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Fiction Satire

The Spirits Up

A Novel

by (author) Todd Babiak

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Satire, Literary, Ghost
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

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Warm, witty, and unsettling all at once, here is an unforgettable story of a family desperate for something to believe in.

Benedict is an inventor whose life’s work is a clean energy machine. It has just made him an overnight sensation and his family is suddenly wealthy. Benedict’s wife, Karen, and his teenage daughters, Charlotte and Poppy, are proud of him. But there are problems Benedict is too busy to see: Karen is deeply unhappy in the marriage and contemplating an affair, Charlotte, who is dealing with a chronic illness, is growing more and more distant, and Poppy is cracking under the pressures of her social circle. And there’s another problem. Benedict holds a rather terrible secret about his clean energy machine.
Then, on Halloween night, an accident threatens to make everything far worse for the family. The accident kicks off a series of hauntings in their beautiful, historic home in affluent Belgravia, and the ghosts make it clear that they want something from them. Karen has to save her daughters — and herself. Meanwhile, Benedict is consumed by the knowledge that he has to achieve the impossible by Christmas. As time ticks ever closer to the revelation of his secret, he spirals further into despair . . .
The Spirits Up is the story of a family haunted by the charmlessness of middle age and the cruelties of modern teenage life. Part social satire and part contemporary ghost story (with a hint of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol), it is an exploration of a timeless question: what happens when there’s nothing to believe?   


About the author

Todd Babiak is an award-winning author, journalist and screenwriter. His second novel, The Garneau Block, was a #1 regional bestseller, a longlisted title for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the winner of the City of Edmonton Book Prize. His third novel, The Book of Stanley, is in development for television. Babiak is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal and on the board of PEN Canada. Visit his website at

Todd Babiak's profile page

Excerpt: The Spirits Up: A Novel (by (author) Todd Babiak)

Since Halloween, her strange parents were even stranger with one another. Her dad was the loneliest person in the world, always thinking of his machine. Poppy figured her father was lonely and distracted without ever feeling so. It was his choice.

Maybe it was worse, this past month, because maybe he knew his wife was talking to lawyers about divorcing him. Poppy understood her mom’s feelings, especially since Blaine had abandoned her. It was like her mom had lost something, a jewel or an amulet she needed to be her finest self again, the woman she used to be. Her mom could not find the jewel anywhere and had probably stopped looking.

It used to be Poppy’s greatest fear that her parents would divorce. Lots of kids at school went from house to house, parent to parent, and dealt with stepmoms and stepdads, stepbrothers and stepsisters. Poppy could tell it bothered them but it was normal, at least. Their parents were normal. Their sisters were normal. It wasn’t Poppy’s greatest fear anymore, that her mom and dad would divorce. Her greatest fear was something like this: there is a monster in the house and only she can hear it howling and at any moment it will crawl into her bedroom and devour her.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Todd Babiak
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. Plan ahead before you start—once you do, you will not be able to stop.” —Cathal Kelly, author of Boy Wonders
“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 . . . 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
“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
“Babiak skillfully develops his characters and their connections in a manner which reveals their individual depths. . . . 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. [A] challenging and compulsively readable novel.” —Quill & Quire
The Book of Stanley
“Babiak has a keen eye for human foibles and our willful blindness of our own self-delusions.” —Edmonton Journal
“Todd Babiak is my new favourite social satirist.” —Toronto Star
“[A] mix of tenderness, kookiness, and high-spirited blasphemy. . . The Book of Stanley gives us a divinity for our noisy, coarse times.” —The Gazette
“Babiak skewers all and sundry . . . with relentless good humour and keen wit. The strong cast of characters and sense of unpredictability will keep most readers plunging through the brief, almost capsule-like chapters.” —National Post
The Garneau Block

“This novel is fast-paced, savvy, bursting with vivid characters. Satire that sucker punches everything sacred. Babiak comes out swinging.” —Lisa Moore, author of Caught
“As only the best writers can, Todd Babiak has taken a small patch of turf and, through sparkling satire and a passionate eye, made it a world. A neighborhood in Edmonton is about to get a lot of honorary citizens.” — Ian McGillis, author of A Tourist’s Guide to Glengarry
“Mr. Babiak is blazing a trail—every city should have a story like this.”— Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
“Babiak’s language isn’t lofty, but dense with keen observation—highlighting the beauty, kindness, cynicism, sense of humour and contradiction found in many Edmontonians, most Canadians and modern life in general.” —Ottawa Citizen

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