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Fiction Literary

The Beguiling

by (author) Zsuzsi Gartner

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Sep 2020
Literary, Visionary & Metaphysical, Contemporary Women
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
    List Price

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The perfect next read for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh and George Saunders, an electrifying debut about a woman who is transformed into a real life “flesh-and-blood Wailing Wall” as strangers unburden their sins to her at every turn.

Lucy is a lapsed Catholic whose adolescent pretensions to sainthood are unexpectedly revived following the disturbing deathbed confession of her cousin Zoltán. Afterwards, Lucy becomes a magnet for the unshriven, and she’s transformed into a self-described “flesh-and-blood Wailing Wall” as strangers unburden themselves to her. Lucy finds herself addicted to these dark stories, craving hit after hit.
     As the confessions pile up, Lucy begins to wonder if Zoltán’s death was as random and unscripted as it appeared. She clutches at alarming synchronicities and seeks meaning from the strangers’ stories, wondering why they seem connected to each other and eerily echo elements of her own life.
     With ruthless wit and dizzying energy, The Beguiling explores blessings and curses, sainthood and sin, mortality and guilt in all its guises. Weaving together tales of errant mothers, vengeful plants, canine wisdom, and murder, this electrifying debut novel lays bare the sacrifices some are willing to make to get what they think they desire.

About the author

Zsuzsi Gartner is the author of the critically acclaimed story collection All The Anxious Girls on Earth. A former senior editor at Saturday Night magazine, she is currently creative director of Vancouver Review's Blueprint B.C. Fiction series. She is the winner of a 2007 National Magazine Award for Fiction and the recipient of numerous awards for her magazine journalism. Her stories have been produced on radio in Canada and the U.S. Gartner has lived in Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa and now lives in Vancouver, a utopian dystopia.

Zsuzsi Gartner's profile page


  • Short-listed, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

Editorial Reviews

Finalist for the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2020
One of CBC’s Best Canadian Fiction of 2020

“A symphony of a novel—multi-voiced and kaleidoscopic. Gartner’s latest is a funny and darkly dazzling meditation on storytelling, the power of confession and its profound relationship to freedom, love and grief.”
—Mona Awad, author of Bunny and 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

“Every sentence in Zsuzsi Gartner’s debut novel The Beguiling is a masterclass in the art of fiction. . . . It’s a series of bravura literary acts, and one could be impressed solely by the stylistic and structural elements. The Beguiling is a sucker punch of a book. . . . You have to experience it: it’s apt to be one of the finest books you read this year.”
Toronto Star
“The writing is exquisite, with sentences that pack punches and are thick with references. . . . This is a story told nowhere near straight. It twists, it twirls, it arcs, it changes tack. It keeps you on your toes.”
The Globe and Mail
“[With] rich prose and a loving embrace of the crazy coincidences of life . . . Gartner packs [The Beguiling] with cultural references high and low, which both exhilarate and add texture and context. . . . [E]bullient and delightful.”
Publishers Weekly

“When it comes to describing Gartner’s writing, I become uncomfortably close to genuflection. . . . Zany, smart, and adroitly droll, The Beguiling’s most beguiling aspect is how one person—Zsuzsi Gartner—has the gall to be so singularly talented. Gartner has a maddening amount of talent, with not a drop wasted. One can only hope to absorb some of it through osmosis.”
The Ormsby Review

“I haven't read a novel like this in some time. . . . With its balance of entertainment and literary craft, The Beguiling reminded me, various moments, of novels that have left me similarly exhilarated and staggered, as though I’ve just fallen in love with words all over again—Sterne’s Tristam Shandy, Phychon’s The Crying of Lot 49, Saragamo’s Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Like them, Gartner’s compels us to the joys and gravitas of reading.”
—Peter Babiak, SubTerrain Magazine

The Beguiling challenges perceptive readers to read between the lines, to let go of conventional ideas of a story with its beginning, middle, and end. Gartner’s writing, frenetic and unyielding, simply dazzles in this novel, as do her efforts to portray the tragic struggle of a fraught figure—the mother who can’t or won’t love—with frankness and humanity.”
Chicago Review of Books

“What is interesting is how comfortable Gartner’s fertile imagination and the novel’s Catholic rituals and iconography seem to be with one another. Gothic tropes . . . abound in a work that is also highly moral and piercingly intelligent.”
—Quill & Quire

“Hard to believe that this multiaward-winning fiction writer could be releasing a debut, but it’s true. Beloved and critically acclaimed for her short stories, including the Giller-nominated collection Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, Gartner delivers a wild ride of a debut novel. . .”
The Globe and Mail

“The gothic flair, dark humour and quirky characters promise a good read.”
Toronto Star
“[A]n exquisitely crafted, profoundly readable novel about the human compulsion to seek absolution in strangers, a page-turner so compelling, so inventive, so weirdly weird, readers will feel like they’ve been to a party that leaves them wondering at the genius of the host who pulled it off. . . . [The Beguiling is] a book as full of imagination as heart . . . this is Gartner at her best.”
—Writers' Trust Jury

[The Beguiling] disrupts convention and further entrenches Gartner outside the tradition of staid, comfortable Canadian fiction.” 
Quill & Quire

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