A Novel


Too big for regular medical equipment, Sylvia Swamp is on her way to a veterinary hospital for an emergency procedure. While the ambulance workers try to keep her alive, Sylvia contemplates her life and her place in the dysfunctional family that she both idolizes and detests.

Sylvia’s mother, Ruth, is obsessed with the common sense advice in the book, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, but common sense is exactly what eludes her. Sister Sadie wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps as an assistant to a magician. But once Sadie dons the sequins, Ruth must learn to share not only the applause but also the erotic attentions of Marvellous Marvin. Meanwhile, the somnolent Mr. Swamp turns to TV and booze for escape. Who in this misfit family will crack first?

It appears that not even the good doctor can save the Swamps from their fate….

  • WINNER of the 2011 Colophon Prize!
  • LONGLISTED for the Relit Award


“This is a story about magic – and about what happens to a family when magic goes missing, costumes no longer fit, and love disappears backstage. Michelle Berry is the best kind of magician, the kind who rather than save your life reminds you why life is worth living.” – Jessica Grant, author of Come, Thou Tortoise

“Michelle Berry’s fourth novel is a thoughtful study of a dysfunctional family in mid-1980s Toronto.” – Kathryne Cardwell, Winnipeg Free Press

“Michelle Berry is a talent (…) her willingness to navigate such challenging darkness is admirable.” – Moira Dann, The Globe and Mail


Additional Information

Weight 0.557 kg