Written when she was a working single mother with two small children, Ann Eriksson's first novel Decomposing Maggie (Turnstone) concerns a woman who returns to face her past and come to terms with the death of her husband when family property is sold. This elegiac tale about the management of grief was inspired by the deaths of both an infant daughter in 1987, and four years later, her partner. Maggie Cooper still wears her husband's paint-splattered sweatshirt three years after his death. She sleeps in her car, and gathers kelp to weave into the perfect basket for her husband's ashes.

Ann Eriksson's second novel In the Hands of Anubis (Brindle & Glass, 2009), follows a Calgary tractor salesman who, through an unlikely encounter in a Frankfurt airport, embarks on life-changing adventures in Cairo in the 1980s with a gusty septuagenarian named Constance Ebenezer.

Her third novel Falling from Grace (Brindle & Glass $19.95) concerns a three-and-a-half-foot tall female scientist doing entomological research in the tallest trees on Vancouver Island.

Her fourth novel, High Clear Bell of Morning (D&M 2014), with references to the the ecology of Orcinus orca, the killer whale, examines what happens to a family when a loved one requires help with a mental illness. "My interest in writing this novel," she says, "grew from the experience of watching a family close to me implode when one of their children became mentally ill and eventually drug addicted. I was struck by how traumatizing the mental health system experience was for the entire family and by how difficult it was for them to get and maintain the help they needed, both a result of the nature of the disease, (e.g., lack of insight, variability in response to medications, lack of compliance, etc) but also the inadequacies of the system (e.g., poorly understood disorder, lack of psychiatrists, legal privacy and rights issues etc). Stigma also remains a huge problem, toward both the ill person and the family. I heard and read many stories about parents who were made to feel they were the source of their child's problems by poorly educated health care workers, and sometimes shut out of participating in treatment. I was also shocked that a person could go into the system with a mental illness and come out a drug addict. This is unfortunately quite common, as ill, vulnerable and lonely young people, who may have lost all their other friends because of their bizarre behaviour, are exposed in the hospital, group therapy, and group homes, to other mentally ill peers with addiction problems. I was told about a group of parents who were considering a class action law suit over this problem.

"For the most part I was a helpless onlooker, and probably with all the stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illness in place. So writing about these issues became a way I could educate myself, but also, in some small way, to contribute to raising awareness."

Ann Eriksson's fifth novel The Performance contrasts the worlds of elite classical piano and urban homelessness. Hana Knight, a privileged and talented young pianist, develops a tenuous friendship with Jacqueline, a homeless woman who collects empty bottles and cans to buy tickets to Hana's concerts. Hana is blessed with a magnificent Steinway piano, a place at Juilliard, a Manhattan apartment and a patron who arranges everything, including a European tour. But there is a dark mystery from her past that needs to be faced, and she must put her privileged life at risk to do so.

Ann Eriksson's The Performance (Douglas & McIntyre, $22.95) was shortlisted as one of 19 finalists from Canada and the U.S. for the General Fiction category in the 19th annual Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards.

Eriksson was born in Saskatchewan and grew up in all three prairie provinces. Having studied and lived in New Zealand, Europe and Halifax, she came to the West Coast in 1978, living for ten years on Galiano Island. Moving to Victoria in 1990, she completed a degree in Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. Her work as consulting biologist on biodiversity has had an impact on her writing. In 2007 she married poet Gary Geddes and they now divide their time between Victoria and Thetis Island, B.C. Ann Eriksson is a founding director of the Thetis Island Nature Conservancy.

BOOKS:

Decomposing Maggie (Turnstone) $18.95 0-88801-283-7

In the Hands of Anubis (Brindle & Glass, 2009) 978-1-897142-35-6

Falling from Grace (Brindle & Glass 2010) $19.95 9781897142462

High Clear Bell of Morning (D&M 2014) $22.95
978-1-77162-024-6

The Performance (D&M 2016) $22.95 978-1-77162-125-0

Dive In! Exploring Our Connection with the Ocean (Orca Footprints 2018) $19.95 978-1-4598-1586-5

 

[BCBW 2018] "Fiction"