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Vanderhaeghe, Guy, 1951-
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First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ticknor & Fields, 1990.
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It is the summer of 1959, and in a prairie town in Saskatchewan, Alec Monkman waits for his estranged daughter to come home, with the grandson he has never seen. But this is an uneasy reunion. Fiercely independent, Vera has been on her own since running away at nineteen - first to the army, and then to Toronto. Now, for the sake of her young son, she must swallow her pride and return home after seventeen years. As the story gradually unfolds, the past confronts the present in unexpected ways as the silence surrounding Vera's brother is finally shattered and the truth behind Vera's long absence revealed. With its tenderness, humour, and vivid evocation of character and place, Homesick confirms Guy Vanderhaeghe's reputation as one of Canada's most engaging and accomplished storytellers.

Author Notes

Guy Vanderhaeghe was born in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, Canada on April 5, 1951. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Saskatchewan and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Regina. His works include Man Descending, which won the Governor General's Award for English fiction and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in Great Britain; My Present Age; The Englishman's Boy, which won the Governor General's Award for English fiction, the Saskatchewan Book Award Fiction prize, and the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award; Homesick, which was a co-winner of the City of Toronto Book Award; and Daddy Lenin and Other Stories, which won the Governor General's Award for English fiction. His first play, I Had a Job I Liked. Once., won the Canadian Authors Association prize for the best drama published in 1993.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Canadian writer Vanderhaeghe ( Man Descending ) here examines the alienation plaguing three generations of a stiff-necked provincial family. In the late 1950s, widow Vera Miller returns home to her elderly father Alec in Saskatchewan after an absence of 17 years. Her teenage son Daniel has been getting out of hand--he is the cause of their homecoming. Once bitter because her father forced her to quit school to care for her younger, motherless brother Earl, proud Vera now takes a job as a movie usher while her son struggles to make friends and turns to his increasingly dotty grandfather for comfort. Daniel learns from Alec that Earl, whose whereabouts are unknown to his sister, died some years ago of meningitis while hospitalized for a mental breakdown. Told in alternating voices and flashbacks, the narrative does not always hang together, and skimpy characterization sometimes renders Vera, the novel's emotional center, shrill and unsympathetic. However, the author's skillful depiction of the growing relationship between Daniel and Alec is warm and real, as is the gradual breakdown of barriers between father and daughter. The novel ultimately succeeds as a quiet, moving story of family forgiveness. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

The largest desert are not hot at all, this brilliant, controlled novel reminds us, but frozen: Homesick, with its painful double meaning, should gather the audience long deserved by Vanderhaeghe, winner of the Faber Prize and a Governor-General's Award for his first story collection and Booker nominee for his first novel. Vanderhaeghe's literary antecedants include Welty, Morrison, Munro, and Updike: the 39-year-old Saskatchewanean explores the awful emptinesses of prairie life, Canadian life, North American life, modern life. Hamlin Garland, F.P. Grove, Wallace Stegner, Sinclair Ross, and Willa Cather come to mind, too, for Vanderhaeghe asks primal prairie dwellers' questions: "Why am I here?" and "Why is life here such hell?" He tests the pains of being family "in this desert, in this absence of love." Opening with an old man's recurring dream of freezing beneath lake ice, the novel closes with his face frozen after a stroke, and his daughter, anxious to talk, rescuing him, cold and nearly wordless, from the hospital. Humor and a fine ear for colloquialisms leaven the Beckett mix of silences and desert landscapes. Recommended for all collections, all levels. -R. H. Solomon, University of Alberta