Defiance, faith, and triumph in a heartrending novel about daughters and mothers
On a miserable November day in 1967, two women disappear from a working-class town on the Fraser River. The community is thrown into panic, with talk of drifters and murderous husbands. But no one can find a trace of Bette Parsons or Alice McFee. Even the egg seller, Doris Tenpenny, a woman to whom everyone tells their secrets, hears nothing.
Ten-year-old Lulu Parsons discovers something, though: a milk-stained note her mother, Bette, left for her father on the kitchen table. Wally, it says, I will not live in a tarpaper shack for the rest of my life . . .
Lulu tells no one, and months later she buries the note in the woods. At the age of ten, she starts running — and forgetting — lurching through her unraveled life, using the safety of solitude and detachment until, at fifty, she learns that she is not the only one who carries a secret.
Hopeful, lyrical, comedic, and intriguingly and lovingly told, The Very Marrow of Our Bones explores the isolated landscapes and thorny attachments bred by childhood loss and buried secrets.
Christine Higdon is a writer, editor, and graphic designer. She was shortlisted for the 2011 Marina Nemat Award and for the 2016 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize. Daughter of a Newfoundlander and a British Columbian, Christine lives in Mimico, Ontario, where she hooks rugs, worries about the bees, and longs for either ocean. This is her first novel.
“Atmospheric and thoughtful, this book is a character study on childhood, attachments, secrets, loss, love, pain, grief and family.” — Open Book Post blog
“Christine Higdon beautifully and honestly illuminates the devastating impact of loss and abuse. The Very Marrow of Our Bones refuses to sensationalize, treating its characters with empathy and respect. This hopeful story of kept secrets combines the page-turning intrigue of a mystery with the nuance of a literary novel.” — Attiya Khan, Co-Director, A Better Man
“The Very Marrow of Our Bones is wise and fiercely tender, full of grief and longing and murky secrets. A beautifully written, marvellously assured debut.” — Jessica Westhead, author of Things Not to Do
“Canadian librarians in particular will want to pay attention to this debut.” — Booklist Online
“Should the author choose to write a sequel or parallel novel, I would definitely read it. On an emotional level, this one got into the very marrow of my bones.” — Schatje’s Shelves blog
“This wondrous book concerns more than mere detective work, expanding instead on the grander mysteries of love and hate, survival and destruction – and most powerfully, perhaps, of decades-long journeys home.” — Toronto Star
“The Very Marrow of Our Bones is a wonderfully long rambling novel that struck me right where it counts — the heart . . . I think ECW stands for ‘Everyday Continually Wonderful’ books.” — Owen Sound Sun Times
“I enjoyed it, I was worried, uncomfortable, angry at behaviours while also empathizing.” — Book Stalker blog
"Beautifully crafted debut. A story layered with secrets, masterfully revealed. Higdon is fearless, placing her characters on roads where one misguided turn changes everything. Deep-rooted need to escape, tangled with longing for home, leads to an end that is heartbreaking, hopeful and unforgettable." — Heather Tucker, author of Clay Girl
“An ambitious debut novel that will make you cry, cringe, and laugh . . . This small-town drama is jam-packed with revelations and sweet portraits that stick.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Brutal and punishing with occasional grace notes, The Very Marrow of Our Bones is concerned with morbidity — both the human capacity for it and what people make of it when it becomes the raw material of their lives.” — Foreword Reviews
“Higdon's debut novel is a finely observed chronicle of two women's lives . . . this novel will appeal to readers more interested in the journey than the destination.” — Publishers Weekly
“The writing style is magnificent, and touching, and just about every other adjective you can think to add here.” — Reading Maria Blog
“It is a captivating novel dealing with loss, secrets, social issues, love, family relationships, interesting character developments...and lots more. I could hardly put it down.” — The Prayer Bench