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2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist
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2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist

By 49thShelf
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September 9, 2015 (Montreal, QC) – The Scotiabank Giller Prize today announced its longlist for this year’s award at founder Jack Rabinovitch’s alma mater, McGill University, in Moyse Hall Theatre. Scotiabank Giller Prize 2014 winner, Sean Michaels, presented the longlist of authors and read an excerpt from each nominated work. The twelve titles were chosen from a field of 168 books – a record number of books in the prize’s twenty-two year history – submitted by 63 publishers, from every region of the country. Also on the list are Arvida, by Samuel Archibald, Martin John, by Anakana Schofield, and Confidence, by Russell Smith.
Fifteen Dogs

Fifteen Dogs

also available: eBook
tagged : literary

An utterly convincing and moving look at the beauty and perils of consciousness.


– I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.

– I'll wagera year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.

An …

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Martin John

Martin John

tagged : literary

Martin John's mam says that she is glad he is done with it. But is Martin John done with it? He says he wants it to stop, his mother wants it to stop, we all want it to stop. But is it really what Martin John wants? He had it in his mind to do it and he did it. Harm was done when he did it. Harm would continue to be done. Who will stop Martin John? Will you stop him? Should she stop him?

From Anakana Schofield, the brilliant author of the bestselling Malarky, comes a darkly comic novel circuiting …

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Undermajordomo Minor

Undermajordomo Minor

also available: eBook Paperback
tagged : literary

On the The Scotiabank Giller Prize 2015 Longlist

A love story, an adventure story, a fable without a moral, and an ink-black comedy of manners.

Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, Lucy is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for begetting brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon di …

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Close to Hugh

Close to Hugh

also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

Close to Hugh takes an exuberantly existential look at youth and age, art and life, love and death over one week in the world of gallery-owner Hugh Argylle.
On Monday, a fall from a ladder leaves Hugh with a fractured vision of the pain—dying parents, shaky marriages, failure of every kind—suffered by those close to him. His friends are one missed ladder-rung from going under emotionally, physically, and financially.

Somebody’s got to fix them all. And it probably has to be Hugh.

Mea …

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A Beauty

A Beauty

also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

A spellbinding and highly original novel that gives a new name to the Prairie Novel by one of the most exciting new literary voices in Canada. For readers of Alice Munro, Elizabeth Hay, and Marina Endicott.
     In a drought-ridden Saskatchewan of the 1930s, self-possessed, enigmatic Elena Huhtala finds her self living alone, a young Finnish woman in a community of Swedes in the small village of Trevna. Her mother has been dead for many years, and her father, burdened by the hardships of drough …

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All True Not a Lie in It

All True Not a Lie in It

also available: Paperback

A New Face of Fiction for 2015, All True Not a Lie in It is pioneer Daniel Boone's life, told in his voice--a tall tale like no other, startling, funny, poignant, romantic and brawling, set during the American Revolutionary War and hinging on Boone's capture by the Shawnee.
          Here is Daniel Boone as you've never seen him. Debut novelist Alix Hawley presents Boone's life, from his childhood in a Quaker colony, through 2 stints captured by Indians as he attempted to settle Kentucky, the d …

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My sister the whore is shown before all the Friends at Exeter Meeting like a grub spaded up. She stands at the centre of the room, and we all sit up on the benches round her to see. Sallie has got her confession prepared. She holds the paper before her face and talks as if she has got a mouthful of chewed potato. Unusual for her to talk so flat, she could run a blab-school if she liked. Heels-up Sallie, the boys say. Give her a tap and over she goes. Always the last to leave a bonfire or someone’s new barn in the dark.
I watch her tip back and forth on her famous heels. Her cap is slipping to one side, she tugs a curl out over her ear and lifts her eyes to see who is watching. Her fellow stands a few feet away looking out the window. I listen for words of interest but the only ones I catch are I was too conversant and fornication. She admits to all of it though it is evident enough to anyone who takes one look at her belly from the side. And everyone does look.
This is not usual Meeting. The air has a stunned feel as if a shot has just gone through it. The leaders have summoned all of the Friends. The benches are full. Even the Friends from the country farms have driven to town for it.
Daddy bursts into sad perspiring, his smell rises up like bread. He is set to get up and walk off. But Ma’s fingers tap upon little Neddy’s head, and so Daddy sets his jaw and keeps himself on the bench beside her. I slide my feet in circles. I want to laugh. My sister Bets creases her nose like a fox, and my oldest brother Israel does laugh under his breath.
—This is my confession.
So Sal finishes, but one of the widows near the door begins to swat her haunch and complain of ill winds. Bets chokes a giggle and whispers in Ma’s voice:
—Do you suffer from wind, my dear Danny? I give her a poke. Hill’s father carries on with Sallie and her fellow:
—In truth you were too conversant with one another before this day.
His voice is a wealthy man’s voice, every word rings like a coin falling. His face has its usual rosy look, but it becomes imaginative for a spell. I become imaginative also. I have not at this time witnessed any conversant doings at our house beyond those of the cows and bull, which are not entirely interesting, being so brief. At this time I am an innocent boy, but I am interested in many things in my mind.
Hill’s father asks Sallie will she now be married before all these Friends.
She says she will. Her fellow takes a sip of air through his teeth and says he will take her to wife.
Well it is done. Easy. Sal sneaks a look at us, she is thinking, That is that. Her eyes are bright. I hear her give her finger joint a pop, as is her way. Not a whore any longer. A wife. Safe, like magic. Well. God is not immune to performing tricks, perhaps He pops his finger joints also.
—And your confession? Plenty of time.
Hill’s father has turned to the fellow, his voice is kindly enough in asking. In his mind, we might sit here all day, but Sallie’s new husband says a brisk no thank you! He is not a Friend, he is an outsider. Perhaps he is not so certain he wishes to be inside the Boone family after all. But too late. He twists his feeble beard like a wick and squints, though I know he is not squint-eyed. He is keeping his eyes from his new wife’s lower half. Everyone else is still looking.
Hill’s father walks a few paces across the centre of the room and then turns in quick hope to Daddy:
—The truth is all that we seek in this life. Confession makes us new. You will confess now, Friend Boone? Daddy rises, just as Granddaddy had to when his own daughter did the same:
—My daughter was too conversant. This is true, yes. I am very sorry for allowing it.
For a moment Daddy stretches his neck like one prepared to say more. He looks at Hill’s father’s legs. His fingers twitch as if they might test the weight of that good heavy cloth suit. Daddy is a poor enough weaver himself, though he cannot understand why. He can see this cloth is good. He would like it not to be. The leader’s life has gone right, his suit says so. The deep grey of it defeats Daddy and he says:
—In the future we will be more c-careful.
His stammer noses out of its dark rabbit-hutch as it does at such times. His face goes hard, he touches the top of his head where his hair is gone. He has a love of escape and a love of being angry. See the ship thundering off from the grey English shore, young Daddy’s chin thrust over the bowsprit, away from other people and their ideas and money and churches to find a home for Granddaddy and himself and his brothers and sisters. It was meant to be better here.
Israel snorts. But Ma’s eyes are like glass, all breakable. She squeezes young Squire, who frowns, and Daddy thumps down onto the bench again and breathes against his fist. Ma is a true lover of God. She turns back to Sallie, who is trying to keep up her meek countenance as though she has been brained like a cow by Him. Bets laughs into the crook of her arm and makes out as though it is coughing, but I know.
I squint like the new husband, I turn my face upward to make everyone vanish. I have no liking for Meeting, the people in rows, the gap at the centre where Sallie and her fellow stand to be gawped at, and the long spells of quiet when everyone contemplates each
other’s sniffling. Bets is singing under her breath: Wind in my bowow-owels. She pokes me again but I pay her no heed. I am the first to see it. A bird at the highest window, a martin with a dark head and body. It flies straight in and sits for a moment on the sill until it flaps up to the rafters. I see every turn it makes, every shift of its wings. I see every feather of its body, and I see its small black eye.
A few hands rise and point. The martin rushes and flutters in the silence. It beats like a heart against the ceiling. Israel says:
—It will shit on Sal.
I believe Israel, I always do. He is sixteen years of age and has whiskery cheeks. I cannot help a look at them. I suppose I will have whiskers at some time. He crosses his arms and raises an eyebrow and gives a smirk. It is the first interest he has shown today. I look up with my mouth shut. Bets laughs loud this time:
—It will! Or piddle.
Daddy casts her a look from his loose eye and so she saws her cap strings back and forth between her teeth. I keep my eye on the bird. I feel Israel’s idle interest, he is following it too, he could have it down before it twitched.
The martin crosses the rafters back and forth, as if it is stitching them up with a thread. It lands on a window ledge and pants, it opens its beak but it says nothing. I know I could get that bird if I had my club. Or an arrow. Or a stick. I could make a path straight to its head from where I sit. Israel would see me do it.
At a cough from below, the martin dives straight down as if it has fallen but now swings up again to the ceiling. Its head and breast strike the roof again and again, all dull thuds. I want it to look at me. I am sorry for it. If Daddy would let me have a proper gun, I would shoot a little hole through the martin’s head and its suffering would be ended. I have clubbed plenty of birds dead. I know already that their eyes stay open but lose their wet shine, though their feathers do not for some time. I have held them until their bodies go all cold. It takes longer than you might imagine.
The martin bangs on. Hill’s father knows he has no grip on anyone’s brains now, and so he folds his hands and says Meeting is at an end for this day. Plenty of talk and hand-shaking as the rest make their way out, all looking quite relieved and able to be kindly again now that the marrying is done. I feel my Ma’s relief and Daddy’s grimness as the Friends nod to them. I am thinking to take this opportunity to ask Daddy about that gun when a finger arrives in my ear.
I stretch my foot backward to crunch William Hill’s toe. He pulls his finger out but not before he says with great cheer:
—A baby is going to come out of your sister. Out her stomach.
—Out her big arse, Hill. Like a chicken. I know you love to look at chicken’s arses.
I see Hill grin wide but I walk on with Bets behind our brothers. Once out the door, Israel turns and says loud:
—How can you stand and watch her go? And never speak to her again. Nothing about this wedding is right. It is nothing! None of these people can say we are wrong—
Ma hushes Israel as though he were young Squire. Daddy shakes his head but keeps quiet. Israel stalks off and my legs burn to follow. I know he will be going to fetch his gun, he will go up to the hills away from all of this, perhaps he will not come back until morning.
I am about to set off after him when Ma grips me and says:
—Hold little Neddy now. Stop him going into the road. And my young brother smiles, he is always smiling. Sweet Neddy. I lift him. He has a high smell like Granddaddy. I say:
—Now look.
I hold him up so he might see Sallie’s arse as it retreats to the cart in which it will travel to a new house to lay an infant. Cast out, married to her squinting outsider husband. Neddy calls:
—Gone. Gone.
I set him down, his face is perplexed but he does not cry. Ma and Daddy stand still looking after Sallie as though they do not know what to do with themselves now, but they go on looking as though some answer will appear. I turn as the bird flies out the open door of Meeting House, it leaves a pile of purple droppings on the threshold. The only answer we get.
—Bets. Bets.
The night of the wedding I do not sleep, though the house is silent. Ma and Daddy are quiet in the loft upstairs. I think to get Bets out of the bed next to mine and Neddy’s, but she is heavy in her sleep and only rolls flat onto her back when I whisper. And I recall she threw shad guts over me the last time we went night fishing. So I tug the sheet over her face and leave her like a corpse.
I crawl past Sal’s empty bed. I know it is empty forever and this gives me an odd prickling about my heart. I feel my way along the floor and I find Israel’s bed empty also, which is a disappointment to me. He has not come back. But perhaps I will find him.
Once I am free of the house I go over the kitchen-garden fence with a pail, thinking to get worms. The moon and a few stars are showing themselves. I trot over the Owatin Creek bridge and down towards the river, I can hear its quiet rush. For a moment I am quite happy.
A thick rustling comes out of the night before I get to the water. I say:
A shadow crashes from the birches and snatches my arm. My happiness peels away from me.
—Are you fishing, Dan? I thought you might come out. I will go with you.
It is not Israel, it is William Hill. His mouth smells of iron, I know he is smiling in the dark, as if he has eaten my happiness. He is only one year older than I am. He sits before me in my Uncle James’s school and turns about to breathe on me with this breath. Sometimes he whispers answers at me if he thinks I do not know them. I do not listen, I would rather sit blindfolded on the onelegged stool in the corner than listen to him. Uncle James is always sorry for punishing me and gives me sweets at home later.
But Hill has money, it tumbles from his pockets, he is careless with it. Sometimes he gives me some of his money for a dead squirrel or a walk with me up the creek to a fishing place. His pleased face over the fence or around the edge of the door. I say:
—You do not know where I am going.
—To your granddaddy’s? I do not mind. I would like a look inside his house. Does he keep whores in all the rooms?
And again I run, again he follows me. He thinks he knows where I will go but he does not. I take a long winding way over the fields. I will not go to Granddaddy’s, though I cannot think of anywhere else in particular. I only want to run Hill until he is too tired to go on. I race through dark pasture and corn and flax until the moon ducks in back of the clouds and I can only make my way by knowing the fields in my mind, not by seeing them.
I run in grass up to my knees for some time. Soon enough the back of my hand catches a farm fence, all rough split rails. I know it is the Blacks’ fence and I know they all have the summer fever. It has given Ma something safe to talk about with the other women. Well, I have no care for sickness. I am sick worse of William Hill.
I follow along the fence towards the yard. A horse has got out of the stable and is standing by the front step. I put my hand over its soft nostrils as I pass, it puffs in my palm. I will find the root cellar and hide there with the turnips until Hill goes. But I hear him lumping along into the yard and so I go up the front step of the house. I find the door, the sick-rope is knotted on the latch, but I hear Hill talking to the horse as if to me: Where are you? And so I go in.
In the thicker dark of the room I stand, keeping myself still. I am not afraid, I am afraid of nothing. I hold my breath in. A curious noise comes from across the floor, a rattle.
I pick my way over the floor to the far wall, but soon enough Hill’s breath is on the back of my head and I stop. He says:
—Go on.
—Do you want to catch it?
—Do you?
The Blacks have only daughters. One of the youngest lies beneath the open window hot as a pie, her teeth clacking and her eyes bound up with a white cloth to save them from the fever. I lean closer to see. Hill shoulders me down beside her and takes up a lock of her hair, then presses the end of it into my ear. In his father’s low kindly Meeting tones again, he whispers that Molly Black and I are now married till death do us part.
—Kiss her. Hug her.
My brother Israel told me at one time that sick hair will lay bad eggs in your ears. I do not know if this is true but the hair pricks me horribly. I make my shoulders stiff. I do not wish to wake the sick girl. Though I will not have Hill think me a coward. I bend and put my lips to Molly’s burning cheek. Her teeth rattle on. I laugh and roll away but Hill says then reasonably:
—Or breed her. I will watch.
—Go on, Dan. I am trying to help you. I will save you from whoring, you will need a wife.
I jab him and again I say:
He sighs up another lungful of helpfulness. Molly’s teeth give a great rattle and I reach out to cover her mouth. Hill bends with his face big and close:
—I want to see what you will do now.
I break free of his iron breath, I fly out the door and this time he cannot keep up. I run as the stars watch blinking. This time I will run for ever.
My chest burns but I pound on and do not stop. The moon is up now, and I run back to the river by another way, past some cabins of a few of the praying Indians who come to Meeting. I see the dull white of two of their ponies in a grassy patch, I smell the smoke of their fires. A door opens, but I keep on. I skirt round a field. I will run up the river, farther than I have ever gone, perhaps farther than anyone has gone.
I hear the river at last. As I am crouched on the bank to catch my breath, a short low call comes. It is not a bird, I know.
I crawl along a way until I hear a small splashing. Someone is just upstream, stepping into the water. I see how tall he is. His dark hair hides against the sky and trees, but his pale legs show. He has no breeches on and his shirt is loose and open. He takes up a thin stick and snaps its end. He turns his face.
Israel. He has seen me already, I know, but now he is looking up the bank behind him, where the sound of light steps moves away into the woods. I say low:
—Is that a deer? Will you get it?
I know he could get it easy if he wished to. I have followed him plenty of times in the early morning, I have seen the way his eye roams in a dark, lazy fashion over the dawn sky until at once it goes still and he shoots. He can get jays and crows, and sometimes deer. He does not know all the times I follow him. But sometimes he catches me out and shows me the way to look for the marks of deer hooves on grass, or for their droppings, or their hair snagged on branches. When he is home in the evening, he often lets me measure out his powder. Four times he has let me scrape his deer hides. Twice he has let me shoot squirrels with his gun. He gave me an old broken barrel without a stock, I have it beneath the pallet of my bed. I dream of it, though it is unsatisfactory dreaming. I would like to be as good a shot as Israel. He is Daddy’s favourite, and Daddy has set him free to hunt. He will not mind the bellows in the forge or work the looms at any rate, he goes where he pleases and has no care for what anybody says. He cares only for hunting and getting away from the town. He has shown me how to hide my steps and keep my weight even on my feet and go silent. I know the deer traces no one else but Israel has seen, and some he has not seen. But I do not know what he does at night.
With the water rushing round his legs he looks at me. He says very quiet:
—No deer here. What are you doing about tonight, Danny? I do not wish to tell him about Hill and little sick Molly Black. I say:
—Hunting. What is it then, that noise?
He raises his head. He spikes a fish with his stick, its body gives a brief shine in the moonlight as he turns it in the air. In his calm fashion he says:
—Hunting, are you? With what? Only fish here. And you. A ball rises into my throat. He knows about every animal and where it goes and how to find it. Everything is easy for him. I say:
—Where have you been? You have not been here long, you only have one fish. Did you hunt already? What did you get?
He turns and his face goes silvery where the moon catches it. I say:
—Why are you out again? You are always leaving your bed. Come on, we can get a deer. I will help.
But he says nothing. He pulls the shad off his stick and goes on fishing as if I am not here.
—Go home now, Dan.
He is walking up the river against the current, lifting his bare feet. I shout:
—I hate this place! I hate Exeter. I will get something without you.
He says nothing, he only looks up briefly, and I run on. I think of running again, but it is darker now, and alone I have no hope of any deer or any escape. I go home and thump dirty into bed beside little Neddy, who sleeps as hard as Bets does. Anger thumps in my blood, anger that Israel is so free and I am so pinned and so young. I am angry too at Hill for following me and wanting to see what I will do now. I see his big face. William Hill, trotting about in my mind as if it is his own field. Dunghole. I am ready to shoot anything. But as yet I have no gun.
Israel steals in sometime before dawn. I hear him settle into his bed and breathe slow. I will find out where he goes. I will follow him. I turn over and put my hands over my eyes, and I am struck by a thought of the blindfolded girl with her skin on fire and the prickle of her hair like hay.
I wonder whether I crept into her sick dreams, a little husband. Molly, I did catch your slow fever when I kissed you, though not badly. I am alive yet. But you know this. You dead know about me and what I have done.

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The Winter Family

The Winter Family

A Novel
also available: Paperback

Tracing a gang of ruthless outlaws from its birth during the American Civil War to a final bloody showdown in the Territory of Oklahoma, The Winter Family is a hyperkinetic Western noir and a full-on assault to the senses.
     From the 1860s to the 1880s, the outlaws known as the Winter Family roam the harsh frontier, both serving and battling the fierce advance of civilization. Among its twisted specimens are the psychopathic killer Quentin Ross, the mean and moronic Empire brothers, the imp …

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High summer night in Oklahoma. Warm winds that smelled of apple blossoms. Now and then a lightning bug winked on and drifted through the air. Quentin Ross caught one in his fist and held it there, with its radiance leaking between his fingers and reflecting in his shallow eyes. For a moment he rolled the lightning bug between his thumb and forefinger, and then he crushed it, smearing himself with its luminescence, and he smiled, wide and empty.
The Winter Family was camped in a stand of blackjack oaks. There was no fire but the moon was up, pushing the stars back into the darkness of the sky. Charlie and Johnny Empire lay on their sides, playing cards and bickering. Fred Johnson wrote in his little book and drank whiskey from a cup not much bigger than a thimble. Quentin wandered from tree to tree, humming to himself, soft and tuneless. The others tried to sleep, tucked between tree roots or curled in bedrolls like pill bugs. All of them, except for Augustus Winter.
He sat astride a pale horse, like Death, leaning back in his heavy saddle and smoking a cigarette in an ivory holder. The suit he wore was well tailored but growing threadbare. His straw-white
hair was cropped short and he had an extravagantly waxed mustache. His eyes were very light amber, almost yellow, the eyes of an eagle or a cat. Occasionally he would remove a watch from his pocket and turn it in the pale moonlight, watching as the second hand marched around, and around, and around. It is often observed that murderers do not look like murderers. No one said that of Augustus Winter.
A little after midnight Winter cocked his head. “They’re coming.”
“I don’t hear anything,” Quentin said.
But soon they all did. The sleepers were kicked into wakefulness, the lantern shuttered, weapons drawn, instructions whispered.
O’Shea and two of his hands came around the bend and rode up to the camp. Everyone relaxed. O’Shea pulled up his horse, unstrapped a bag tied to his saddle, and tossed it to Quentin.
“I’d be grateful if you count it now,” O’Shea said.
Quentin knelt down, opened the sack, and rifled through the bills quickly. Then he stood, his knees creaking.
“Yes, it’s all there, as we agreed.”
“Good,” O’Shea said and began to wheel his horse around.
“Now just a moment, Mister O’Shea,” Quentin called out.
“Please, just a moment more.” Quentin’s voice was very deep, melodious. He spoke slowly, as if he were thinking very carefully, or reciting poetry.
O’Shea turned back to him, reluctantly. Both men were around fifty, but O’Shea was a tall man with a healthy mane of gray hair, while Quentin was small and fine boned.
“We’ve run into some unexpected expenses . . . ,” Quentin began.
“Oh god damn you,” O’Shea said.
Quentin continued as if O’Shea had not spoken.
“. . . which were not included in the initial estimate of our—”
“Estimate?” O’Shea shouted. “We had a deal, you thieves.”
“Yeah,” Winter said. He did not speak loudly but all the men fell silent, and the bugs too, and the wind seemed to die down to nothing.
“Yeah. Thieves, Mister O’Shea. And worse.”
O’Shea looked at Winter and bore his gaze. That was something not every man could do. O’Shea was not like every man. Willpower radiated from him. And he was angry now. He looked at the dirty mob of killers under the trees, white trash and blacks and Mexicans, in their muddy boots and sweat-stiff dusters, thin and poor and dumb as nails. One of them was using baler twine as a rifle strap. He thought: Am I to let these men get the better of me? But then, it was only money.
“How much?” O’Shea asked. Quentin told him. O’Shea nodded and said, “The money will be ready when you get back. I trust that is all.” Not a question.
But Quentin said, “Just one more thing, Mister O’Shea! Please! One more thing. A member of our band has taken ill. He needs a doctor. We would be grateful if you could bring him back to town.”
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” O’Shea snapped, but they were already bringing the sick man forward, surprisingly small, wrapped up tightly in a stinking bedroll. O’Shea stood up in his stirrups and looked down. He frowned. The man was an Indian, but his skin had gone gray and seemed thin, as if his bones were likely to poke through at any moment. Greasy foam flecked around his lips and nose and the whites of his eyes were jaundiced, the color of egg yolk.
The little Indian regarded O’Shea with piteous weakness. O’Shea frowned in disgust.
“His name is Bill Bread,” Quentin said.
“One of you take him,” O’Shea said to his hands.
“Farewell, Mister O’Shea,” Quentin called, and tipped his hat.
“Take good care of Mister Bread!”
The Winter Family laughed as the hands threw Bill Bread over the neck of one of their sturdy ponies and rode off, holding their noses. They all laughed, except for Augustus Winter, who watched O’Shea’s horse in the dim moonlight, until it was lost in the trees.

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Daydreams Of Angels

Daydreams Of Angels

also available: eBook
tagged : literary

Heather O'Neill's distinctive style and voice fill these charming, sometimes dark, always beguiling stories.

From "The Robot Baby," in which we discover what happens when a robot feels emotion for the very first time, to "Heaven," about a grandfather who died for a few minutes when he was nine and visited the pearly gates, to "The Little Wolf-Boy of Northern Quebec," in which untamed children run wild through the streets of Paris, to "Dolls," in which a little girl's forgotten dolls tell their ow …

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