The highly anticipated new literary suspense novel from Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Lynn Coady.
After her mother’s sudden death, Karen finds herself back in her childhood home in Nova Scotia for the first time in a decade, acting as full-time caregiver to Kelli, her older sister. Overwhelmed with grief and the daily needs of Kelli, who was born with a developmental disability, Karen begins to feel consumed by the isolation of her new role. On top of that, she’s weighed down with guilt over her years spent keeping Kelli and their independent-to-a-fault mother, Irene, at arm’s length. And so when Trevor — one of Kelli’s support workers — oversteps his role and offers friendly advice and a shoulder to cry on, Karen gratefully accepts his somewhat overbearing friendship. When she discovers how close Trevor was to Irene, she comes to trust him all the more. But as Trevor slowly insinuates himself into Karen and Kelli’s lives, Karen starts to grasp the true aspect of his relationship with her mother — and to experience for herself the suffocating nature of Trevor’s “care.”
Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Lynn Coady delivers a creepy and wholly compelling novel about the complex relationship between mothers and daughters and sisters, women and men, and who to trust and how to trust in a world where the supposedly selfless act of caregiving can camouflage a sinister self-interest.
About the author
Lynn Coady is a novelist and essayist whose fiction has been garnering acclaim since her first novel, Strange Heaven, was published and subsequently nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction when she was twenty-eight. Her short story collection Hellgoing won the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most prestigious literary award, for which her novel The Antagonist was also nominated in 2011. Her books have been published in the UK, US, Holland, France, and Germany. Coady has been a journalist, magazine editor, and advice columnist, and is currently writing for television. She divides her time between Edmonton and Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @Lynn_Coady.
- Long-listed, Scotiabank Giller Prize
- Short-listed, Forest of Reading Evergreen Award
- Commended, A Now Magazine Book of the Year
- Commended, A Quill & Quire Book of the Year
Excerpt: Watching You Without Me (by (author) Lynn Coady)
These days, when I tell this story to friends, it’s always the moment Trevor lets himself in with his key the next day — a Sunday — that makes them kind of whoop in their seats. Or flop backward in a gesture of full-bodied incredulity. Or just stare at me like I’m an idiot. But, I explain, Trevor had a key, and that was what he was used to doing. Apparently my mother had given it to him for both of their convenience. The key was sanctioned. She hadn’t given it to any of the other care workers, but that was because, I assumed, they were on a rotation — you never knew who would be coming to bathe Kelli from week to week. Trevor, however, only covered walks, and he turned up like clockwork every Tuesday and Friday morning at ten on the dot.
But this was Sunday, some of my friends argue, and he wasn’t working, he was visiting. Yes, I say, but why would he deviate from habit? This was a house he had a key for, and whenever he came over, he would open the door and come in. That was his routine. So it’s understandable he’d do the same thing on Sunday he would’ve done on a Tuesday or Friday. Isn’t it?
At the time, I thought nothing of it. Trevor said he’d come at ten on Sunday, just as he did on Tuesdays and Fridays, and it was ten on the dot when he inserted his key in the door. Kelli and I had our jackets on, ready to go.
I have to admit, everything about that day was off. It started with Trevor’s insistence we all cram into the cab of his pickup truck when there was a perfectly comfortable two-door sedan parked in the driveway.
“No,” said Trevor. “I’m more comfortable driving the truck.” As if the question of who would drive had already been discussed and dispensed with.
So Kelli got in the middle, which she was not too happy about, especially when I had to root around beneath her thighs and buttocks to find the middle safety belt, which it turned out had been used so rarely it had been all but consumed by the tuck of the seat. Then I stuffed myself in beside her, which I was not happy about because being crammed against my sister was a lot like cuddling up against a lavishly padded space heater. And then, of course, there was Trevor, squeezing in behind the wheel, calling, “Suck in your guts, girls!” before he closed the door.
“Knee,” said Kelli a moment after we pulled out of the driveway. Which meant her right knee was cramping up, as it often did when she sat in close quarters.
“Your knee sore, Kelli?” I asked.
“She’s got arthritis,” I explained to Trevor. “We should maybe get the sedan …”
Trevor glanced down at Kelli’s thighs, like two massive, sweatpants-clad loaves of bread squashed together.
“Ah, you’re good, darlin.’”
“It’s a short trip.”
It was a thirty-minute trip out of town, the last five minutes of which took place along a winding dirt road that grew darker the deeper it took us into the woods.
This is like a fairy tale, I remember thinking. But the cautionary, old-world kind, the kind that never bothered with happy endings. Where parents take their innocent and trusting children to the forest and abandon them for hungry old ladies to entice into their ovens, for talking wolves to swallow whole.
“Kelli’s knee,” said Kelli.
“Almost there, Beaner.”
And it was true. All at once the woods opened up — also like a fairy tale, but this time of the Disney variety. Because what stood before us was a mansion. An honest-to-god Regency-style mansion like something out of Masterpiece Theatre. Where was the horse and carriage? Where were Mr. Darcy and the Bennett sisters? It had a Doric portico and French windows and buttresses and balustrades.
“This is it,” said Trevor. “Barnbarroch Manor.”
I burst out laughing. The angry kind.