, old resentments collide with new, forcing everyone to face a day of judgement.
About the author
Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers with roots in the Mennonite and Seventh-day Adventist communities. A career food writer and editor of the online WordCity Literary Journal, her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press), was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. A resident of northern Alberta, Stillwater is her first novel.
Excerpt: Stillwater (by (author) Darcie Friesen Hossack)
Remember the day you punched the wall? You were tall enough to miss my head so your fist left a hole in the plaster. For as long as we lived in that house, I used it to measure my growth. Dad, I’m here with you now as the nurse comes in to check your oxygen and listen to your lungs. When she’s finished, she draws your covers back over you, and you’re so small you barely make a shape.
Some days I go home and sit in my empty bathtub. Everywhere else is too big, and I need to feel the walls around me. They keep me from breaking apart and scattering. Although, if I did that in there, I might just slip down the drain.
I’ll remember to put the stopper in next time.
In the bathtub, with the door closed and the light off, I’m underneath our basement stairs again. You never once found me there. Is it because you never looked? I wonder that now. Maybe you were glad when I disappeared. When you no longer had to harden yourself to make sure I didn’t grow up too soft.
This morning, I drove past our old house and remembered the day the washing machine was full of blankets and became unbalanced and made a terrible noise. When Mom, Zach and I all came running down the stairs, there you were, sitting on top of the lid, laughing and trying to keep the machine from shuddering its way across the room.
That should have been a good memory. But you got angry. You thought we were laughing at you. You didn’t know all you had to do was open the lid.
I still have the Messages to Young People you gave me for my baptism. The same copy that was given to you for yours. I brought it with me to school, Dad. It’s the only thing I have that belonged to you, otherwise I would dig a hole and bury it in our old backyard, next to all the birds and other things I found dead or killed, having lost their breath of life.
There are more things down there than you know. The neighbours’ cat that got hit by a car and the neighbours didn’t care. The casserole Zach made that you said tasted like sin. Mom’s wedding watch and the pretty blue church shoes you bought me once when you took me to the mall, and then got mad because I liked them too much. They’re all under the rhubarb. The shoes are still in their box. I never wore them. Not even once.
You know what I buried at Stillwater.
". . . a delicious story of simmering cultural tensions that boil over during the pandemic. In turns irreverent, funny, deeply moving and heart-wrenching . . . " GAIL ANDERSON-DARGATZ, two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist
". . . a compelling exploration of family, liberation . . . and food." ANDREW UNGER, author of Once Removed and The Unger Review
“Darcie Friesen Hossack’s Lizzy grabbed hold of my heart right from chapter one. A fierce hero at war with her upbringing, with her father’s ideology, and with the society she does not yet have the power to escape, Lizzy inspires me . . . Stillwater reminds me that even with damaged wings, we can learn to fly. We must. Go, Lizzy!” ANGIE ABDOU, author of In Case I Go and This One Wild Life
“Seventh-day Adventists are rarely represented in literary fiction. And when the Adventist church does get a mention in serious literature, the depiction is often unflattering. Darcie Friesen Hossack’s recent novel Stillwater offers a damning portrait of an Adventist community that is also thoughtful, nuanced, and insightful.. . . like all good fiction, Stillwater deals not in abstractions but in specifics. The detailed evocation of the story’s Adventist and Mennonite communities—right down to the recipes—is what makes this novel powerful and memorable.” TRUDY J. MORGAN-COLE, Spectrum magazine