West of Wawa


a novel by Lisa de Nikolits

Print: 978-1-926708-24-9 – $22.95
ePUB: 978-1-926708-50-8 – $9.99
PDF: 978-1-77133-001-5 – $9.99

312 Pages
September 01, 2011

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2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction

Emotionally battered and bruised, 29-year-old Australian immigrant Benny is looking for escape, not redemption. Escape from herself and the dismal failures of her life: her first solo art exhibition is panned by critics and her husband left her for an Andy Warhol look-alike. Isolated from her family, her career as an abstract artist in ruins, she comes to Canada and finds solace working eighteen hours a day as a graphic designer in a disreputable agency. Numbing her pain with hard work, she self-medicates with prescription meds, and becomes involved in a series of increasingly dubious relationships. Cutting all ties, Benny leaves her job and sets off on a road trip adventure across Canada, hoping she will discover who she wants to be and where she wants to be it. Funny, aggressive, fearless and vulnerable, Benny is a road-warrior with a backpack of opiates, a map and a guileless sense of naiveté. In seventy-two days, she travels nearly ten thousand miles overland and more by flight and train, sinking deeper into the underbelly of a world that offers her the anonymity she seeks.

This coming-of-age novel is narrated with wry humour and filled with a cast of engaging characters. A tale of sexual adventure and feminist learning, Benny looks for escape but emerges a heroine instead; with mistakes, epiphanies and friendships helping forge her a home and a sense of identity in the true North.

West of Wawa is a story readers can easily connect with. Benny flees the known for the unknown by adventuring north with her bags full of narcotics to help numb the pains of her past. On her travels she seeks anonymity, but can’t help engaging with various characters that add to her personal trip of self-discovery, new friendships, and new found identity. Once you start the journey with Benny, you can’t stop reading until you follow her through destruction to destiny!”
—Amy Lance, Wondrous Women Worldwide

“Lisa de Nikolits is an amazing writer. She has a gift of being able to pull the reader into the story, and keep them turning the page. West of Wawa shows how a life can turn from emptiness to one of fulfillment. West of Wawa is a great read.”
—Nikki Rosen, author of In the Eye of Deception

“Vibrant characters and intriguing plot make West of Wawa an engaging and rewarding read. Travelling from city to city, traumatized Benny tries to put the torn pieces of her soul back together. Readers will experience awe as they follow the main character’s travelling therapy, which will surprise and then haunt them.”
—Ava Homa, author of Echoes from The Other Land

West of Wawa bursts with a sense of immediacy and freshness. Full of humour and tragi-comedic elements, in a style that is smooth and fast paced, West of Wawa is a delight to read. The characters, particularly Benny, are so idiosyncratic and unique that they prick at, then fully permeate the heart. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Danila Botha, author of Got No Secrets

West of Wawa is a funny, moving exploration of a surprising journey towards self-realization — and Benny, its pill-popping, wise-cracking heroine, is a treat. De Nikolits’s book will ring true for anyone who has ever had even a moment of self doubt.”
Chatelaine Magazine

“Travelling along with Benny on her journey of self-discovery is an adventure – I kept wanting more of this witty character. Living vicariously through her fearless choices and adventure-filled travels made me want to hop on a bus to see the country. Through West of Wawa‘s funny and fulfilling story, you can’t help but root for Benny and her broken heart. And there’s no doubt you’ll be pleased by the story’s outcome. ”
—Daniela Payne, web editor CanadianLiving.com


Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen for eight years and has lived in Canada for eleven. She has also lived and worked in the United States, Australia, and Britain. As an art director, her magazine credits include marie claire, Vogue, Vogue Living, Cosmopolitan, she and Longevity. Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, was published by Inanna Publications in 2010 and was awarded the ippy Gold Medal for literature on women’s issues in 2011. It was also recently longlisted for the 2011 Relit Awards. She currently lives and works in Toronto.


2 reviews for West of Wawa

  1. InannaWebmaster

    September 2011, excerpts from Chatelaine Online Book Club comments:<http://www.chatelaine.com/en/blog/post/31491–meeting-benny-in-part-one-of-lisa-de-nikolit-s-west-of-wawa>

    “I really liked Benny as a character and what the story had to say about persevering through difficulty. So typically coming-of-age with all the rites of passage.”
    – Laurie Grassi, Chatelaine BookClub Editor

    “It’s great to have a book that’s not about luxury travel but still paints a beautiful picture of Canada and all the adventure you can have. I was very impressed by the story in the end.”
    – Alex Laws, Chatelaine BookClub Staff

    “Before, I’m not sure I would have thought a book set mostly in various buses would be as gripping, but I was so drawn in by Benny (even when she frustrated me). And I can’t get over how amazing it was to read about someone experiencing Canada that way.”
    – Stacy Lee Kong, Chatelaine BookClub Staff

    See Lisa’s website for more comments: <http://www.lisadenikolitswriter.com>
    Here’s one:

    The Head Librarian, Annette Street Library, Toronto: “I read West of Wawa while I was on vacation… . It was a book that I always wanted to get back to, to see what was going to happen next. Benny is a very engaging and likeable protagonist and I really cared what happened to her. Sometimes I wanted to shake her … but she pulled through everything with amazing strength and optimism.”

  2. InannaWebmaster

    Book Bags and Cat Naps
    Reviewed by Donna Brown
    Review highlights:

    West of Wawa is a coming-of-age backpacking travel story full of wacky, eye-opening and downright scary adventures. A new arrival in Canada from Australia, Benny is fleeing personal and professional disasters – not to mention her impending 30th birthday. With a history of running from her troubles, Benny escapes once more: abandoning her new job and life for a cross-Canada bus trip. But what begins as an escape plan transforms into a discovery. Benny discovers strength she didn’t even know she had as well as the artistic desires she’d thought were gone forever.

    … However, there’s more to this trip than champagne and roses: this is a chance for Benny to find herself and, hopefully, find her future.
    I loved Benny as a character. She is utterly flawed, not always very likeable, quite selfish and self-centred in ways. Despite all this, there is an absolutely touching vulnerability to Benny. As the book progressed I found myself absolutely, solidly in love with Benny and everything about her character, the good and the bad. At times I felt that I wasn’t just reading the book from Benny’s perspective but as if I were Benny. I completely empathised with her….

    I enjoyed every moment of West of Wawa. It wasn’t always easy to read, it didn’t always feel comfortable but it resonated with me for days afterward. I missed Benny. I found myself wondering what would happen next. I wanted to know what her next adventures would be. I have finished some books and felt their absence keenly but it is a very rare thing for me to a finish a book and feel the loss of the character, rather than just the loss of a great story.

    Incredibly thought-provoking, touching, moving and inspiring, West of Wawa has been one of my favourite reads of 2012 so far. It will certainly be a difficult act to follow.”

    Donna Brown: Self-employed consultant, freelance editor, married to author David M. Brown and living in Yorkshire UK with our six rescue cats. Book blogger at http://bookbagsandcatnaps.com, cat blogger at http://wisdomofcats.com.

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