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Down There by the Train by Kate Sterns

Finalist for The Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction in 2001


A witty and wistful Gothic romance, packed with magic, comic misunderstandings and metaphorical brilliance. Kate Sterns’ acclaimed first novel, Thinking About Magritte, was heralded as the work of an exceptional talent. This new novel transcends that promise.

Out of prison on parole, Levon Hawke heads straight for the diner owned by his old friend, Sweeney. There Levon learns a suspect history of the unnamed, and unnameable, island where he has been offered a job at his cousin’s bakery. Lulled by Sweeney’s stories and the warmth of the diner, Levon misses the only ferry across and sets out over the frozen lake, alone and in failing light, provisioned with donuts and Sweeney’s map.

Stumbling ashore at the wrong end of the island, Levon is confronted by a ruined house deep in a dark forest. From under the door comes a faint glimmer of light, and behind it, partially hidden by the last volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, awaits perhaps his nemesis, or perhaps his destiny: tall, red-haired Obdulia Limb, grieving for her mother ten years dead.

Obdulia’s octogenarian femme fatale of a stepmother and her overbearing father try to engage Levon in a gruesome conspiracy to cure Obdulia of her grief. But Levon has his own grief, and besides, he has other plans.

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A.A. Knopf Canada