Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Literary

The Berry Pickers

A Novel

by (author) Amanda Peters

Initial publish date
Apr 2023
Literary, Native American & Aboriginal, Family Life
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it





FINALIST Amazon First Novel Award

FINALIST for the Atwood-Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

FINALIST Best First Novel, Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence

FINALIST Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction

FINALIST Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, Fiction

FINALIST Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award

FINALIST OLA Forest of Reading Evergreen Award

A four-year-old girl goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine, sparking a tragic mystery that remains unsolved for nearly fifty years

July 1962. A Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia arrives in Maine to pick blueberries for the summer. Weeks later, four-year-old Ruthie, the family’s youngest child, is seen sitting on her favourite rock at the edge of a field before mysteriously vanishing. Her six-year-old brother, Joe, who was the last person to see Ruthie, is devastated by his sister’s disappearance, and her loss ripples through his life for years to come.

In Maine, a young girl named Norma grows up as an only child in an affluent family. Her father is emotionally distant, while her mother is overprotective of Norma, who is often troubled by recurring dreams and visions that seem to be too real to be her imagination. As she grows older, Norma senses there is something her parents aren’t telling her. Unwilling to abandon her intuition, she pursues her family’s secret for decades.

A stunning debut novel, The Berry Pickers is a riveting story about the search for truth, the shadow of trauma, and the persistence of love across time.

About the author

AMANDA PETERS is a writer of Mi'kmaq and settler ancestry. Her debut novel, The Berry Pickers, was a critically acclaimed bestseller in Canada. Her work has appeared in the Antigonish Review, Grain, the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Dalhousie Review and Filling Station. She is the winner of the 2021 Indigenous Voices Award for unpublished prose and a participant in the 2021 Writers’ Trust Rising Stars Program. Peters has a certificate in creative writing from the University of Toronto, and she is a graduate of the master of fine arts program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amanda Peters lives and writes in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, with her fur babies, Holly and Pook.

Amanda Peters' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The ghosts of lost children haunt generations in this lucid and assured debut." — New Yorker

“A harrowing tale of Indigenous family separation . . . [Peters] excels in writing characters for whom we can’t help rooting . . . With The Berry Pickers, Peters takes on the monumental task of giving witness to people who suffered through racist attempts of erasure like her Mi’kmaw ancestors.” — New York Times Book Review

"Peters beautifully explores loss, grief, hope, and the invisible tether that keeps families intact even when they are ripped apart. A quiet and poignant debut from a writer to watch." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A stunning debut about love, race, brutality, and the balm of forgiveness." — People magazine

“A gripping read, a mystery and a moving narrative all in one book.” — A New York Post Best Book of the Year

"Peters skillfully manages to hold the reader’s attention from the first page to the last . . . The Berry Pickers isn’t a mystery, it’s a truth telling by characters you can reach out and touch—characters whose misfortunes, regrets, feelings, and redemption most readers will relate to." — New York Journal of Books

"The Berry Pickers offers an unforgettable exploration of grief, love, and kin." — Boston Globe

"Enthralling . . . Powerfully rendered . . . [A] cogent and heartfelt look at the ineffable pull of family ties." — Publishers Weekly

"The strength of Amanda Peters’s novel lies in its understanding of how trauma spreads through a life and a family, and its depiction of the challenges facing Indigenous people . . . [A] powerful message about truth, forgiveness and healing." — Washington Post

"The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters completely broke my heart because it highlights how a moment, a decision by one person can change the course of another person’s life. It has this deep complexity surrounding a well-intentioned woman who acted in an irrational way out of desperation and the book is basically about the impact of her choices." — Jen Psaki, Elle

"This book is a heartbreaking tale of family and loss, deathbed regrets and revelations. It's a force as powerful as any of those." — Good Housekeeping

"Amanda Peters delivers an un-put-down-able novel of identity, forgiveness, and insistent hope." — Christian Science Monitor

"This powerful debut novel examines the search for truth in the face of trauma and the enduring nature of family love." — Electric Literature

"Peters' debut combines narrative skill and a poignant story for a wonderful novel to which many readers will gravitate . . . Indigenous stories like this matter." — Booklist

"There is something very special about starting on a debut novel and finding you're in the grip of a precocious talent. Amanda Peters writing is fabulously compelling. Our booksellers love this book, and we are thrilled to name it our 2023 Discover Prize winner." — James Daunt, CEO Barnes & Noble

“Amanda Peters manages to take you home to the East Coast in the very best ways – through family love and personal grief and the precious accounting of minutes and memories. You cannot help but love these characters from the first chapter. They stay with you long after the last page.” — Cherie Dimaline, bestselling author of The Marrow Thieves

The Berry Pickers is an intimate story about the destruction wreaked on a family when their youngest child goes missing. Peters brilliantly crafts a multi-layered tale about how one irrational act creates irrevocable harm that ripples through multiple lives, including the lives of the perpetrators. This is an emotional novel that is beautifully rendered. An amazing read from a talented new voice.” — Michelle Good, bestselling author of Five Little Indians

“A marvelous debut. The Berry Pickers has all the passion of a first book but also the finely developed skill of a well-practiced storyteller. The Berry Pickers is a triumph.” — Katherena Vermette, bestselling author of The Break

“The thing about picking a handful of berries is that each one is different—some are sweet, some sour, some extra juicy. The Berry Pickers is just like a handful of berries. It’s an unassuming novel filled with so much sweet, so much sour, so much juice. Reading this book, I was only ever hungry when it ended.” — Morgan Talty, award-winning author of Night of the Living Rez

The Berry Pickers is a beautiful novel about family and about the way it makes and breaks and re-makes us again. This is a story of many border crossings, journeying away and coming back, and it contains a cast of characters you will never forget. With this book, Amanda Peters establishes herself as an essential new voice in Canadian Literature.” — Alexander MacLeod, author of Animal Person

"One family’s secret is the source of another family’s pain in this poignant debut that reads like a modern literary classic. Moving, heartbreaking, and hopeful, The Berry Pickers is a powerful tale of haunting regret, bonds that will never be broken, and unrelenting love. Amanda Peters’ skilled storytelling evokes all the sensations of summer in Maine, singing around a fire, and the horror that takes hold when a child goes missing." — Nick Medina, author of Sisters of the Lost Nation

"In 1960s Maine, Joe is troubled by the guilt of being the last person to see his little sister Ruthie before she disappeared. Nearby, Norma grows up to unhappy parents with a lot of secrets. The Berry Pickers is a profound study of the love, grief and betrayals of two families." — inews, The best new books to read

Other titles by

Related lists