“It is the voice of the characters, the kindness of strangers, and the ingenuity and determination of our protagonist against terrible forces that make this story sing.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“[An] unbelievably accomplished first novel.” — NOW Magazine
American Booksellers Association Indie Next List pick
Shortlisted for the 2017 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
Shortlisted for the 2017 Atlantic Book Awards
Publishers Weekly, starred review
A deeply compassionate novel about a gentle child who radiates goodness and the way that light refracts — even in the harshest of circumstances.
For the Appleton sisters, life has unravelled many times before. But with a sudden gunshot, it finally explodes.
In the aftermath of chaos and tragedy, eight-year-old Hariet Appleton, known to all as Ari, is shipped off to Cape Breton and her Aunt Mary, who is purported to eat little girls. But Mary and her partner, Nia, offer an unexpected refuge to Ari and her steadfast companion, Jasper, an imaginary seahorse. Yet the respite does not last, and Ari is forced to return to her addiction-addled mother and broken sisters.
Through the sexual revolution and drug culture of the 1960s, Ari struggles with her father’s legacy and her mother’s addictions, testing limits with substances that numb and men who show her kindness. Through it all, her epic imagination colors her grim reality. Ari spins through a chaotic decade of loss and love with wit, tenacity, and the astonishing balance unique to seahorses.
The Clay Girl is a beautiful tour de force with the voice of an unforgetting child, sculpted by kindness, cruelty, and the extraordinary power of imagination.