The Clock of Heaven
a novel by Dian Day

Print: 978-9808822-2-3
ePUB: 978-19267080-7-2
PDF: 978-1-77133-031-2

222 Pages
October 01, 2008
Fiction All Titles Novel


The Clock of Heaven a novel by Dian Day

2009 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Literature

& Honourable mention in Globe and Mail’s Top 5 first fiction titles in 2009

Esa Withrod is a young woman struggling over recent events in her personal life—a failed first relationship and resulting pregnancy—as well as the legacy of her desolate upbringing. Eccentric and enigmatic, Esa's childhood has prepared her to deal with the world with endurance and resilience, but not with joy. She remains "mystified by kindness" and the friendship offered to her by her employer, Merle, a cartographer, and his partner, Daniel. The only bright spot in Esa's childhood was the three months she spent in a house by the sea with her grandmother in the Maritimes when she was seven years old. Searching for that safe haven she knew as a child, Esa returns to her grandmother's house to find that it is not possible to go back. Through a spring and summer of traumatic events in what has been her family's homestead, she discovers the love of family, friendship, and the best of what people in a small community have to offer each other in times of difficulty.

The Clock of Heaven is a compelling first novel by a writer who shows great promise. The protagonist, Esa Withrod, is an unusual character—an intelligent, educated young woman, she is the unwanted child of dysfunctional parents and thus socially withdrawn, finding it difficult to establish ordinary relationships with the people around her. However, her piercing scrutiny of—and obvious love for—the natural world brings that world into focus for the reader in a way that is both exhilarating and haunting. The Clock of Heaven is not a fairy tale. The book will make readers weep in the same way that real life does, but, consistent with true human spirit, hope will be found in the darkest places. There is no final redemption, but Esa at the last is clear that "whatever we can imagine, more is possible."

Dian Day has worked as a reporter, counsellor, researcher, teacher, and artist. She has been writing fiction and poetry all of her life. In the late 1990s, for several years in a row, she placed in both poetry and short story categories at the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia Atlantic Writing Competition. After living in Ottawa for many years, she returned to Wolfville, Nova Scotia, in May 2008.

"Dian Day writes as if her heart is on fire and the only way to quench it is to make beautiful sentences and lay them end to end until she arrives at the truth. This story burrows into you and makes itself at home there. I couldn't stop reading it, and I can't shake Esa Withrod. And now, I can't wait to see what Dian Day will do next."
—Stephanie Domet, author of Homing (The Whole Story from the Inside Out)

"Esa. Even her name is minimalist, barebones, hollowed out. Once restrained with a tether, we watch Esa follow the thinnest of frayed lines back, hand over quaking hand, to the heart of humanity. Both stark and lush, The Clock of Heaven is a hymn to resilience. In this simple story, elegantly told, the mystery of Esa's family draws us along the bumpy, potholed dirt roads to the vast possibilities of hope. Lyrical, lovingly crafted, this novel is a journey to revel in."
—Linda Little, author of Scotch River 


"The Clock of Heaven is the first novel by Nova Scotia author Dian Day, and it's an excellent debut from beginning to end. It tells the story of Esa Withrod, opening in the past with a short prologue from Esa's childhood -- a time of neglect and abuse, with just one short cheerful interlude with her grandmother, when Esa was seven. The novel then jumps to the present, in which Esa is twenty-five, recovering from a disastrous first relationship with a co-worker, Serge, and pregnant as a result of it... Esa decides to return to her grandmother's home, hoping to find a safe haven once more...

Dian Day is a skillful writer, giving us just enough details from Esa's childhood to make the reader marvel that Esa has done as well as she has... I certainly recommend her first one, and look forward to the next." 

from THE GLOBE AND MAIL, January 24, 2009 

"A smart and moving debut"

"Consider Esa. Pulled by her alcoholic father from an urban address "crammed full of skinny children, raw-armed mothers... and drunken hangers-on," she's plunked on a train to find herself two days later at a large and airy seaside house, enduring a much-needed scrub from her grandmother.

Esa kicked and sputtered, coughed up bathwater onto Gam's shoulder and allowed herself to be wrapped in a stiff green towel... round and round until she was only a pale aquamarine tube of a child, squeezed out." That "squeezed out," so finely attuned to the imaginative leaps and sensory palette of childhood, is one of many quotable takes on Esa in the first pages of this debut... 

With nine pages of concise observation, Dian Day's prologue moves from abandonment, through hope, to a charmed and fleeting happiness, then a grim parental repossession. It's smartly conceived and movingly executed, and there's no choice but to read on.… 

Day's descriptive writing, from character traits to scene setting, is crisply evocative... The surging plot trajectory integrates grim humour, uncompromising pathos, an expertly wrangled supporting cast and a subtly woven mystery."

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