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The Gift Child

The Gift Child

340 pages
Published:   March 19, 2024
Fiction  /  Novels
Paperback:   9781773103242    $24.95

How important is truth? What is normal? These are the questions raised in The Gift Child, Elaine McCluskey’s fictional oeuvre — a funny, poignant, sure-shot novel, populated with a community of petty criminals, beloved broadcasters, undercover intelligence agents, and more.

The novel opens with the disappearance of a man in Pollock Passage, Nova Scotia, a man last seen driving away from a government wharf with a giant tuna head in the basket of his Schwinn delivery bicycle. The man’s name is Graham Swim; he’s good at playing the harmonica and making friends.

When Graham’s cousin Harriett decides to investigate his disappearance, she comes up against her own family history. A news photographer now jobless and adrift, Harriett has lived most of her life in the shadow of her larger-than-life father — a once-beloved TV news anchor and borderline narcissist.

When Harriett arrives in Pollock Passage, she meets a stranger who tells her he is researching the Shag Harbour UFO mystery. While this stranger helps Harriett reconnect with pieces of herself she thought long-dead, she also learns that what she knows about her father may not be true.

Vintage McCluskey, The Gift Child showcases McCluskey’s unique ability to capture the malleability of memory and the complex absurdity and nobility of humanity. It’s a novel that’s hard to put down; it’s even harder to forget.
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Elaine McCluskey is a critically acclaimed fiction writer based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Her 2022 collection Rafael Has Pretty Eyes won the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction. McCluskey’s stories have appeared in The Antigonish Review, Room, and subterrain. The Gift Child is her seventh book of fiction.


“A work of exuberant, investigative gusto, this book has everything. A massive tuna head in a bicycle basket? An egotistical minor celebrity newsman? Petty, and not so petty, crimes? Mysterious disappearances? Scandals in the courts? Corruption in the world of Olympic-level canoe/kayak competition? All the unidentified objects that have ever shimmered in the sky or sunk beneath the waves of Shag Harbour? How does it all fit together? How can it? An often-hilarious detective story about the making and unmaking of stories, about the search for truth, and about the complications of love and family, The Gift Child is McCluskey at her questing, indefatigable best.” — Alexander MacLeod, author of Animal Person

“Nobody else writes like Elaine McCluskey, one of my CanLit lodestars, whose brilliance as a word-wielder is second only to her understanding of the tragicomedy of the human condition. The Gift Child, a strange and twisting family saga populated by lost souls, aliens, TV news anchors, Dartmouth separatists, and fish heads, will make you cry with laughter and break your heart at once.” — Kerry Clare, author of Asking for a Friend

“The latest from the inimitable Elaine McCluskey feels very much like the novel she was born to write. The Gift Child seems to contain the whole of the world — transplanted hearts, UFOs, Dartmouth and Halifax and Barrington, Russian spies, missing persons, and petty crime — and as all of these loops interlace, we learn about the greater garment of mothers and fathers, of romantic love. The book is like holding the radiograph of your own heart: black and white, unsparing.” — Nicholas Herring, author of Some Hellish

“Suffused with a pervasive sense of loss, The Gift Child is a novel about how truth is created, not inherent, within the context of a collective family loss.” — Foreword Reviews

“No one writes Dartmouth as well as Elaine McCluskey writes Dartmouth.” — Miramichi Reader

“McCluskey is a delightfully deft stylist; her sentences are replete with striking images . . . .” — Quill & Quire

“McCluskey’s galloping story, at once comic and slyly observational, is twisty and occasionally absurd — with red herrings and shaggy dog detours — but highly relatable.” — Zoomer Magazine

“Brimming with memorable characters, tangents by the dozen, and layer upon layer of colourfully descriptive passages that draw the reader in and sweep them away for the ride.” — Grid City Magazine

“McCluskey masterfully crafts a story, fictional yet twisted with well-researched facts, to spin the tale of The Gift Child . . . .” — Atlantic Books Today