Books·Canadian

Watching You Without Me

Watching You Without Me is a novel by Lynn Coady.

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." (From House of Anansi Press)

Watching You Without Me is on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Lynn Coady is a short story writer and novelist originally from Nova Scotia. Her short story collection Hellgoing won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2013.

From the book

Nothing in Kelli's World! had told me to expect a man. The bathers were all women, and the silver-haired Wheelies had operated according to a quaint boy/girl protocol: he stayed with the car while she knocked lightly, announced herself with a musical call of Din-din!, and set a tray before my vibrating-with-happiness sister. Later, as I was looking over Kelli's World!, the only notation I could find on Trevor's Tuesday and Friday mornings were the letters BL—Irene's abbreviation for Bestlife, the home care agency she used.

He didn't wear scrubs—none of the Bestlife people did—but if he hadn't told me he was a worker, I probably would have assumed it. There was something about his stance, in particular: I am professional, it assured me; sanctioned. He'd also figured out a way of dressing that spoke of an office issuing orders somewhere. I think it was in the colors he chose: light khaki pants, a creamy yellow T-shirt, sunny and bright to distract from his dual vocational gloom clouds of illness and infirmity, pulled over muscles that had been sculpted just enough to let you know they were there. Gingerish hair buzzed down to bristles. Of course, the clipboard was the accessory that put the whole outfit over the top.


From Watching You Without Me by Lynn Coady ©2019. Published by House of Anansi Press.

How Lynn Coady's own family inspired Watching You Without Me

"I grew up in Cape Breton. When I was a kid, my parents were in a situation whey they had to look after my aging grandparents. At first, they would come up from Margaree every summer to stay with us in Port Hawkesbury. They stayed down in our basement. They would also bring my uncle, who was developmentally disabled — like the character Kelli in the book — and who always needed care. 

"My dad had a bitterness about the fact that we couldn't take vacations or go anywhere due to this caregiver situation. Sometimes I wondered why it had to be the way it was.

I thought I'd write a scary novel as a result — perhaps to find a nice metaphor for everything that scared me at this stage of life.- Lynn Coady

"When my parents retired, they moved to Dartmouth. They now have caregivers coming in regularly and, these days, there's a little bit more access to that kind of help. I started writing Watching You Without Me around the time my brother and I were giving each other those looks, understanding that it's going to be on us now as our parents are in decline.

"It's a sad stage that we all get to. My mind just started going to a dark place because I didn't want to think about all the ramifications of the situation. I thought I'd write a scary novel as a result — perhaps to find a nice metaphor for everything that scared me at this stage of life."

Read more in her interview with The Next Chapter.

Interviews with Lynn Coady

Lynn Coady talks to Shelagh Rogers about her new novel, Watching you Without Me. 17:07
In this edition of Storytellers, author Lynn Coady recounts finding her voice as a writer in rural Cape Breton. 2:30
Lynn Coady on her book about how books and literature are not dying in the digital age. 14:32
In a lecture at the Canadian Literature Centre at the University of Alberta and in interview with Paul Kennedy, novelist Lynn Coady explores what happens if we separate the idea of 'the book' from the experience they've traditionally provided. 53:58
See what the Hellgoing author had to say after her big win 3:39

Other books by Lynn Coady

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