My name is Melissa and I am interning here at Biblioasis. In the coming weeks, I will be keeping you up to date on our events as well as introducing you to some of our talented authors.
Today we are focusing on Lucie Wilk, who is appearing tonight (!) in Vancouver, and across the country throughout the month of October. Our only doctor-novelist, Lucy has been nominated for the McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize Anthology, long-listed for a CBC Canada Writes literary prize, and her writing appears in Descant, Prairie Fire and Shortfire Press. In addition to being a practicing rheumatologist, Lucie is also an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.
Her first novel, The Strength of Bone, takes place at a hospital in Blantyre, Malawi where a Western doctor and a local nurse are sent to a village outpost. Below is an excerpt from the novel's opening pages.
Wilk's work has received commendations from celebrated authors such as Annabel Lyon ("supple, beautiful") and Joseph Boyden ("a gorgeous debut"), as well as solid advance praise from Library Journal:
Wilk illuminates the differences between Malawian culture and that of the West while capturing both the fever-dream beauty and desperation of the country … Readers who enjoyed Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone may want to give this book a try.
From The Strength of Bone
The sky was milky blue. It seemed wet and somehow stained. Beneath it the ground was dry and untended. Nothing moved. It was winter.
Inside, a young girl lay on a bed in the dark in a room that was filled with the sound of her breath. In and out. In and out. The air was saturated with her breath just as her lungs were sopped in, semi-submerged. Her chest lifted and fell. In. Out.
The visitors who came tried not to share the air. They breathed short and shallow. They tried to be as unaware of their own breath as they were before they entered the room. Because noticing it somehow created lack and just for a moment, they knew suffocation. That is why after a short while they left.
The girl once held her breath. Maybe a year ago she did this. Just an inch under the bath water, her small body still, muscles relaxed, face serene. After what became too long, her mother reached under the water, grabbed her under her arms and pulled her up and when the girl emerged into the air she was triumphant with her discovery. That she could control these sorts of things. She could stop breath like this. On a whim.
Her right arm was folded across her stomach and exaggerated the lift of her chest—a barometer of breath. Her legs were askew, scissor-like. Her skin was sallow but warm. The angle where her neck met her jaw fluttered twice with each pause of her heart. Her lips were dry. Her eyes were closed. Because she was sleeping.
Night or day, the room was kept dark. Because letting the sun in might have been too hopeful. Because hope at this stage was irresponsible.
Around her and inside the room were objects that were still animated by her presence. A doll, a hairbrush with six brown hairs entwined, a box of colouring pencils of different lengths, two parents, one hunched forward, the other leaning back. Their meaning existed because she did, because the girl who held them or hugged them or regarded them with a precise, thoughtful intention still lay sleeping nearby.
She slept because she was tired. She was tired because she was ill. She was ill because—and this was where the chain broke. There was no because. There was no reasonable answer. There was no reason.