by Nadia Bozak
“Unflinching and forgiving, sentimental and unsparing. Nadia Bozak writes straight to the heart of girlhood, where secrets are both awkward and empowering, as childhood’s magic gives way to the discomfort of adolescence and a young woman comes into her own. Thirteen Shells is a beautifully written book.” – Teva Harrison, author of In-Between Days
“Thirteen Shells is a smart, tender story of growing up. It will make you want to dig out your scrapbook or keepsake box and go over all your old memories, the more poignant the better. Our lives come back to us in stories like these, polished shells strung on a cord, the whole as meaningful as all its parts.” – Lynn Thomson, author of Birding With Yeats
Spanning the years 1977 to 1990, Nadia Bozak’s thirteen stories are narrated from the perspective of Shell, the only child of bohemian artisans determined to live off their handicrafts and uphold a left-wing lifestyle. At the age of five, Shell’s world is transformed when the family moves into a new house, where she grows up. Over time, she gradually trades her unconventional upbringing for junk food, rock music, and boys. All the while, Shell quietly watches her parents’ loveless marriage fall apart and learns to survive divorce, weight gain, heartache, and first love.
A funny, sensitive portrayal of the innocence and uncertainty of childhood and adolescence, Thirteen Shells is a true-to-life collection that is as unforgettable as it is poignant.
“Nadia Bozak’s coming-of-age snapshots are a gentle reminder of all that’s immediate and fleeting. Wistful, distinct, and full of life.”
–Iain Reid, author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things
“Thirteen Shells quietly captures each painful gasp of growing up: the anxiety and shame, along with the treasures found along the way.”
“What is interesting in the case of Thirteen Shells is the way the differing understandings of genre lend different readings to the individual pieces…Bozak has structured her work carefully, providing repeated images and symbols, as with musical themes, that serve as unifying devices across different stories, deepening the reading experience as the volume progresses.” – Steven W. Beattie, The Globe and Mail
“Shell is no angel. She lies and steals, at least a little. Experiments with drugs. And has her petty jealousies. But by the midpoint in the novel, the readers find themselves rooting for Shell, hoping that her dreams will come true. And that is the novel’s brilliance.”
–Ottawa Review of Books
“Bozak’s newest book, all repressed heartbreak and wry humour, does not fit comfortably with the traditional label of novel or short story collection. Instead, it is more like a reality television series. Each segment voyeuristically peers into a different year in the lives of Shell, her parents and her friends, but always from Shell’s perspective.”
“There’s also a grittiness and emotional dynamism in these later tales…“Left Luggage” and “New Roof,” centred on a vacation to Florida and the sale of the decaying family house, are terrific vignettes that relate the awkwardness, tension, and intimacy between daughter and mother. They suggest a blood bond that’s permanent, but never easy.” – Brett Josef Grubisic, Quill & Quire
House of Anansi Press, May 2016