Nominated by:

Saint John Free Public Library, New Brunswick, Canada

Publisher of nominated edition:

Knopf Canada

The Birthday Lunch

Joan Clark    

The Birthday Lunch is the story of one pivotal week in the life of a family facing a tragic loss, rich with dramatic tension and beautifully rendered.

Free-spirited Lily has always played the peacemaker between her fierce, doting sister, Laverne, and her own loving, garrulous husband, Hal, as they competed for her attention. The competition has only grown worse since the three of them moved into a large house in the town of Sussex, New Brunswick. On Lily’s 58th birthday, a steamy day in late June, Laverne feels she has bested Hal by winning her sister’s company for a gourmet lunch, but it becomes a bitter and short-lived victory when the day’s events take an unexpected and tragic turn.

In The Birthday Lunch, Joan Clark explores the different ways each member of Lily’s family confronts her shocking death: Hal’s open sorrow, her daughter Claudia’s reappraisal of her own life, her son Matt’s determination to assign blame. And unforgettably, Laverne’s eccentricity and isolation, her intensifying conflict with Hal, illuminates the brutal territory of accusation and regret.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Joan Clark is the author of the novels Latitudes of Melt, The Victory of Geraldine Gull and Eiriksdottir, as well as two short story collections and several award-winning novels for young adults. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, she has lived in various places across Canada with her geotechnical engineer husband Jack. While living in Calgary she became a founding member of the Alberta Writers Guild and co-founded the acclaimed literary journal Dandelion. She now lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Librarian’s Comments

In this “quietly explosive” (Emma Healey, author) novel, Clark paints a positive, incisive picture of vibrant small town life as the backdrop for this family drama, which explores various ways of confronting death. This carefully structured novel describes the pitfalls of family dynamics and how they can reach a bittersweet equilibrium. Clark’s writing is richly textured and emotionally authentic, producing a powerful sense of place and realistic dialogue which move the story forward.

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