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Catherine Kidd’s first novel, Missing the Ark, is a lushly described tale of a woman’s familial relationships and her attempts to create a framework of understanding for these relationships. Kidd’s writing style is highly illustrative and forms clear mental images in the reader’s mind, with beautifully described passages of moments both quotidian and extraordinary. The story follows Agnes Underhill through her struggles as a daughter, mother and lover. It is a melancholy tale, as one senses from the beginning the disconnects between Agnes and her promiscuous mother, and their struggle over the ownership of Agnes’ baby, Rose. If one has seen Kidd perform, it is nearly impossible to refrain from imagining her performing this text, with her voice leading you through this journey through Agnes’ mind. Many passages, in fact, are sketched in such precise and illuminating detail that the text nearly begs to be read aloud and savoured for its rich power. Perhaps because the text is both powerful and beautiful, it renders what I found to be a sad tale even more affecting. The reader is completely immersed in Agnes’ world of strange bedfellows and manipulative people, and the convincing voice of the text causes the reader to feel great empathy for the struggles of many characters, particularly Agnes. The novel is thick on description and thin on dialogue, further immersing the reader in Agnes’ point of view. Dialogue is peppered throughout to reinforce the fraught natures of Agnes’ relationships, for example when Agnes sighs “Yeah, okay, you might as well”, in response to pressure from her mother, and when her lover accuses her by saying “Don’t do this, please, don’t make me out to be some ogre, I’m not that guy”. In response to these difficulties, Agnes explores biological metaphors throughout the novel, as a way of making sense of the complex life forms who generated her own life and are generated in turn from her. Missing the Ark will possess readers with its beauty and have readers turning these biological metaphors inward, as spotlights on their own relationships. Kidd is clearly one of Canada’s most talented wordsmiths, and we may rightly hope that there will be more novels to come. (Michelle Kasprzak)

by Catherine Kidd, $20, 368 pgs, Conundrum Press, P.O. Box 55003, CSP Fairmount, Montreal, Quebec, H2T 3E2,

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