A strange Irish girl is "away" ever since she lay beside a drowned man. A teacher marries her, providing stability if not sanity, but the 1840s famines begin and the couple flee Ireland with their child Liam. They establish a homestead in a remote part of Ontario where a baby girl, Eileen, is born.

Not long after, the mother disappears and is not seen again for years until she is brought home dead. The son learns that she had been living by a lake immersed in her fantasies of the long dead lover. Eventually, Liam is left to care for his sister alone; they travel to a small port town where he realizes that Eileen has become an attractive young woman with desires of her own. She too goes "away" following a lover, but returns to Liam and his wife to live out her long and lonely life.


Set against a backdrop of mid-nineteenth-century Ireland and Canada with references to actual political and natural events, this multi-layered story traces the trajectory of several generations of a family through the immigration experience. The nature of cultural and personal identity is a strong theme. The issue of "away" plays gently throughout the novel as a metaphor for madness or the plausibility of madness, together with its connection to love and sexual awakening.


The author was a co-winner of the Trillium Literary Award for Away.


McClelland & Stewart

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