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Andrea Routley (CA)

This Unlikely Soil

This Unlikely Soil

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This Unlikely Soil, the sophomore collection from Lambda Literary Award finalist Andrea Routley, is a quintet of linked novellas exploring the failures of kindness and connection among a rural west-coast community of queer women. Funny, incisive and at turns heart-breaking, these stories assert a powerful new voice in contemporary Canadian fiction.


In “Appropriate Behaviour,” Freddie, suffering from a brain injury, seeks resolution with a neighbour after his dog bites her, but a lifetime of mixed messages yields disastrous results. “Damage” explores classist exploitations within many relationships and asks what our responsibilities are in saying no. In “Guided Walk,” Miriam’s latest clumsy infatuation pushes her to change her life, to finally “come out” on a guided walk with her cousin. When her cousin beats her to it, Miriam descends into pettiness before finding her way out of the woods. In “Midden,” Naomi, recently split from Rita and apathetically venturing into online dating, sifts through the remains of past relationships after Rita accuses her of “emotional abuse.” The quintet concludes with “This Unlikely Soil,” a finalist for the 2020 Malahat Review Novella Prize, in which Elana, following the sudden death of her mother, attempts to manufacture a meaningful relationship with a former partner’s teenaged son.


A bear with a hemorrhoid, a berried-up Dungeness crab, a perimeter of slugs... this dense coastal landscape does not simply mirror the characters’ lives but shapes them. While characters often embody painful histories and cringe-worthy decision-making skills, the stories are full of humour and love.

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