Read an excerpt from The Beguiling by Zsuzsi Gartner

The novel is a finalist for the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

The novel is a finalist for the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

The Beguiling is a novel by Zsuzsi Gartner. (Hamish Hamilton, Imogen Broberg-Hull)

The Beguiling by Zsuzsi Gartner is a finalist for the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

The $50,000 prize annually recognizes the best in Canadian fiction.

In The Beguiling, a young woman named Lucy had dreamed of being a saint as a child. This dream may actually come true after the death of her cousin Zoltan, and Lucy becomes someone people come to in order to confess their sins. But when the confessions seem connected, Zoltan's death doesn't seem so random anymore. Lucy must then confront her own lapses as a Catholic and a human being, and figure out what is happening, before it's too late.

Gartner is a writer and journalist who currently lives in Vancouver. Her short story collection Better Living Through Plastic Explosives was a finalist for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. She was a panellist on Canada Reads 2004, when she defended Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler.

Read an en excerpt from The Beguiling below.

Did it really all begin with that wretched business concern­ing my cousin?

Maybe there were signs earlier of what was to come; small overlooked invitations to bear witness. That fashion­able woman walking twin schnauzers in Trinity Bellwoods Park who frequently allowed — encouraged? — her dogs to dart across my path, their leashes stretched so taut I had no choice but to stumble over them or stop short. Or that guy of indeterminate age beside me on the Queen streetcar that time who whispered, "I need a sister," his Ovaltine-scented breath misting my neck, his shaved head glowing like a moon.

Could it have been as far back as when I was in Grade 6, my year of the horsehair shirt, and I saw (willed myself to see) a meaningful crack in the dormitory wall at the Mount St. Francis Retreat? It resembled nothing so obvious as the face of Christ or the tears of the Virgin, but could have been construed as a hand, the crooked index finger beckoning. It was during that same Catholic-school retreat that I became convinced I had it in me to be an actress — or even a saint — due to my new-found ability to summon tears at will and to freeze indefinitely during our biblical tableaux of the Stations of the Cross while others quaked and col­lapsed with suppressed laughter.

That's the thing with hindsight: it threatens you with its certainties, rewrites everything you know.

Or did it take root with Oisín — my still-stinging folly — once upon a time in Ireland? Cursing me and muscling his tongue into my mouth like a small animal. But Oisín doesn't bear thinking about now.

That's the thing with hindsight: it threatens you with its certainties, rewrites everything you know.

Zsuzsi Gartner takes us through her award-nominated novel The Beguiling.

When I graduated from high school my parents helped me buy a used AMC Spirit, caramel with a brown stripe, and next to the Gremlin the ugliest vehicle ever rolled off an assembly line. I'd never seen one of these cars until I sud­denly owned one, but all at once the streets and parking lots of my hometown teemed with these sad-sack Spirits. More than once I put my key into the lock of a car that wasn't mine and was startled, as if I'd glimpsed myself in another time and place, in a parallel dimension.

Now the dead weight of all that hindsight threatens a brain bleed. Yet there remains something jangly and ungraspable, even absurdly exhilarating, flitting about just outside my field of vision. It's like a memory of the future.

But my poor cousin. That really was the beginning, or the end, of something.

This excerpt is taken from The Beguiling, copyright © 2020 by Zsuzsi Gartner. Reproduced with permission from Penguin Random House Canada.

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