Open Arms

Paperback | April 1, 2009

byMarina EndicottEditorBarbara Pulling

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Bessie Smith Connolly has lived with her Nova Scotia grandparents since she was small. But at seventeen--grieving the death of her steadfast grandfather, smarting from a split with the boy she loves--she escapes to Saskatoon to be with her mother, Isabel. Bittersweet, clear-eyed, and deeply affecting, this marvellous debut novel charts Bessie's course as she makes her way through her exploded family and out into the world.

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Bessie Smith Connolly has lived with her Nova Scotia grandparents since she was small. But at seventeen--grieving the death of her steadfast grandfather, smarting from a split with the boy she loves--she escapes to Saskatoon to be with her mother, Isabel. Bittersweet, clear-eyed, and deeply affecting, this marvellous debut novel charts...

From the Jacket

Freehand Books is pleased to be bringing back to print the widely acclaimed first novel by the author of the Giller-shortlisted Good to a Fault, Marina Endicott. Open Arms is a contemporary quest story set in Saskatoon and featuring a protagonist whose spirit is as strong as her heart is broken. Seventeen-year-old Bessie Smith Connolly...

Marina Endicott's second novel, Good to a Fault, was winner of the regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best Book Award, Canada and the Caribbean, a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and one of The Globe and Mail's Top 100 Books of 2008. Her debut novel, Open Arms, was a finalist for the 2001 Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.75 inPublished:April 1, 2009Publisher:Freehand BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1551119323

ISBN - 13:9781551119328

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Read from the Book

My mother drives her van as if she's sailing, leaning her weight against each turn to keep an even keel in this stiff breeze. Sometimes when I go with her through the dark streets I fall asleep on the bundles of newspapers in the back, and wake to see her shoulders and head arched black against the windshield, some song slipping out under her breath. On my grandmother's piano there's a photograph of my mother hiking far out over the waves, one hand on the tiller and the other on the spinnaker line. Her head is flung back and her eyes are closed, and the sun is everywhere on her. She liked a good wind off Mahone Bay, then. Now she sails the prairie streets in a black van, delivering bundles to the paper boys from midnight till six in the morning. For a long time I wasn't with her. When I was five I got taken to live with my grandparents in Nova Scotia, and for seven years I didn't even see my mother, until she started sharing a house with Katherine, my father's second ex-wife, who was alone too and had a little baby, my half-sister Irene. My father, the poet Patrick Connolly, lives on an island in British Columbia now, with Doreen. When my mother moved in with Katherine and got the newspaper job, I guess she convinced my grandparents that she was stable enough to have me visit. After that I got to be with her in the summers, at least. Things got confused this year by my grandfather's illness. My mother came out to Nova Scotia to help, and in June, after he died, I went tree-planting with her in Saskatchewan, so we could be quiet in the woods. The deal was that I would spend one more year in Mahone Bay, to keep my grandmother company and finish high school. But something happened once I got there, and I couldn't stay after all. It was nearly September by the time I came back to Saskatoon for good. The night I arrived, my mother took me out in the van with her, for a treat. I was past going to sleep by then. The branches whipped the windshield in the back alleys as if someone was running ahead of us, some big hasty girl at Guide camp. I put her in yellow shorts and watched her white imaginary thighs until we swung onto a street in the maze or obstacle course of my mother's route through town. Usually the bundles aren't ready till 12:30, sometimes 1:00. We hang around the back of the newspaper building, behind the press, drinking coffee from a machine and talking to the other drivers. My mother knows them all, of course. One of them is in a band she sometimes used to sing for. This night the bundles were peeling off the conveyor belt as we drove up, and I went to open the van doors while she started grabbing the packs by their bindings. The band guy's van was beside ours. He sang out to her, "Company tonight, Isabel?" And she said, "Not tonight, not tonight," lightly, happily. Then she handed me a bundle and said, "Oh! Yes! Company tonight-you know Bessie-" Then the band guy, whose name is Lee, said, "Hey, Bessie, how you doing?" and clapped his doors shut and drove off. We finished loading the bundles and got back into the van, and I said something about the night being nice and called her Grandmother, pretending the mistake to even out the insults, so she'd feel better about forgetting me.Copyright © Marina Endicott

Editorial Reviews

"Open Arms is the story of a young woman's quest. Her search is for a mother, her hope is for a final, hard-won comprehension, a reprieve from the ache of being human. But, as in the finest of quest stories, comprehension does not come at some big, dramatic end, it comes all along the complicated way. Marina Endicott's vision is evidence that the journey itself, although lonely and uncharted, can be filled with both clues and consolation."