His Whole Life

This coming-of-age novel by Elizabeth Hay was published in 2015.

Elizabeth Hay

Starting with something as simple as a boy who wants a dog, His Whole Life takes us into a richly intimate world where everything that matters is at risk: family, nature, country, home.

At the outset, ten-year-old Jim and his Canadian mother and American father are on a journey from New York City to a lake in eastern Ontario during the last hot days of August. What unfolds is an enveloping story that spans a few pivotal years of Jim's youth and sets out competing claims on everyone's love: for Canada over New York; for a mother over a father; a friend over a husband; one son over another. With her trademark honesty, wisdom, vivid sense of place, and nuanced characters, Hay deftly charts the deepening bond between mother and son even as the family threatens to come apart.

Set in the mid-1990s, when Quebec was on the verge of leaving Canada, this captivating novel is an unconventional coming-of-age story as only Elizabeth Hay could tell it. With grace and power, she explores the mystery of how members of a family can hurt each other so deeply, and remember those hurts in such detail, yet find openings that shock them with love and forgiveness. This is vintage Elizabeth Hay at the height of her powers. (From Emblem Editions)

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From the book

They were moving through beautiful country. The landscape opened up and closed in, opened up into valleys then closed in with mountains, but she was somewhere else now, on the back roads of the heart. Into view (dimming the green hills and valleys and turning them grey) came that article she had edited to make someone rich and successful look vain, poor slob; occasions when she had shaken her children and squeezed their young arms as hard as she could; abusive, scalding things she had said to her husbands, including the one beside her; and friends she had hurt. And then there was the secret she had kept. But whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, a best thing or a worst, she had never been able to fathom.

From His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay ©2015. Published by McClelland & Stewart.

Author interviews