The Bukowski Agency - Having Faith in the Polar Girls' Prison

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See also www.cathleenwith.com

85,000 words
Finished books available

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Canada: Penguin, Jan 2009

ABOUT CATHLEEN WITH

Cathleen With (Photo: A. Lamarche)
(Photo: A. Lamarche)

Cathleen With recently completed her Master's degree in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Her thesis became the short story collection Skids (Arsenal Pulp, 2006), about street kids on the downtown east side of Vancouver.

After an adolescence spent in a spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, With cleaned up her act and went back to school. Among her many adventures, she has worked at a camp for disabled kids and lived for six months in Hawaii and Australia. She served as a drama education volunteer in Kathmandu, a caregiver at Mother Theresa's Home for the Sick and Destitute in Calcutta, an English teacher to former sex trade kids in Cambodia, and as a teacher in Inuvik, NWT and in Seoul, Korea. Her hometown is Richmond, B.C. Having Faith is her first novel, inspired by her years of teaching in the North.

Having Faith in the Polar Girls' Prison

by Cathleen With

A HARROWING, INTENSE FIRST NOVEL TOLD IN THE MESMERIZING VOICE OF AN IMPRISONED TEENAGE GIRL IN THE FAR NORTH

Having Faith coverCanada's Northwest Territories, which straddles the Arctic Circle east of Alaska, is rich in natural resources, especially oil, which has attracted an influx of white men from the South. In the Western Arctic, they work the rigs and create children with the local Inuvialuit (Eskimo, or "'sko") and Gwich'in (Indian) women. Children like Trista, who tells her story in this novel.

Fifteen-year-old Trista gives birth to a daughter named Faith, born deaf and nearly blind, in the Polar Girls' Prison in Jackfish Bay, NWT. Like many other impoverished adolescents in her rural northern community, Trista's young life is already caught in a decline of sexual abuse, drunkenness, and failed motherhood. When her partner Tyler enters her life, he teaches her to dream of a better future and a truer love. Trista sees her relationship with Tyler and her new pregnancy as a fresh start. But in the course of one night while Tyler is away in Yellowknife, a reunion with an old boyfriend entangles Trista in a convenience store robbery and murder. Having Faith is the story of how Trista copes with the tragedy of her young life, comes to understand herself, and finds hope.

Pulled down by the misery of her situation, Trista starts cutting and is put under solitary confinement, away from her baby, when her self-destructive habits are discovered. Her salvation comes from the compassion of prison counsellors, visits from her best friend, and her love for her baby. While her dream of reuniting her family becomes more and more distant as weeks go by without hearing from Tyler, she reflects on her lost childhood in language that is unpretentious and unsentimental.

Cathleen With has written an extraordinary, unforgettable story that is jarring in its harsh portrayal of poverty and prison life. No other novel has ever told us of the lives lived amidst the clash of cultures in this remote region.

PRAISE FOR HAVING FAITH IN THE POLAR GIRLS' PRISON

“With offers a fully realized and authentic narrator beset with tremendous personal and cultural obstacles. Trista's deftly portrayed sense of delusion, despair and hope is ultimately both moving and unsettling.”  — NATIONAL POST

“With balances Trista’s instability and crudeness of speech with a lyric sensibility…. The heightened language and the influence of native mythology are incorporated seamlessly into the narration, and deepen the novel without undermining the plausibility of Trista’s voice…. [T]he emotional force of this novel is undeniable.”  — QUILL & QUIRE

Praise for Cathleen With's Skids

“Original, fresh, and authentic.”  — QUILL & QUIRE

“[An] impressive debut collection.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

 

 

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