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This Side of Sad

This Side of Sad

Part mystery, part elegy, This Side of Sad begins with an ending: the violent enigma of a man's death. Was it an accident, or did James commit suicide? In the shattering aftermath, his widow, Maslen, questions her own capacity for love and undertakes a painful self-inquiry, examining the history of her heart and tracing the fault lines of her own fragile identity. What emerges is a mesmerizing tour of a woman's complex past, rendered in the associative logic of memory and desire.

A gifted storyteller reminiscent of Alice Munro or Joan Didion, Karen Smythe finds poetic complexity in the seeming trivialities of the ordinary. Meditative, philosophical, and confessional, This Side of Sad is a provocative and piercing novel that explores the disintegration of a marriage; the enduring colloquy between the living and the dead; and the meaning we find within the random architecture of despair and joy.


Karen Smythe is the author of a short-story collection, Stubborn Bones, and Figuring Grief, a groundbreaking analysis of the depiction of mourning in fiction by Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Virginia Woolf, Edna O'Brien, and others. Her stories have also appeared in Grain, the Fiddlehead, the Antigonish Review, and the Gaspereau Review. She lives in Guelph, Ontario.

"In this wry and visceral debut novel, Karen Smythe has found new and intriguing ways to tell a powerful story of longing, love, and what it means to be brave. Her characters show us how we are all repeatedly reconstituted by love and how, for better or worse, we must accept what we thought we couldn’t and find a way to live with the different versions of ourselves as we navigate our own lives." — Diane Schoemperlen, author of This Is Not My Life

"This Side of Sad is as intimate as a best friend’s confession, as well wrought as a fine clay vessel, and as consoling as only a fine blues tune can be." — Antanas Sileika, author of The Barefoot Bingo Caller

"Sensitive and authentic, This Sad of Sad brims with introspection, wry humour, and Karen Smythe’s signature literary grace. The story will remain rooted in your heart and mind." — Danila Botha, author of For All the Men (and Some of the Women) I've Known

"A courageous debut novel and one of the most searing explorations of love and grief you will ever read. This is writing that probes as deeply as fiction can the conflicting emotions that ensue upon devastating loss. This Side of Sad is a dramatically vivid work of fiction." — Ian Colford, author of Perfect World

336 pages
Pub date: September 5, 2017