About the Author

Nina Berkhout

Nina Berkhout is originally from Calgary. She is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Elseworlds and Arrivals and Departures, which was a finalist for the 2011 Archibald Lampman Award for the year’s best poetry by a writer living in the national capital region. Her work has also been shortlisted for THIS Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt and the John Hirsch Award for most promising Manitoba writer. Berkhout holds a degree in Classical Studies from the University of Calgary and a Master’s in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. She now lives in Ottawa.

Books by this Author
The Mosaic

Gabriel Finch’s longish hair was fair like his mother’s. He was scruffy and less bulky than I’d imagined. Younger looking, too, with dark circles under his eyes. Even so, he had an intense gaze that went straight through me when he gave me a half-second glance.


He put a hand on my elbow and led me to the middle of the space.

“Wait here,” he told me. The silence and pitch black was dizzying. I stumbled, trying to keep balanced.

There was a loud click then, like the sound of Hawthorn’s football stadium lights going on. My eyes were drawn to the spot of brightness, where Gabriel stood by a big rectangular light on a tripod. He’d set these up in a circle around the circumference of the space and he began switching them on one by one.

My gasp echoed back at me as I followed the light washing over the dome.

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Why Birds Sing

Why Birds Sing

A Novel
also available: eBook
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“We’re the Warblers,” the tuning fork woman said. This time she wore suspenders over her lumberjack shirt. From afar she was probably often mistaken for a man, until she spoke. Her stockiness didn’t match her voice.


“Is that your band?” I asked.


The redhead stiffened and adjusted her lime cuffs, which glared brightly against her white arms. “We’re a registered organization dating to 1950. During our heyday we had over two hundred members.”


“We’re what’s left,” The old man added, toasting a cookie at me. He ate from a box in his lap.


“Why whistling?” I asked.


They stared. I stared back.


“Because it feels good,” the wrestler said. “And it’s free.” He gave a wide smile and shoved his hands under his armpits.


“Whistling’s not my profession,” I told them.


“We know you sang,” the teenager grinned.


“I still do,” I replied.


They shot each other knowing looks before turning back to me.


“We thought you could counsel us for our upcoming Biennial,” the old man said.


I asked for clarification.


“There are local chapters like ours across the country.” The redhead spoke slowly, as if I were a child. “We meet up every second year. There’s a competition and we need help winning. Because Jojo here, despite her family connections, never pulls through.”


“I thought you did this to feel good,” I said.


The redhead stood with her hands on her waist. “I want my trophy. Everyone steers clear of opera for the classical component of the contest. That’s our in.”


“Why would they avoid opera?” I asked.


“Well, It’s so…”


“So what?”


“Loud,” she said.


“She means over the top,” the teenager added.


“It’s the acting that’s unfortunate,” the old man said. “Do they not equip you lot with lessons?”


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