Love Letters of the Angels of Death

Jennifer Quist

August 2013

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.  

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. 

Jennifer Quist is a novelist, poet, and columnist living in Edmonton, Alberta. Nominated for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s Howard O’Hagan Award for her short fiction “Fish Story,” she has had her work published in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Maclean’s, and Today’s Parent, and has written and voiced introspective personal essays for the CBC Radio One programs Definitely Not the Opera and Tapestry. Her first novel, Love Letters of the Angels of Death (LLP, 2013) nominated for the 2015 International Dublin IMPAC Literary Award and Quist was named the Alberta Lieutenant Governor's Emerging Artist of the Year in 2014. Her other two novels are Sistering (LLP, 2015)longlisted for the Alberta Reader's Choice, and The Apocalypse of Morgan Turner (LLP, 2018).

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What they say

"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, nominated for the 2014 Giller Prize for The Ever After of Ashwin Rao 

"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 Butterfly in Amber

Congratulations Jennifer Quist!

Edmonton author Jennifer Quist's debut novel Love Letters of the Angels of Death is nominated for the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award! The shortlist will be announced in April 2015 and the winner--who receives 100,000 Euros ($139,000)--in June. 

This is a truly international prize of exceptional quality, with books nominated by librarians all over the world. The long list includes titles published in 39 countries and written in 16 different languages. Love Letters was nominated by the Edmonton Library.

Jennifer Quist was the winner of a $10,000 Emerging Artist Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta in June 2014 for her debut novel, which was also shortlisted for the US Whitney Award.

LLP will publish Jenn's second novel, Sistering, in Fall 2015.


"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.

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.

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.” 



Jennifer Quist's Love Letters of the Angels of Death was nominated for the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and for the 2014 Whitney Award in the US. In June 2014, Quist won a $10,000 Emerging Artist Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta


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