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character—an intelligent, educated young woman, she is the unwanted child of dysfunctional parents and thus socially withdrawn, finding it difficult to establish ordinary relationships with the people around her.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 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