The Next Chapter

Amanda Leduc tackles themes of disability and dystopia with novel The Centaur's Wife

The Ontario author spoke with Shelagh Rogers about agency and accessibility in Canadian fiction.
The Centaur’s Wife is a novel by Amanda Leduc. (Random House Canada, Trevor Cole)

Amanda Leduc is the communications and development coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, Ont. She is also the author of the novel The Miracles of Ordinary Men and the nonfiction book DisfiguredShe was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize.

Her latest is The Centaur's Wife. It is a novel that weaves together fairy tales and mythic creatures with a story of an apocalypse. The world has nearly ended: meteors have destroyed the city Heather and her family live in, and humanity is facing extinction. There are only a handful of survivors, including Heather, her husband and their twin daughters.

The mountain that looms over the city becomes the survivors' focus, as it remains lush and green and full of life. Heather is one of the few people who knows how to get there — and what creatures they will encounter.

Leduc spoke with Shelagh Rogers about how she wrote The Centaur's Wife.

Making books accessible to all

"There is a huge inequity in Canadian publishing, wherein you have books that come out but they're only available in a certain amount of formats — print, audio, e-book. But this leaves a large segment of the Canadian reading population, probably about 10 per cent, who have print disabilities and, for whatever reason, can't access these formats.

Disabled people are used to feeling left out of the conversations that we have in Canada. This is a huge area where we can make stories available to whoever wants to read them.

"It means that a book might come out and be highly anticipated and highly lauded, but it might not be available to this segment of the population to read until many months later, if even then. So much of what goes on in Canada, in various artistic and social endeavours, completely bypasses the disabled population in this country. It may seem like a small thing to have a book be available for someone to read it, but it's a huge thing.

"Disabled people are used to feeling left out of the conversations that we have in Canada. This is a huge area where we can make stories available to whoever wants to read them."

Eli Glasner guest hosts your Tuesday Afternoon book Club. Today's author and book is Amanda Leduc and new novel "The Centaur's Wife." 9:54

The power of fairy tales

"I was interested in the authority that comes with fairy tale storytelling. You have that third-person, omniscient narrator — with fairy tales, you go into them as a reader understanding that wild things are going to happen. From the reader's perspective, there's no need to interrogate the landscape and say this doesn't make sense as a fairy tale. You live in this land where foxes talk and people accept there's this suspension of disbelief.

I was interested in the authority that comes with fairy tale storytelling.

"One of the problems I was encountering when writing The Centaur's Wife was that I was having a trouble suspending my own disbelief in the world of the story and understanding how magic was weaving its way through the lives of these people who have experienced an environmental disaster."

Thinking about motherhood

"I'm not a mother. I don't have children. But when I was writing the perspective of Heather, what was interesting to me was her perspective as a disabled woman, having given birth to twins. 

It became this exploration of motherhood through what I imagined motherhood could very well be like for me —  this joyous and yet also catastrophic endeavour.

"I was thinking about my own experience as someone with a disability and how I would feel — including all my terrors and hopes as someone living in a disabled body — suddenly being a mother. It's about being responsible for other human beings and worried about things like, 'Will I trip if I'm carrying a baby?' That's something I always worry about. 

"It became this exploration of motherhood through what I imagined motherhood could very well be like for me —  this joyous and yet also catastrophic endeavour. It's the kind of thing that was very easy to imagine — being both the most glorious thing for Heather and also the most terrifying."

Amanda Leduc's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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