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Love Letters of the Angels of Death

Jennifer Quist

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Jennifer Quist is the winner of a 2014 Emerging Artist Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta

"Jennifer Quist’s Love Letters of the Angels of Death is formidable, a woman’s portrait of a man’s portrait of the woman he loves. It offers all the immersion and propulsion of the best fiction, but is temporally liquid in the way of lyric poetry. How does she do it? Funny, dark, deceptively ambitious. I couldn’t put it down, not only because I enjoyed it so much, but because it contained so much I had to know."  

-- Padma Viswanathan, author of 
The Toss of a Lemon

"Jennifer Quist’s Love Letters of the Angels of Death gives new meaning to the marriage vow “Till death do us part.” This original, brilliant novel overflows with the exuberance of life shot through with the devastations of mortality. Weddings and wit, family and funerals, passion and pain, the love between the main characters ultimately defies death itself. In vivid prose consisting of a memorably distinctive narrative voice and riveting images, Quist writes of our unspoken anxieties about the plethora of dead things in our midst from dust to the incorruptible bodies of saints. Unsentimental, mordantly funny, Love Letters of the Angels of Death is innovative, surprising, at times heart-wrenching but not despairing, and always remarkable."  

-- Kenneth Radu, author of Sex in Russia


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A breathtaking literary debut, Love Letters of the Angels of Death begins as a young couple discover the remains of his mother in her mobile home. The rest of the family fall back, leaving them to reckon with the messy, unexpected death. By the time the burial is over, they understand this will always be their role: to liaise with death on behalf of people they love. They are living angels of death.  

All the major events in their lives – births, medical emergencies, a move to a northern boomtown, the theft of a veteran’s headstone – are viewed from this ambivalent angle. In this shadowy place, their lives unfold: fleeting moments, ordinary occasions, yet on the brink of otherworldliness. In spare, heart-stopping prose, the transient joys, fears, hopes and heartbreaks of love, marriage, and parenthood are revealed through the lens of the eternal, unfolding within the course of natural life. 

This is a novel for everyone who has ever been happily married -- and for everyone who would like to be.


[Photo: Sara MacKenzie]

Jennifer Quist was born in northern mainland British Columbia and raised all over Maritime and Western Canada, the eldest daughter in a close family of seven children. She has a BA at the University of Alberta with first class Honours in Sociology and has worked with Alberta First Nations, as a freelance researcher, a reporter, and columnist.

In 2012 her “Fish Story” was nominated for the Writers' Guild of Alberta’s Howard O’Hagan Award. Her fiction is published in Filling Station, in NorthWord and in The 40 Below Project (forthcoming November 2013), her poetry in The Prairie Journal, commentary in The Globe and Mail and The National Post, essays in Maclean’s, Today’s Parent, and Alberta Oil, and she has written and voiced introspective personal essays for CBC Radio One’s Definitely Not the Opera and Tapestry.

Love Letters of the Angels of Death is her first novel.

Author website: www.jenniferquist.com.


"A striking examination of life and death, this is a promising debut novel." -- Publishers Weekly

Ian McGillis, The Gazette book reviewer, describes Love Letters as "a standout" -- "an extended meditation on matrimony and mortality that flits with remarkable assurance between the naturalistic and the supernatural, the sad and the funny."

If I were trying to figure out the Edmonton Journal's top 10 bestsellers in Edmonton in mid-November 2013, I would figure on Lynn Coady for sure, Alice Munro (two titles), for sure and Joseph Boyden, why not? But you know what? Jennifer Quist comes in at # 5 with Love Letters of the Angels of Death. Nice going, Jenn!

Biography of a Marriage, by Elise Moser, is the first review of Love Letters of the Angels of Death to appear. Montreal Review of Books, Summer 2013.

"This book is that rarest of literary portraits, the story of a genuinely happy marriage...After [Jennifer Quist's] husband lost a parent, she managed her and her husband’s grief “by tuning into his feelings and his perspective. It was a survival measure,” she says. In Love Letters, it is at the core of Carrie and Brigs’s practice of loving marriage. This radical empathy is one of the book’s joys.

“During those few days,” Quist explains, “nothing mattered to me but his experience.” Putting her mind to her husband’s experience seems to have fitted Quist beautifully to write from a man’s perspective. She has also benefitted from life with five sons. “I’m outnumbered six to one by men. I’m soaked in the male psyche.”

Don't miss this. It's a brilliant debut.

Jennifer Quist responds to The Proust Questionnaire (August 6, 2013): 
Q: How do you want to die? 
A: Traditionally, by which I mean inducing a heart attack by shoveling snow, chopping wood or chasing a garbage truck.

Philip Marchand in The National Post, August 23rd, 2013, describes Love Letters as a "powerfully emotional novel." "There is great tenderness between Caroline and her husband," he writes. "'You've buried your face in the wool of my coat,' Brigs comments in a moment of feeling, and there is much of this in this powerfully emotional novel. 'I'm crushing your face into my chest,' he comments at another such moment. It is a good crushing, and in context a small indication that death indeed can lose its sting.'"

"Quist’s first novel is a mystery, not the whodunit style, rather a mystery of the soul, with an undercurrent of Christian beliefs, that supports the story of a couple whose relationship and life together affirm the importance of  marriage and family. This could be a gateway book for important discussions on death  that some families shy away from. Put it to the top of your bedside on  the “next-to-read” pile and share it with your loved ones." -- Carrie Smith 

"A most unusual book" -- The Toronto Star on Jennifer Quist's Love Letters of the Angels of Death

Love Letters among the Top 5 Fall 2013 books by Edmonton writers.

Quill & Quire, September 2013: "Quist takes refreshing risks with the metaphoric potential of narrative voice. Love Letters of the Angels of Death conveys heartfelt authorial grasp of life's losses [and] gains resonance in retrospect."

Another great review, this one from the Edmonton Journal: Jennifer Quist's Love Letters of the Angels of Death is "a surprising, thoughtful and captivating debut that uses death to illuminate all that’s at stake in life itself."




“Remember that book we used to read to the kids — the one where it’s promised that, in the end, no one is told any story but their own? After all I’ve said here, I guess it must not be true. Or maybe it’s just that we lived our lives together well enough to make the story of me into the story of you.” 



Thursday 29 August, 2013, 7 p.m., Anna Maria’s Coffee Bar in the Lacombe Memorial Centre, 5214 – 50 Ave., Lacombe, Alberta

Upcoming Author Readings: 

  • Thursday, September 12, 7.30 p.m., The Flywheel Reading SeriesPages Kensington, 1135 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, Alberta; tel 403-283-6655.
  • Tuesday, September 24, 7 p.m., Author Reading, Audreys Books10702 Jasper Ave., Edmonton, AB, tel. 780-423-3487
  • Friday, September 24, 7 p.m., Sunworks, Practitioners of Good Taste, 4924 – 50 St., Red Deer, Alberta

Admission Free. Drop by to congratulate Jenn and have your copy of LOVE LETTERS personally inscribed. If you can't make it, you can reserve your copy.


Sales: Canadian Manda Group.

Distribution: LitDistCo, http://www.litdistco.ca/
c/o Fraser Direct 1-800-591-6251.

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