The Box Garden

      Carol Shields
The Box Garden

The story of a woman dancing on the edge of a difficult life.

Ever since her husband left her—seemingly vanishing into thin air—Charleen Forrest has supported herself and her fifteen-year-old son on what she earns as an obscure poet and part-time gofer for an even more obscure scientific journal. But when her estranged mother remarries, prompting an unplanned reunion, Charleen finds herself moving out of her familiar existence.

A dazzling counterpoint to Shields’s debut novel, Small Ceremonies, imbued with her scathing wit and dead-on observations, The Box Garden is an unforgettable portrait of a woman who finds transformation—and happiness—where she least expects it.

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    Small Ceremonies

      Carol Shields
Small Ceremonies

Shields' first novel tells the story of Judith Gill, a woman whose world is shaped by the actions of those around her. As a biographer, she spends her days analyzing the minutiae of past lives. But in one lovingly documented year of life, Judith is revealed to herself: a person with desires, passions, and faults; with instincts that are sometimes right and often wrong.

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    Swann

      Carol Shields
Swann

Carol Shields's award-winning and critically acclaimed "literary mystery," first published in 1987.*

Swann* is the story of four individuals who become entwined in the life of Mary Swann, a rural Canadian poet whose authentic and unique voice is discovered only hours before her husband hacks her to pieces.Who is Mary Swann? And how could she have produced these works of genius in almost complete isolation? Mysteriously, all traces of Swann's existence — her notebook, the first draft of her work, even her photograph — gradually vanish as the characters in this engrossing novel become caught up in their own concepts of who Mary Swann was.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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    The Republic of Love

      Carol Shields
The Republic of Love

With a viewpoint that shifts as crisply as cards in the hands of a blackjack dealer, Carol Shields introduces us to two shell-shocked veterans of the wars of the heart. There's Fay, a folklorist whose passion for mermaids has kept her from focusing on any one man. And right across the street there's Tom, a popular radio talk-show host who has focused a little too intently, having married and divorced three times.

Can Fay believe in lasting love with such a man? Will romantic love conquer all rational expectations? Only Carol Shields could describe so adroitly this couple who fall in love as thoroughly and satisfyingly as any Victorian couple and the modern complications that beset them in this touching and ironic book.

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    The Stone Diaries

      Carol Shields
The Stone Diaries

The Stone Diaries is one ordinary woman's story of her journey through life. Born in 1905, Daisy Stone Goodwill drifts through the roles of child, wife, widow, and mother, and finally into her old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography. Her life is vivid with incident, and yet she feels a sense of powerlessness. She listens, she observes, and through sheer force of imagination she becomes a witness of her own life: her birth, her death, and the troubling misconnections she discovers between. Daisy's struggle to find a place for herself in her own life is a paradigm of the unsettled decades of our era. A witty and compassionate anatomist of the human heart, Carol Shields has made distinctively her own that place where the domestic collides with the elemental. With irony and humor she weaves the strands of The Stone Diaries together in this, her richest and most poignant novel to date.

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    Dressing Up for the Carnival

      Carol Shields
Dressing Up for the Carnival

In Dressing Up for the Carnival, Carol Shields distills her characteristic wisdom, elegance, and insouciant humor in twenty-two luminous stories. A wealth of surprises and contrasts, this collection ranges from the lyricism of "Weather," in which a couple's life is thrown into chaos when the National Association of Meteorologists goes on strike, to the swampy sexuality of "Eros," in which a room in a Parisian hotel on the verge of ruin is the catalyst for passion, to the brave confidence of "A Scarf"-new for this collection-which chronicles the realities of a fledging author's book tour. Playful, graceful, acutely observed, and generous of spirit, these stories will delight her devoted fans and win her new converts as well.

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    Unless

      Carol Shields
Unless

Reta Winters, 44-year-old successful author of light summertime fiction, has always considered herself happy, even blessed. That is, until her oldest daughter Norah mysteriously drops out of college to become a panhandler on a Toronto street corner -- silent, with a sign around her neck bearing the word "Goodness."
--back cover

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    Various Miracles

      Carol Shields
Various Miracles

The stories collected here offer an entrancing look at some of the various miracles of everyday life, the quirks of chance and coincidence, life's setbacks and improvisations. Carol Shields deftly draws us into the lives of a broad range of sharply observed characters, from the brilliant young violinist smothered by an overprotective family, to the elderly widow mowing her lawn while a long, passionate life buzzes around in her memory.

Blending wit and compassion, Shields illuminates moments when ordinary people face extraordinary circumstances, declarations of love and revelations that transform their lives. Sharp, skeptical and sympathetic, this collection presents Shields at her inimitable best in twenty-one miracles of the storyteller's art.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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    Larry's Party

      Carol Shields
Larry's Party

Larry Weller, born in 1950, is an ordinary guy made extraordinary by his creator's perception, irony and tenderness. Carol Shields gives us, as it were, a CAT scan of his life, in episodes between 1977 and 1997 that flash back and forward seamlessly. As Larry journeys toward the millennium, adapting to society's changing expectations of men, Shields' elegant prose makes the trivial into the momentous. Among all the paradoxes and accidents of his existence, Larry moves through the spontaneity of the seventies, the blind enchantment of the eighties and the lean, mean nineties, completing at last his quiet, stubborn search of self. Larry's odyssey mirrors the male condition at the end of our century with targeted wit, unerring poignancy and faultless wisdom.

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    Dropped Threads 2: More of What We Aren't Told

      Carol Shields
Dropped Threads 2: More of What We Aren't Told

The idea for Dropped Threads: What We Aren't Told came up between Carol Shields and longtime friend Marjorie Anderson over lunch. It appeared that after decades of feminism, the “women's network” still wasn't able to prevent women being caught off-guard by life. There remained subjects women just didn't talk about, or felt they couldn't talk about. Holes existed in the fabric of women's discourse, and they needed examining.

They asked thirty-four women to write about moments in life that had taken them by surprise or experiences that received too little discussion, and then they compiled these pieces into a book. It became an instant number one bestseller, a book clubs' favourite and a runaway success. Dropped Threads, says Anderson, "tapped into a powerful need to share personal stories about life's defining moments of surprise and silence." Readers recognized themselves in these honest and intimate stories; there was something universal in these deeply personal accounts. Other stories and suggestions poured in. Dropped Threads would clearly be an ongoing project.

Like the first volume, Dropped Threads 2 features stories by well-known novelists and journalists such as Jane Urquhart, Susan Swan and Shelagh Rogers, but also many excellent new writers including teachers, mothers, a civil servant, a therapist. This triumphant follow-up received a starred first review in Quill and Quire magazine, which called it “compassionate and unflinching.” The book deals with such difficult topics as loss, depression, disease, widowhood, violence, and coming to terms with death. Several stories address some of the darker sides of motherhood:

  • A mother describes how, while sleep-deprived and in a miserable marriage, she is shocked to find infanticide crossing her mind.
  • Another woman recounts a memory of her alcoholic mother demanding the children prove their loyalty in a terrifying way.
  • A woman desperate for children refers to the bleak truth as: "Another Christmas of feeling barren." Narrating the fertility treatment she undergoes, the hopes dashed, she is amusing in retrospect and yet brutally honest.

While they deal with loss and trauma, the pieces show the path to some kind of acceptance, showing the authors’ determination to learn from pain and pass on the wisdom gained. The volume also covers the rewards of learning to be a parent, choosing to remain single, or fitting in as a lesbian parent. It explores how women feel when something is missing in a friendship, how they experience discrimination, relationship challenges, and other emotions less easily defined but just as close to the bone:

  • Alison Wearing in “My Life as a Shadow” subtly describes allowing her personality to be subsumed by her boyfriend's.
  • Pamela Mala Sinha tells how, after suffering a brutal attack, she felt self-hatred and a longing for retribution.
  • Dana McNairn talks of her uncomfortable marriage to a man from a different social background: "I wanted to fit in with this strange, wondrous family who never raised their voices, never swore and never threw things at one another."

Humour, a confiding tone, and beautiful writing elevate and enliven even the darkest stories. Details bring scenes vividly to life, so we feel we are in the room with Barbara Defago when the doctor tells her she has breast cancer, coolly dividing her life into a 'before and after.' Lucid, reflective and poignant, Dropped Threads 2 is for anyone interested in women's true stories.

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