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A Splinter in the Heart

by Al Purdy

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coming of age, small town & rural, literary
list price: $17.99
category: Fiction
published: 2000
imprint: Emblem Editions

Al Purdy’s only novel, A Splinter in the Heart, is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that unfolds against the real-life tragedy of what came to be known as the Trenton Disaster. Set in 1918, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Patrick Cameron and the events that will change him – and the Ontario town in which he lives – forever. Over the course of one summer and fall, Patrick finds love with a girl whose betrayal he cannot foresee, confronts the death of his beloved grandfather, and comes to terms with a neighbourhood rival. All the while, his hometown of Trenton lives precariously in the shadow of a dynamite factory, a sinister reminder of the Great War, which brought such prosperity to the town. Vivid with character and event, and evocative of time and place, A Splinter in the Heart is a moving portrait of a young man’s journey into adulthood in an era of change.

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Contributor notes

Al Purdy was born in 1918, in Wooler, Ontario. He wrote his first poem at the age of thirteen and published his first collection of poetry, The Enchanted Echo, in 1944. In a writing career that spanned over fifty years, he published over thirty books of poetry; a novel; two volumes of memoirs, most recently Reaching for the Beaufort Sea; and four books of correspondence, including Margaret Laurence Al Purdy: A Friendship in Letters. His final collection of poetry, Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, will be released posthumously in the fall of 2000. Purdy also wrote radio and television plays for the CBC, served as writer-in-residence at a number of Canadian universities, and edited several anthologies of poetry.

As a teenager during the Great Depression, Purdy rode the rails across Canada. In the Second World War he served in the RCAF, and after the war he worked at a wide variety of jobs until the early sixties, when he was able to support himself as a writer, editor, and poet.

Moving to Roblin Lake in Ameliasburg, Ontario, in the late fifties provided Purdy with a base from which he travelled and wrote. Later, he divided his time between North Saanich, British Columbia, and the Roblin Lake cottage.

Purdy won numerous awards for his poetry, including the Canadian Authors Association Award, two Governor General’s Awards (for The Cariboo Horses in 1965 and The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, 1956-1986 in 1986), and, most recently, the Voice of the Land Award, a special award created by the League of Canadian Poets specifically to honour Purdy’s unique contribution to Canada. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1982 and to the Order of Ontario in 1987.

Al Purdy died in North Saanich on April 21, 2000.

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Editorial Review

“Al Purdy mapped Canada poetically, and his mapping was as important as any cartographer’s. He gave us a place to live in his writing.”
–Lorna Crozier, National Post

“A fine first novel that combines the idealism of youth with the wit and wisdom of age.”
Ottawa Citizen
“Purdy has done for Canada what Walt Whitman once did for the United States – he has made it recognizable to its inhabitants.…[He] can touch the visible world with a tenderness and visionary clarity few writers can match. …”
“He writes in a delightfully sparse, crisp style, effortlessly melding his poet’s sense of grace with the novelist’s ear for dialogue and eye for imagery.”
NOW Magazine
“[Purdy] is an astute observer, and from his observations and experiences fashions writing in which we can recognize ourselves.”
Prairie Fire
“A sensitive treatment of the ubiquitous coming-of-age theme, with the descriptive power of Purdy the poet lending vivid, at times beautiful, images to the narrative of Purdy the prose writer.”
–Saskatchewan StarPhoenix
“Purdy creates a number of scenes and images that carry conviction and power.”
Books in Canada
“A touching, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel.…At times it is brilliant.…”
Alberta Report
“We should be grateful for this book. It is a solid addition to Canadian literature.…”
Brantford Expositor
“This is a sensual and poetic novel that has all the verve and humour of Purdy’s verse combined with some splendid story-telling.”
East Toronto Weekly
“[Purdy] creates vivid images in a crisp and clear style.…Once I began reading it [I] found it difficult to put down.…Highly recommended.”
–Fredericton Daily Gleaner

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About the Author

Al Purdy

Save the Al Purdy A-Frame Campaign
The Canadian League of Poets has declared a
National Al Purdy Day!

Al Purdy was born December 30, 1918, in Wooler, Ontario and died at Sidney, BC, April 21, 2000. Raised in Trenton, Ontario, he lived throughout Canada as he developed his reputation as one of Canada's greatest writers. His collections included two winners of the Governor General's Award, Cariboo Horses (1965) and Collected Poems (1986)
and other classics such as Poems for All the Annettes, In Search of Owen Roblin and Piling Blood. Later in life, he travelled widely with his wife Eurithe and settled in Ameliasburg, Ontario and Sidney, BC. In addition to his thirty-three books of poetry, he published a novel, an autobiography and nine collections of essays and correspondence. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1983 and the Order of Ontario in 1987. His ashes are buried in Ameliasburg at the end of Purdy Lane.

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