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is/was

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is/was

    By Jenny Sampirisi

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  Canada $19.95   



Set in the 1980s, when images of missing children first occupied the mass media, is/was explores one town's complex emotional reaction to the brutal rape and murder of a child within its bounds.

It is October 1983 and eight-year-old Abigail Wren has disappeared from a tiny Ontario town. In the crosscuts and fragments of each day's news, word of her abduction filters into the troubled Fitch family household. Roland Fitch becomes unhinged by long kept secrets, while his wife, Eva, turns inwards, tracing the aftermath of her own surgically precise loss. In the days and weeks following Abigail's death, the Fitch children, Andrew and Isabel, are increasingly left to parent themselves. As the already tenuous boundaries between family members are slowly effaced, once solid definitions — of the child, the adult, and the community — come unmoored.

At its core, is/was is an unflinching meditation set at the very edge of human limits. The boundaries of language, media, and the body itself transform to hold the complex currents of lust and absence. This thoughtful first novel is never reductive, but with subtlety and nuance, unfolds the terrible trajectory of loss.


Praise for is/was

"is/was is a shattering portrait of the psychological effects on one family of sudden and inexplicable violence. Jenny Sampirisi evokes dissociated states of mind and blocked communication with impressive precision. Tuned into the body and its almost alternate life, this narrative pulls the reader into the gradually unfolding suspense of suspended knowing." — Daphne Marlatt, author of Taken Ana Historic

"is/was explores loss in its immensity, but it rivets us, always, to its world of details. To the micro-rituals of conduct during periods of duress. To the concreteness of words on the page and the capillary routes of the sentence. Jenny Sampirisi is at once a marvelously fearless and disciplined writer." — David Chariandy, author of Soucouyant

"In the Canadian experimental lineage of Atom Egoyan's film Exotica, Lynn Crosbie's poetry Missing Children and Gail Scott's novel Main Brides, this searing story of a bereft family at its core searches to reunite pain's palimpsest with its fleshed healing. Sampirisi keenly makes us ache for a renewed stab at what was and can be." — Margaret Christakos, author of Excessive Love Prosthesis and What Stirs

Read more about Jenny Sampirisi »


Fiction  ·  Canada $19.95  ·  US $15.95  ·  Trade paperback  ·  978-1-897178-63-8  ·  192 pages  ·  5" x 8"  ·  Insomniac Press
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