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Fiction Nature & The Environment

The Naturalist

by (author) Alissa York

Random House of Canada
Initial publish date
Jan 2017
Nature & the Environment, Literary, Historical
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2017
    List Price

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1867, Philadelphia. Amateur naturalist Walter Ash is on the brink of setting off to travel up his beloved Amazon when fate intervenes, obliging his only son to take his place. More at ease among his books than in the field, Paul Ash takes a reluctant leave of absence from Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology to accompany his grieving stepmother and her young companion to the fabled River Sea. Paul holds no memory of the place, though he was born there; he was still an infant when his father carried him out of the jungle and away from the mixed-blood family he might have known. As it transpires, however, neither the region nor its people have forgotten Paul. The Amazon lays claim to him in no uncertain terms, but it also works a peculiar magic on both his father's lovely widow and her friend—a quiet little Quaker named Rachel Weaver who proves strangely at home in the wild.

About the author

Alissa York has lived all over Canada and now makes her home in Winnipeg with her husband, writer / filmmaker / publisher Clive Holden. In 1999 her short fiction won the Journey Prize and the Bronwen Wallace Award. Later that year Arbeiter Ring published Alissa's first collection of stories, Any Given Power, which won the Mary Scorer Award for the Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher, and was short-listed for the Danuta Gleed Award. Film rights to three connected stories from the collection have been optioned by Buffalo Gal Pictures. In 2001, Alissa won the John Hirsch Award for the Most Promising Manitoba Writer. Her novel Effigy was nominated in 2007 for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Alissa York's profile page


  • Winner, Canadian Authors Association Literary Award - Fiction

Editorial Reviews



“[O]ne of those few rare books where you open it up, read the first page, and you are a goner, captured instantly by the prose and the characters, and the first few words of story. . . . Reading The Naturalist was a great pleasure from the first page to the last.” —Parry Sound North Star

“This is not a work for a faint hearted sufferer of ophidiophobia. . . . It is a captivating tale. . . . Suffice to say that you will remember the snake scenes.” —Ottawa Citizen
“The descriptions of the natural world are magical, and the collision with new flora and fauna is inspiring at a time when most knowledge on plants and animals had yet to be written. I enjoyed the flow of the novel and the entanglement of characters: there’s more to it than trees and monkeys, and you’ll have to pick it up for yourself!” —Citizens’ Press

The Naturalist showcases . . . York’s admirable powers of description. . . . The Naturalist is a well-written book with a good heart.” —The Globe and Mail

“I fell so hard in love with this book because it convinced me of something I need to know and forever remember, which is that the human heart will always, inevitably, be revealed and that the human heart, when working well, is a WILD heart—and that giving in to one’s wild heart is not incompatible with human decency. The Naturalist will join those few other books on my shelf that remind me how to live.” —Miriam Toews

“Alissa York taps the wisdom and intelligence that belongs to all nature. Her writing on animals is simply unparalleled: her love and understanding as clear as her prose, which is elegant, polished, selfless, and wild. This book is the best of adventures, a genuine journey upriver into another world—embark!” —Marina Endicott


“It’s clear [that] York has a special kinship with all creatures great and small.” —Ottawa Citizen
“Her writing . . . is as evocative, intricate and saturated with sensory detail as northern forest air.” —The Calgary Herald

“One of the most exciting things about reading York is wondering what the transplanted Winnipegger will come up with next.” —Uptown Magazine

“York’s writing is graphic and impressionistic, sharp-edged and sensual. . . .York’s voice is very much her own.” —Quill & Quire

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