As She Grows 

publisher: Penguin Canada

Snow's life has never gone right. Her family troubles seem destined to send her on a downward spiral, especially once she learns she's pregnant. Will she end up like her mother and grandmother, her life wrecked by good intentions and poor judgment? As Snow is forced to strip illusion from reality, she can't avoid the difficult truths that lie at the core of her being.

As She Grows (2003) was shortlisted for the Chapters/Robertson Davies First Novel Prize and is published by Penguin Books.

SOMETHING WICKED

publisher: Penguin Canada

16-year-old Melissa is struggling with everything in her life. She can’t seem to stay out of trouble at school, she’s angry all the time, and the people she counts on never seem to make the right choices.  Her mother, her boyfriend and her friends always seem to pick the path that leads them – and Melissa – into more trouble.  When the one good thing in her life ends, Melissa spirals out of control, aware that she’s on a destructive path but unsure of how to stop herself.  Only when she hits rock bottom, is Melissa able find the strength to make important changes in her life.

HOW SOON IS NOW? 

(Adult literary fiction - complete manuscript) 

Seeking Publisher

How Soon is Now? -- an adult literary novel about a ship that never sails and a language that is never spoken.

 

How Soon is Now? has 2 alternating storylines, 60 years apart, that follow 29-year-old Lara and her 30-year-old grandfather, Eckhart. Lara’s contemporary story follows her 26-day silent meditation retreat in Thailand, while Eckhart’s story (1944/5) follows one year in a German Prisoner of War camp in Toronto, framed by his construction of one special ship-in-a-bottle. In the end, the parallel stories merge and become one, thus revealing the ultimate truth as to why Lara is unable to mourn her father’s recent passing.

 

STORYLINE #1: MONASTERY IN THAILAND, PRESENT DAY

Immobilized by suppressed grief, Lara abruptly flees her Canadian life to spend 26 days of silence (no reading, writing or speaking) at a remote meditation temple located in Northern Thailand. She is twenty-nine, lives with her fiancé, and is set on track towards marriage and children. Several months prior, her father (an eccentric, taciturn, man who was building a large Shetland fishing boat in his backyard in suburban Toronto

passed away suddenly. Despite this obvious source of anguish, Lara attributes her mounting despondency to a lifelong inability to ‘connect’ to people. Desperate for answers, Lara turns to silence. Her journey from language (mind, rationalism) to silence (body, emotion) at the Thai temple is one of denial, frustration, and eventually, insight. It is an ironic discovery that her immersion in the absence of language is what leads to her to an ultimate connection to others.  It’s also silence that enables her to piece together and identify the source of her father’s disconsolation. 

 

Life at the temple reveals a surprisingly complex, dynamic world in which hypocrisy and scandal are not lacking. After initially caught up in the alluring distraction of the duplicitous temple life (nuns threatening a strike, ghosts, horny monks, and a secret nightly gathering of foreign Yogis outside the gate), Lara makes a critical decision to dedicate herself to total silence. In turn, a fundamental shift in perception occurs as she transitions from experiencing her surroundings via language to experiencing the world via the body. In a sense, she endures a ‘detox’ of language. Her subsequent journey through the multiple layers of silence is emotionally turbulent and complex. Her discoveries are both beautiful and enlightening: she finds intimacy in a cool breeze, companionship in routine, and connectedness in absence and grief in the acceptance of a lack of answers. In the end, past-present-future overlap during her hallucinatory ‘determination’ (72 hours of silence without leaving one’s room) and she surfaces a truth that is both haunting and freeing.

 

STORYLINE #2: GERMAN P.O.W. CAMP IN ONTARIO,  1945

 

Lara’s grandfather, a 29-year-old German U-boat prisoner, has lived in a Canadian POW camp for 4 years. Located just outside of Toronto, Camp 22 (Mimico) is found on the back-stretch of The Longbranch Thoroughbred Racetrack.

 

Eckhart’s story is framed by his construction of one special ship-in-a-bottle. His focus on the intricate building of the ship provides a meditative escape. Unlike Lara, Eckhart begins in a state of silence and isolation. Disinterested in the thriving social atmosphere of the camp, Eckhart hides in solitude, spending hours at his workbench engaged in this delicate craft of building ships in bottles. He sells his ships through the fence to track patrons. His fine work attracts a loyal following of customers. Mr. Smith, a thoroughbred owner takes a particular liking to this tall, quiet prisoner, and over time becomes a father figure to Eckhart.

 

Eckhart’s self-imposed isolation from his comrades is contrasted with his good friend Helmut’s gregarious personality. While his peers enjoy the liberal, ‘resort-like’ lifestyle of the camp, Eckhart is tormented by guilt and self-reproach due to his failure in combat. He abhors his comrades who embrace Canadian culture, sports and the English language. Burdened with both extreme guilt (his father was one of Germany’s first U-boat commanders who died in WWI, leaving Eckhart to ‘man-up’ and lead the family) and shame resulting from his failed military career, Eckhart feels his demise is inevitable: he will take his own life before he ever returns home a failure.

 

As the end of the war Eckhart meets Mr. Smith’s 22-year-old daughter, Gladys. The ship that Eckhart had intended to be his last, now becomes a focus of love. Eckhart slowly brings himself out of isolation, immersing himself in the ‘English language’ and partaking in the social distractions of camp life.

 

The war is soon over and Eckhart must face his reality: he can not return to Germany (and his family) a failure. An unexpected invitation to a Canadian Christmas dinner from Mr. Smith illuminates a second option: Eckhart’s death will be symbolic. He will conceal both his German heritage and his torment and he will marry Gladys. Like the character in the film The Invisible Man (a popular movie at the camp) who layers on clothes, Eckhart will layer on his existence. He will have a wife. He will buy a house. He will have a profession. He will become a part of the life at the racetrack. He will speak English. He will forget the war. He will forget his father. He will forget his failures.

 

…And he will have a son who will bear the unspoken weight. And this son, will have a daughter (Lara) who, one day, will bravely lift the weight of shame from her family lineage and accept the fact that a child is not responsible for his/her parent’s happiness. 

 
 

ISLAND

(Adult literary fiction - complete manuscript) 

Seeking Publisher

“There are two dilemmas that rattle the human skull. How do you hold onto someone who won't stay? And how do you get rid of someone who won't go?” A husband and wife find the answers to their self-pertinent questions in a dark, gripping new novel, Homonyms of Love.

 

Leah and Josh are a young, urban couple from Toronto. Desperate for an escape from her stifling urban life, Leah leaves Josh to buy a small hotel on an island located off the Kenyan Coast. Persistent, devoted and ultimately… unwanted, Josh follows.

The Swahili village of Elea is magical. Its narrow lanes are walled by 600-year-old white coral stone houses with galleried verandas and intricately carved wooden doors. Donkeys are the only means of transportation. Muslim women clad head-to-toe in black buibuis buy their fish at the local market.

 

The convergence in Elea of bohemian backpackers, Muslim Rasta fisherman, and well-wishing missionaries – not to mention eccentric expats and the European elite -- creates a cacophonous energy, and it soon becomes apparent that Elea is not a step back to a simpler time. In fact, Elea is a contradictory fire-bed of opposing mini-cultures waiting for a spark. But the town is not the only brewing calamity. Leah’s detachment in her marriage leads her to renew an affair with a local beach boy, Kamal (A.K.A.: Monsoon), whom she’d met several years before on a previous visit to Kenya. Two months after her arrival, Leah finds herself in love, dangling over the edge of her own sexual and emotional abyss. Meanwhile, Josh is lured by the hedonism of Graves, an eccentric middle-aged American who lives in the neighbouring town of Ayo. Behind Graves’ alluring, laid-back islander charm is a calculating man who sells cocaine to wealthy Europeans, and Josh learns too late that his own seemingly small-scale involvement coincides with a major US military patrolled drug trafficking route along the East African coast.

 

Soon, the escapist fantasies that carried Leah and Josh through the mundane routine of their urban life are transformed into perilous, unstoppable realities. Then, in the early morning hours of a full-moon night, Josh’s and Leah’s fantasy worlds collide, and disaster strikes.

 

Homonyms of Love is an unflinching look at female sex tourism, an exploration of the difference between feeling loved and feeling desired, an investigation of the de-masculinization of western men, and an illumination of the tragic lengths some of us are willing to cross in pursuit of passion

"Island" is available and seeking a publisher. 

© 2016 LesleyAnneCowan with WIX.COM