Lynn Coady was named the 2013 winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short story collection Hellgoing, published by House of Anansi Press. The announcement was made at a black-tie dinner and award ceremony hosted by Jian Ghomeshi, attended by nearly 500 members of the publishing, media and arts communities. The shortlist and winner were selected by Canadian authors Margaret Atwood and Esi Edugyan; and American author Jonathan Lethem.

Of the winning book, the jury wrote: "The eight stories in Lynn Coady's Hellgoing offer a stupendous range of attitudes, narrative strategies, and human situations, each complete and intricate, creating a world the reader enters as totally as that of a novel, or a dream. Yet the book as a whole is also magically united by Coady's vivid and iconoclastic language, which brims with keen and sympathetic wit. Whether from the perspective of a writer flailing in the social atmosphere of a professional conference, or a woman trying to extend forgiveness to a lover's abusive father, Coady offers a worldview full of mournful humour, ready indignation, and vertiginous possibility; the reader feels in the presence of life itself."

Lynn Coady's first novel entitled Strange Heaven reflects the plight of Bridget Murphy, almost 18, who has gone to live in Halifax having apathetically given up her baby for adoption. Allowed to go home for Christmas from the psychiatric ward of a children's hospital, she reconnects with her dysfunctional family, her complaining ex-boyfriend and her alcohol-ridden friends. Coady's second novel entitled Saints of Big Harbour reflects the boredom and poverty of rural Nova Scotia through the misfortunes and ennui of Guy Boucher, a fatherless teenager who can't escape from violence and boozing in 1982-83. "Shit is only one of the excreta that fascinate Coady's characters," commented reviewer Allan Hepburn in Canadian Literature #180. "They bleed; they puke, they fart; they piss; they cry." Coady's short story collected entitled Play the Monster Blind also explores frustrated, hopeless, insecure lives exacerbated by alcohol and poverty. Her hard-edged realism can be compared to the fiction of New Brunswick's David Adams Richards. Life outside the big cities of Toronto and Vancouver can be nasty, brutal and alcohol-sated, whether urban tastemakers care to recognize it or not.

Born in 1970, Lynn Coady was adopted into a widespread Cape Breton family and grew up mostly in the industrial town of Port Hawkesbury in Nova Scotia. During a period when the oil refinery and heavy water plant shut down, she spent a few years with her family in the Margaree Valley. She graduated from Carleton University and went to New Brunswick, writing her first play and most of Strange Heaven, her first novel, in Fredericton. Lynn Coady moved to Vancouver in 1996 and studied creative writing at UBC. Her thesis work, a play entitled Monster, was shortlisted for the Women in View 1998 Anniversary Theatre Festival. She was the winner of the 1998 CAA/Air Canada Award for most promising writer in Canada under 30. Coady won the Canadian Authors Association Jubilee Award for her short story collection Play the Monster Blind and her first novel Strange Heaven was shortlisted for the 1998 Governor General's Award. She has also edited an anthology of Atlantic Canadian fiction in 2003 and tried her hand at screenplays. Her papers were acquired by Simon Fraser University's Special Collections in 2005.

She moved to Edmonton where she later became founding and senior editor of the magazine Eighteen Bridges. While living in Edmonton she published Mean Boy (Doubleday, 2006), a follow-up to Saints of Big Harbour, in which a young poet must evolve beyond his admiration for his eccentric, narcissistic, hard-drinking mentor. Soon afterwards she relocated to Toronto where she edited The Anansi Reader: Forty Years of Very Good Books (Anansi, 2007). Returning to live in Edmonton, her association with Anansi paid off when she took home the Giller Prize in 2013, having been shortlisted for the same prize for her 2011 novel The Antagonist.


Strange Heaven (1988)
Play the Monster Blind (Doubleday, 2000 $29.95) 0-385-25867-4
Saints of Big Harbour (Doubleday 2002 $32.95) 0-385-25868-2
Mean Boy (Doubleday, 2006 $32.95) 0-385-65975-X
The Antagonist (Anansi, 2011)
Hell Going (Anansi 2013)
Who Needs Books? Reading in the Digital Age (University of Alberta Press 2016)


Victory Meat: New Fiction from Atlantic Canada (Doubleday Anchor, 2003) 0-385-65892-3
The Anansi Reader: Forty Years of Very Good Books (Anansi, 2007).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2016]