When Alice Lay Down with Peter is a sweeping, magical novel that follows four generations of the McCormack family through more than a century of Canadian history, as it unfolds on the flood plains of southern Manitoba. The story of Alice and Peter McCormack and their progeny is a glorious, witty, and intimate epic that truly reminds us that life stories not only include the details of the past, but also expand into the present and future, encompassing much more than the statistics of life and death would seem to admit. Narrated by Blondie McCormack--Alice and Peter’s daughter, who has just died at the age of 109--When Alice Lay Down with Peter is a novel that rejoices in the inevitability of change, and in the hauntings that reward our choosing to remember our own history.
Just as When Alice Lay Down with Peter is a story of a family, it is a story of a particular place over time. Margaret Sweatman’s characters are never separate from the story of the land itself, or from the natural and political events that work away at its edges. The history of the McCormacks is a history of life on the land: of bountiful crops and devastating floods, the renewal of spring and the death that marks each fall. It is in the connection between the place and its inhabitants that we find the deceptively simple meaning of “home.” And it is to this conjoining of histories that Sweatman brings the lightning spark of her imagination, and out of which this wonderful novel has been born.
About the author
Margaret Sweatman began working on When Alice Lay Down with Peter in St. Norbert, Manitoba, where her studio overlooked the Red River. During the writing, her house flooded twice and was eventually lost to the river. “Everything about the book is located there,” she says, “in a much-loved place.” A playwright and lyricist, she is the author of two previous novels, Sam and Angie, andFox; the latter won both the McNally Robinson Prize for the Manitoba Book of the Year and the inaugural John Hirsch Award for the most promising Manitoba writer. Since its publication in 2001, When Alice Lay Down with Peter has won numerous fiction awards, including the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Margaret Sweatman lives in Winnipeg.
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