Shelter by Frances Greenslade

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Navigatio, her Indian travel blog

87,000 words hardcover
Finished books now available


US: Free Press, May 2012
Canada: Knopf, Fall 2011
UK: Virago
French World Rights: Éditions Médiaspaul
Germany: Mare Verlag
Germany (paperback): Suhrkamp
Italy: Keller Editore
Netherlands: Orlando


Francis Greenslade (Photo: Stuart Bish)
(Photo: Stuart Bish)

Frances Greenslade was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, where she grew up with four sisters and one brother playing among the orchards of the Niagara Peninsula. The family moved to Winnipeg when she was ten. Francie earned an English degree at University of Winnipeg before moving to Vancouver, where she completed an MFA in Creative Writing at UBC in 1992. Francie lives in Penticton, B.C., where she teaches English Literature at Okanagan College. She has published work in several literary magazines as well as two previous memoirs, A Pilgrim in Ireland: A Quest for Home and By the Secret Ladder: A Mother’s Initiation (Penguin, 2002 and 2007). Shelter is her first novel.


a novel by Frances Greenslade


Shelter - Canadian coverMaggie may be the youngest, but she is a born worrier. Even when everything is going right for her and her sister, Jenny, for her beautiful red-haired mother, Irene, and for her dad—who loves to take Maggie into the woods around their house in Duchess Creek to teach her survival skills—she can’t help worrying.

When her dad is killed in a logging accident, it seems that Maggie was right to be anxious. But never in her wildest dreams did she imagine what happens next: one day her mom drops the girls off in Williams Lake to billet for a while with a couple who knew their dad. She says it’s only temporary and promises to come back for them soon, but weeks turn into months and then years.

When Jenny eventually gets into trouble she can’t cope with, fourteen-year-old Maggie decides that it’s up to her to find Irene and repair their fractured family. Maggie’s quest turns out to be not only finding her mother, but understanding her. And also figuring out how to forgive her.Shelter - US cover

“We did not try to look for our mother. She was gone, like a cat who goes out the back door one night and doesn’t return, and you don’t know if a coyote got her or a hawk or if she sickened somewhere and couldn’t make it home. We let time pass, we waited, trusting her, because she had always been the best of mothers. She’s the mother, that’s what we said to each other…”


“Exceptional novel… vivid… disarmingly honest….Absorbing, moving, memorable.”  — THE GUARDIAN

“Frances Greenslade’s stunning debut novel … a new voice has emerged from the varied wilderness of the Canadian fiction scene which is as clear as a glacier-fed stream and as compelling as that which tells a haunting story by the campfire.”  — THE SCOTSMAN

“[A] beautiful debut novel.”  — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Funny, heartwarming and tragic.”  — OTTAWA CITIZEN

Shelter is a beating heart of a book, alive with Greenslade’s fierce imagination, her acute descriptions of the natural world, her sure hand with narrative.”  — TORONTO STAR

“Greenslade has created two memorable and likable characters in Jenny and Maggie; their bare-bones tale of survival will touch readers, and likely stay with them a long time.”  — THE VANCOUVER SUN

Shelter - Dutch cover“In prose as lush and vivid as its British Columbia landscapes, Frances Greenslade's debut novel, Shelter, offers an achingly beautiful story of loss, longing, and hope. I love this book.”  — WILL ALLISON, New York Times bestselling author of Long Drive Home

“A harrowing, haunting, and exquisitely written novel about sisters, mothers, daughters, and whom we love and why. The characters are so alive, you feel them breathing on the page. Loved. Loved. Loved.””  — CAROLINE LEAVITT, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“A slow, quiet, addictive read.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“The longing for a lost mother has rarely been expressed so soulfully. The yearning of these two vulnerable young sisters for their mother, who has disappeared, is palpable. I was entirely absorbed in their precarious situation and their desire to find her, yet aware that their mother's gift was the resourcefulness they needed to survive. Greenslade is a fresh new voice that you are sure to hear again.”  — BOBBIE ANN MASON, author of The Girl in the Blue Beret

“From the very first page, this eloquent, evocative book crept into my heart and Shelter - German coverwouldn't go away. I think it will linger inside me for a long, long time—like a powerful dream or one of those take-your-breath-away kind of tales that someone tells you in childhood and years later, still haunts you. Shelter is an unforgettable novel about love, loss, family, and what it means to go home.”  — MIRA BARTÓK, author of The Memory Palace

“Poignant, tender and vivid, Shelter traces the relationship of two daughters with their missing mother through family stories. Greenslade’s gorgeous landscapes and loving attention to her characters make this journey through loss and survival unforgettable. I was glued to every page.”  — EDEN ROBINSON, author of Monkey Beach

“This book casts a strong spell. Greenslade depicts the battle between different types of love with harrowing intensity and quiet compassion. The landscape is so vividly rendered, it is a character all on its own, and sisters Maggie and Jenny are unforgettable in their resilience. Shelter shows us how wilderness can be a safer haven than a home with four walls, but also how love, despite its heartbreaking unpredictability, remains the shelter we desire most.”  — JAMIE ZEPPA, author of Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan and Every Time We Say Goodbye

Praise for the work of Frances Greenslade

Shelter - German paperback cover“Thankfully, Greenslade doesn't shy away from the knotty emotions of other aspects of mothering and she has a particular knack for capturing every nuance of her emotional state throughout the first year of her son's life… this is a book she should be proud to show her son, years from now .”  — WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“An educator and acclaimed non- fiction writer, Greenslade weaves tales of mythology into her meditation on her experience, contrasting timeless and universal beliefs with contemporary bizarreness surrounding mothering. It's lovely, thoughtful and ultimately uplifting .”  — THE TORONTO STAR

“For Frances Greenslade, in By the Secret Ladder, the journey of giving birth and becoming a mother is fraught with obstacles. Like a mythical heroine, she must travel into dark, unknown territory and battle with demons. In rich, lucid prose, Greenslade's particular rite of passage reads like a timeless epic.”  — JUDY FONG BATES

“Frances Greenslade has a real gift as a teller of stories, and she tells them in the clearest, most accessible prose, so that they flow one into the other. Once I started reading A Pilgrim in Ireland, I was so engrossed that I couldn't stop. Before I knew it, an entire afternoon had flown by.”  — SHARON BUTALA

“[Frances Greenslade] is an accomplished storyteller who demonstrates a deft touch with ironic humour, a rare gift. She also managed to find the perfect voice for this particular piece of work. ”  — THE STAR PHOENIX, SASKATOON

“Weaving back and forth from the land she's standing on to the country that's home, Greenslade takes a look at the things that have made her the person she is, and the things that have made Canada what it is.… Her openness draws us into her trip, making it as much ours as it is hers.”  — THE TORONTO STAR

Shelter - UK cover

Shelter - UK paperback cover   Shelter - Italian cover


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