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A Joy To Be Hidden by Ariela Freedman

Finalist for The Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction in 2019


Alice Stein, a young graduate student living in a vivid and chaotic late-90s East Village, loses her father and grandmother in a single year and is given the task of cleaning out her grandmother’s Brooklyn apartment. In the process of doing so, she begins to unlock a family secret. Accompanied by her precocious downstairs neighbour, a twelve-year-old girl named Persephone, she sets out on a quest to understand her family and herself. In the process, she will discover lost children and buried love affairs, histories she wants to believe and people she can’t trust, a village in Hungary and an artist’s loft in Harlem.


When my grandmother died, I was the first to go through her things. Well, not the first. The woman we hired to look after her was there before me, and she had taken my grandmother’s two
fur coats, the otter and the mink. I mourned the loss of the coats more deeply than the loss of my grandmother, a difficult and distant woman who wielded her reading glasses and books to keep others at a distance, like a sword and shield. In the last month of her illness, I had grown to know her a little better, but her hospital self, bedridden, drug-addled, loopy and confessional, confusingly affectionate, was unrecognizably different from the termagant of my childhood. When she suddenly and expectedly died—suddenly because every death is a shock, expectedly because the doctor had been cruelly clear about the one to four months she had left to live—I was not sure whom or what I had lost.

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Linda Leith Publishing