Monday, 7 November 2016

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay

Join us for a Skype Conference with the Author

his_whole_life_coverStarting with something as simple as a boy who wants a dog, His Whole Life takes us into a rich and intimate world where everything that matters is at risk: family, nature, country, home.

At the outset, ten-year-old Jim and his Canadian mother and American father are on a car journey from New York City to a lake in eastern Ontario during the last hot days of August. What follows is an enveloping story that spans a few pivotal years of his youth and sets out competing claims on everyone’s love: for Canada over New York; for a mother over a father; a friend over a husband; one son over another. With her trademark honesty, vivid sense of place, and nuanced characters, Hay deftly charts the deepening bond between mother and son as a marriage falters and the family threatens to come apart.

Set in the mid-1990s, when Quebec was on the verge of leaving Canada, this is a coming-of-age story as only Elizabeth Hay could tell it. With grace and power she probes the mystery of how members of a family can hurt each other so deeply, and remember those hurts in such detail, yet find openings that shock them with love and forgiveness

About the Author

Elizabeth Hay was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, the daughter of a high school principal and a painter, and one of four children. When she was fifteen, a year in England opened up her world and set her on the path to becoming a writer. She attended the University of Toronto, then moved out west, and in 1974 went north to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. For the next ten years she worked as a CBC radio broadcaster in Yellowknife, Winnipeg, and Toronto, and eventually freelanced from Mexico. In 1986 she moved from Mexico to New York City, and in 1992, with her husband and two children, she returned to Canada, settling in Ottawa, where she has lived ever since

Author Website


The National Post

The Star

Skype Conference with Elizabeth Hay
Sometimes with hope and a little bit of luck truly great things can happen.  Two members of our book club nominated His Whole Life for our 2016 – 2017 reading list. A sound choice. A fine book.
Who would have thought that Elizabeth Hay, Giller Award winner, would consent to Skype with a book club from small town Alberta or that the Skype conference would be such a magical experience? The space here is too limited, as is my skill, to reproduce all that was said. Here are some of the highlights for us:
What is the idea that inspires you to begin the novel?
Hay describes the process as a kind of emotional congestion. She lies on her bed and tries to determine what matters to her most. Something is troubling her and it is something that she cares deeply about. The crux of this novel is the exploration of the mother/son bond.
Why did you choose the time period of the years surrounding the 2nd Quebec Referendum?
On a larger scale, the situation of our country was that of the family – do we stay together?  Things are falling apart.  It was a time of strong emotion and of fear for the future, a time full of confusion and chaos.  There were strong leaders on both sides of the question – Trudeau, Levesque, Lucien Bouchard… Also, there were the contrasts between Quebec and Canada, Canada and the U.S.
What characters were particularly difficult to write and which were easy?
An author has to write not just about the characters but for them. You write characters from the outside in.
Lulu just flowed out – the book needed her burst of energy just like it needed New York.  In many ways she’s like Dido in Late Nights on Air who also brought that vitality to the situation.  Hay likes to watch people and interpret their behavior and her characters do have elements that are from her own life.  There are many aspects of her own son in Jim.

It was pure joy to spend an hour with Elizabeth Hay – to watch her think and strive for the most honest answer, to revel in her warmth and humour, to see and hear the love she has for her art…  Thanks Liz.

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