Twenty-Six by Leo McKay, Jr.

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385 pages hardcover
Finished books available


Canada: McClelland & Stewart, Spring 2003
World English Audio: Audible
Turkey: Pegasus Yayinlari


Leo McKay, Jr. (Photo: Joyce Millman)
(Photo: Joyce Millman)

Leo McKay Jr.'s debut story collection, Like This (Anansi), was shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 1995. His stories have been published in most Canadian literary magazines. He is a former editor of Prism International. He teaches high school in Truro, Nova Scotia, and lives with his wife and three children in the nearby village of Maitland. This is his first novel.


a novel by Leo McKay, Jr.


Twenty-Six coverLeo McKay's tautly compelling and powerful debut novel centres on the Burrows family, whose lives have been changed forever by a devastating mining accident in which twenty-six men perished. It is also a story of a father and son relationship, which moves from conflict to uneasy resolution.

Set in a small Nova Scotia town, told in alternating chapters that shift between characters, and from the present to the past and back again, the narrative plays out against the backdrop of looming tragedy. This is the story of Ziv Burrows, and his journey to self-discovery; of his father, Ennis, a former union organizer, stubborn and unable to communicate the love he feels; and of Ziv's brother, Arvel, who is ultimately drawn into the mine. We also come to know the women in their lives: Meta, Ziv's ex-girlfriend, now living in Japan; Arvel's wife, Jackie, who hopes for a better life for herself and her two children in the city; and Ennis' wife, Dunya.

In the aftermath of the explosion, and as the investigation into what caused it unfolds, the members of the Burrows family are forced to confront each other—and themselves—bringing the novel to its moving and redemptive conclusion.

With characters who are memorably, compassionately drawn, and written in spare, hard-hitting prose, Twenty-Six starkly evokes in all its drama and pathos the town of Albion Mines and the community of people whose lives have, for generations, been shaped by the mining of coal. A strong, vibrant new literary voice in Canada, Leo McKay Jr. has written a novel of universal human struggle and understanding that is bound to become a classic.


Twenty-Six reads more persuasively than any non-fiction account yet produced of [the Westray mining] disaster.... Readers who pick up [Twenty-Six] will be rewarded with unusually vivid insights into the depth and texture of late-20th century working-class life.”  — NATIONAL POST

“If you are able to read just a single piece of Canadian fiction this spring, it should be Twenty-Six, by Leo McKay Jr.”  — VANCOUVER SUN

“Swift, honest, unsentimental storytelling and characters, both real and imagined, vivid enough to rise above their hard, often tragic lives. [Twenty-Six] hits you like the kick of a miner's drill.”  — MACLEAN'S MAGAZINE

“What McKay shares with Hemingway is the invisibility of technique. The word that stuck in my mind as I read Twenty-Six was 'clarity'.... Clarity is the miracle that chugs away at the heart of Twenty-Six.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“Knockout debut novel bound for classic status. Twenty-Six resonates with style, lyricism, and compassion.... An impressive work of fiction that pulsates with imaginative life.... It can be placed alongside Each Man's Son, Mercy Among the Children, Fall on Your Knees and No Great Mischief. It's that good.”  — KITCHENER-WATERLOO RECORD

“Universal in its scope, this is a novel about those who live and die in the underground of a coal-mining community. It is also about the families they leave behind on the surface. ‘Subterranean’ in a variety of ways–some of them quite wondrous–the novel is about memory, loss, guilt, and the light of redemption–sometimes, but not always, before it is too late. Leo Mckay has a clear, distinctive voice which deserves to be heard.”  — ALISTAIR MACLEOD

“Leo McKay Jr. has given us a book compassionate as love, tough as nails. The novel is a magnificent human drama, profound, haunting, and elegiac.”  — DAVID ADAMS RICHARDS



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