Bestselling and award-winning author Todd Babiak returns with an immersive and affecting story about a teenager's fascination with an enigmatic new woman in town whose past is catching up with her.
Monument, Colorado, July 1989. Fourteen-year-old Adam Lisinski is mesmerized the moment Beatrice Cyr steps into his life. Adam has a lot going for him: he's hoping to be a starter on his high school football team, he has a fiercely protective mom, a girlfriend, and a part-time job at Eugene's Gas Stop, where he works with his best friend. But he neglects everything that matters to him after Beatrice, his neighbour's enigmatic new wife, comes to town. Soon he finds himself alone with her--in the change room at Modern You, a clothing store on Second Street; in the back row of the theatre at Chapel Hill Cinema; in the front seat of her truck. He's confused about who she is, what she wants, and where she comes from. Adam is desperate, caught between wanting to spend time with Beatrice--whose past is catching up with her--and lying to everyone he cares about. The guilt overwhelms him. And when Beatrice convinces Adam's mom to quit her job and partner in a risky real estate venture, he has to do something before everything spins further out of control. The plan he comes up with tests his courage and leads him to an unshakable truth about loyalty and love.
By turns riveting and tender-hearted, The Empress of Idaho is a story about the vulnerability and confusion of adolescence at the moment when it slams against adulthood. It's an unforgettable portrait of a boy's difficult coming of age.
TODD BABIAK's most recent novels are Son of France and Come Barbarians, which was a Globe and Mail book of the year and a number one bestseller. His earlier work includes The Garneau Block, which was a national bestseller, a longlisted title for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the winner of the City of Edmonton Book Prize; The Book of Stanley; and Toby: A Man, which was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal and won the Alberta Book Award for Best Novel. Todd Babiak is the co-founder of Story Engine, a consulting company based in Edmonton and Vancouver.
Praise for The Empress of Idaho
”If Gillian Flynn, Richard Ford, Vladimir Nabokov, and John Irving got together to write a novel, they would come up with The Empress of Idaho. Todd Babiak has gotten very close to perfection here. Plan ahead before you start—once you do, you will not be able to stop.” —Cathal Kelly, author of Boy Wonders
”The Empress of Idaho is like a 1980s Lolita turned into a darkly compulsive miniseries by Jean-Marc Vallée—starring a beautiful teenage boy. An achingly tender read shot through with Babiak’s humour and grace, this novel charms you as it haunts you. I could not put it down.” —Claudia Dey, author of Heartbreaker
“Todd Babiak’s writing is so perceptive and witty, his characters so thick with life that you’ll find yourself carried along the novel’s twists and turns as though you’re right there in 1989 in Colorado alongside them. Part dark comedy, part thriller, and part coming-of-age tale, The Empress of Idaho is a kaleidoscope of masterful storytelling.” —Amy Stuart, author of Still Mine
“Babiak skillfully develops his characters and their connections in a manner which reveals their individual depths and documents the effect Beatrice has upon them. . . . [Adam’s] victimization—from grooming through to the aftermath—is handled realistically and heartbreakingly. . . . A powerful, unsettling novel.” —Toronto Star
“Babiak has created a wholly believable boy on the verge of manhood . . . The Empress of Idaho is a brave book. It challenges many of our assumptions, not least in the areas of masculinity and victimhood. . . . a challenging and compulsively readable novel.” —Quill & Quire