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parsed(2023-05-09) - pubdate: 2023-05-09
pub date: 1683608400
today: 1721019600, pubdate > today = false

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A Grandmother Begins the Story

A Novel

May 9, 2023 | Hardcover
ISBN: 9780735245372
Reader Reward Price: $31.46 info
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National Bestseller
Winner of the 2024 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award

Finalist for the 2023 Writers' Trust Atwood Gibson Fiction Prize

Five generations of Métis women argue, dance, struggle, laugh, love, and tell the stories that will sing their family, and perhaps the land itself, into healing in this brilliantly original debut novel.

Carter is a young mother, recently separated. She is curious, angry, and on a quest to find out what the heritage she only learned of in her teens truly means.

Allie is trying to make up for the lost years with her first born, and to protect Carter from the hurt she herself suffered from her own mother.

Lucie wants the granddaughter she's never met to help her join her ancestors in the Afterlife.

Geneviève is determined to conquer her demons before the fire inside burns her up, with the help of the sister she lost but has never been without.

And Mamé, in the Afterlife, knows that all their stories began with her; she must find a way to loose herself from the last threads that keep her tethered to the living, just as they must find their own paths forward.

This extraordinary novel, told by a chorus of vividly realized, funny, wise, confused, struggling characters--including descendants of the bison that once freely roamed the land--heralds the arrival of a stunning new voice in literary fiction.

About this Author

MICHELLE PORTER is the descendent of a long line of Métis storytellers. Many of her ancestors told stories using music and today she tells stories using the written word. She holds degrees in Journalism, Folklore, English, and a PhD in Geography. Her academic research and creative work focus on home, memory, and women's changing relationships with the land.

Her most recent book, Scratching River, a memoir exploring the meaning of her Métis heritage through her older brother's life story, was published by Wilfrid Laurier Press in April 2022. She's also published a book of creative nonfiction about her great-grandfather, a fiddler from the Red River, called Approaching Fire (shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Award 2021) and a book of poetry, Inquiries, (shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award). Michelle has won numerous awards for her poetry and journalism and her work has been published in literary journals and magazines across the country. Currently she is teaching creative writing and Métis Literature at Memorial University. She is a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation and she lives in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

ISBN: 9780735245372
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 336
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Published: 2023-05-09



Winner of an AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award for "truly exceptional" audiobooks

One of:
CBC Books "Best Fiction of 2023"
SheDoesTheCity's ""15 Books to Read During Indigenous History Month (and Any Month)"

"A Grandmother Begins the Story blows the doors off the typical family saga. . . . Beautiful and daring, this book carries the weight of history lightly, and is full of surprises and shifts--we move between this world and the afterlife, human and animal characters, in a great imaginative dance. The story's striking voices resound long after the final page."
--2023 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize Jury

"A singularly sweet harmony from a polyphonic chorus of distinct narrative voices--land, spirit, animal, human, object--who join together to tell a tale of loss, grit, tenderness, and renewal. Love flows through these pages like a river overspilling its banks, bringing healing and homecomings to five generations of Métis women in the same family who are each grappling with the daily and cumulative violences of settler colonialism in their own ways."
--2024 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award Jury

"A Grandmother Begins the Story will leave you forever charmed and soulspun. What a vision. What courage to blow a hole through all expectations of what a story can be and how it's told, and what a masterwork from a voice I'd follow anywhere. This is why we read and this is why we write: to discover places and voices and visions like these."
--Richard van Camp, award-winning author of Godless but Loyal to Heaven and The Moon of Letting Go

"Michelle Porter's novel, A Grandmother Begins the Story, is charged with huge blasts of imaginative force--magical in every way. In this novel, divided families come together, there are wise bison, and dogs with opinions, an Indigenous family history spanning generations. Here is heaven and then, what the rest of these vivid characters must contend with, life on earth, with all its splendor and heartbreak. Porter is sometimes knee-slappingly funny, sometimes wry, poignant, nuanced, and gleefully irreverent. But this novel is full of reverence for the most important things: music and stories. Porter's characters are tough and tender, courageous and flawed, and so true to life you'll go back to the beginning as soon as you turn the last page, because you can't stand for it to be over. Michelle Porter's voice is unique, uber-alive, utterly gorgeous. Just, WOW!" 
--Lisa Moore, award-winning author of This is How We Love and Caught

"A haunting, gorgeous tale that traces the roots of an indigenous Canadian family through several generations. . . . Porter has published memoir and poetry, and she plays with the beauty of language and the rhythm of music here. The pulsing heart of the Métis people underlies every short section, creating a patchwork of beads not unlike those the women make."
--Booklist (starred review) 

"Searingly captivating. . . . Highly recommended, especially for fans of stories of generational relations and the connections between women. The tender, tough, funny, and heartbreaking voices of the characters will seep into readers' souls."
--Library Journal (starred review)

"Beautifully crafted and deeply moving. . . . A testament to the strength of Métis women. . . . Métis traditions such as beading, fiddling, dancing and storytelling serve as constant motifs. In fact, the shifting perspectives that bring the characters closer to each other are reminiscent of beadwork, where individual pieces come together to form one work of art. . . . A grandmother begins this story; readers should hope Porter continues telling more."
--Winnipeg Free Press

"This singular and visionary debut spectacularly reimagines the epic family saga novel. Touching, evocative and kaleidoscopic."
-Ms. Magazine

"The closest a novel can come to the crooked rhythms of a  Métis jig, with its seductive, continually surprising rhythms. . . . Porter is also a poet, and her vivid prose skips and romps, propelling her narrative not so much forward, but outward, weaving an expansive tale of kinship, redemption, and forgiveness. A gorgeous, vibrant, irresistible story."
-Michelle Cyca, in Quill & Quire

"Matriarchs are essential to the novel, which is structured like a tapestry, . . .  None of the mothers in A Grandmother Begins The Story are perfect, but it's from these very imperfections that they draw their strength and figure out how to move forward, how to help the next generation, how to keep loving. Among the many joys to be found in Porter's book is the way she imbues everything in the world with aliveness. . . .  Porter has [created] beauty from the ugliness of colonization, loss, addiction, abandonment, and grief." 

"Deeply imaginative and utterly captivating. Michelle Porter's storytelling pushes genre boundaries in a way that will surprise and delight readers. The prose is tight, and the characters are unforgettable. I don't think I understood the term 'unputdownable' until now." 
--Carleigh Baker, award-winning author of Bad Endings

"This is a work of vocal magic. Through richly drawn characters and vibrant echoes of oral traditions old and new, Michelle Porter shows us the true breadth and resonance of Métis kinship, complete with the gifts and the hurts that move up and down the generations. There is simply no other story like it."
--Warren Cariou, award-winning author of The Exalted Company of Roadside Martyrs and Lake of the Prairies: A Story of Belonging

"A weeping birch grows in front of my house. Its leaves hang down on long, thin branches that, leafless, look like hair. When the sun is out and the winter air stirs, the sun's rays passing through these branches break into shifting patterns of shadow and light over the house. When I was reading A Grandmother Begins the Story in my front room, that moving light passed through the prismed edge of the front door window and broke into rainbows across the page and they danced with each other and the darkness between them over the writing. I don't need to find the words to tell you that a story can change the way you belong to the world. Nature and Michelle Porter have done that for me. And they will for you, too."
--Richard Harrison, award-winning poet, author of On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood

"Unique. . . . Heavy ties of interdependence energies run through these characters, both human and more-than-human, simultaneously. These are exciting stories attached to the land with identifiable characters that could be one's family members, and it's the land that holds the story and hand of the grandmothers who lead the herd and hold space for life and story after them."
--Marilyn Dumont, award-winning poet, author of The Pemmican Eaters and A Really Good Brown Girl

"Porter imbues her well-crafted debut novel with her Métis culture's storytelling traditions... [and] brings a web of interconnected voices to vivid life."
-Publishers Weekly

"Through lyrical, spiritual storytelling, we see five generations of women in Carter and Allie's family determined to maintain the thread of their connections to each other and grow their legacy into the future."

"Porter weaves an intricate story out of sparse, interlocking poetic fragments in her fiction debut. Her expertise as a poet and writer of nonfiction is on full display in this genre-blending book, which is deeply rooted in Métis storytelling, matrilineal knowledge and spirituality. . . . A beautiful meditation on the interconnectedness of spirit, land, and family."

"In this brilliant debut novel, five generations of Métis women tell the stories that will bring healing to their family and the land itself. . . . Narrated by a diverse chorus of characters, this novel explores the importance of intergenerational connections and Indigenous storytelling."
--Electric Literature

"Sixteen narrators, many Indigenous, join their voices to deliver memoirist/poet Michelle Porter's haunting debut novel. . . .  These vibrant, determined women are surrounded by others--including bison, two dogs, a car named Bets, and even the prairie itself--and are supported by them. Porter's dreamlike writing is enhanced by a delicate soundtrack interwoven with a playful fiddle and gently thrumming drums."
--AudioFile Magazine

"Inspired by the musicality of Métis culture, this fresh work of Indigenous storytelling centers perspectives of both man and nature... A Grandmother Begins the Story is a testament to the living, breathing process of passing stories and songs along across the years. A stirring ode to the rhythms of generational exchange, Porter's debut novel shimmers with a cast of Indigenous Canadian performers and brilliant musical interludes featuring early recordings from her own great-grandfather, grandmother, and great-aunt."

"This is an extraordinary novel full of humour, great storytelling, and memorable characters, introducing readers to a new, incredible voice in literary fiction."

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