Starting with something as simple as a boy who wants a dog, His Whole Life takes us into a richly intimate world where everything that matters to him is at risk: family, nature, home. At the outset ten-year-old Jim and his Canadian mother and American father are on a journey from New York City to a lake in eastern Ontario during the last hot days of August. What unfolds is a completely enveloping story that spans a few pivotal years of his youth. Moving from city to country, summer to winter, wellbeing to illness, the novel charts the deepening bond between mother and son even as the family comes apart. Set in the mid-1990s, when Quebec is on the verge of leaving Canada, this captivating novel is an unconventional coming of age story as only Elizabeth Hay could tell it. It draws readers in with its warmth, wisdom, its vivid sense of place, its searching honesty, and nuanced portrait of the lives of one family and those closest to it. Hay explores the mystery of how members of a family can hurt each other so deeply, and remember those hurts in such detail, yet find openings that shock them with love and forgiveness. This is vintage Elizabeth Hay at the height of her powers.
Hay's prose is as fluid and surprising as ever. Settings come alive through her signature combination of poetry and simplicity... Read this book for the unmitigated beauty of Hay's language, and the quality of her storytelling. Quill and Quire While there's plenty to sink your teeth into ... it's Hay's perceptive writing that shines brightest. There's something magical in the descriptions of the family lake house in Ontario that Nan, George and Jim visit from their home in New York every year. The place takes on a mythic status ... His Whole Life offers a perspective about what it means to be Canadian - in our political history and romantic, wild habitats. Archetypal stories, yes, but compelling ones. -- Dilia Narduzzi Macleans It's a gorgeous book ... She plays beautifully with the metaphor of politics, but it's not a political book ... Elizabeth Hay is unquestionably one of the country's great writers. For me, this is her best yet. -- Sean Wilson CBC Radio How lucky we are to have her, this writer who stares down the tough issues in life - whether domestic or political - with such wit and grace. There is much at play here - a country and a marriage that may not survive, sins that may or may not be forgiven. Yet Hay's luminous prose - and a last scene that soars right off the page - is transcendent, redeeming the best and worst things -- Nancy Wigston Toronto Star It is all so true -- true to human nature and families and life ... His Whole Life is a lovely novel. Ottawa Citizen [She has an] evocative grace that brings to mind Annie Proulx Washington Post Hay creates enormous spaces with few words, and makes the reader party to the journey, listening, marvelling Globe and Mail It is all so true - true to human nature and families and life. His Whole Life is about a boy growing up, but in it readers will find themes, musings and quotes that resonate and strike home with their accuracy and insight. His Whole Life is a lovely novel -- Tracy Sherlock Vancouver Sun A touching portrait of a sensitive, watchful boy growing up and understanding that life can be wonderful, but also full of uncertainties and loss ... Elizabeth Hay vividly describes the landscape and seasons in her native country -- Carla McKay Daily Mail
Elizabeth Hay is the bestselling, award-winning author of Late Nights on Air, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her other works include A Student of Weather (finalist for the Giller Prize and the Ottawa Book Award), Garbo Laughs (winner of the Ottawa Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General's Award), and Small Change (stories). In 2002, she received the prestigious Marian Engel Award. Elizabeth Hay lives and writes in Ottawa.