Agassiz Stories

Publisher: Emblem Editions
The superbly crafted stories in this internationally acclaimed collection trace four generations of the Lafrenière family in the fictional small town of Agassiz, Manitoba, from the time of the great flood of 1950 to the present. There is Mika, the matriarch of the family, tired of being a mother to her children, and her Métis husband, Maurice, who is by turns fascinated and ashamed of his Native heritage. Their marriage has long been an uneasy truce. As their children grow up to pursue their own lives, the frustrations of one generation will collide with the dreams of another, and the past will leave an indelible mark on all that is to come. Agassiz Stories is at once funny and heartbreaking, and written with a rare, illuminating honesty.


“In fiction what I long for is a sense of the story’s being alive – all hot, rude, contrary, funny, unbearable. You don’t get that nearly often enough, but in Sandra Birdsell’s work you do get it over and over again, and she has the energy, the faith, the skill, to make her stories overwhelm us.”
–Alice Munro

“A remarkable achievement [that] confirms Birdsell’s position as one of the best short-story writers in the language.”
–Alberto Manguel, Books in Canada

“Each piece is a model of economy; cumulatively, they resonate with the unsparing power of a memory mediated only by art.”
Publishers Weekly

“In twenty-three well-crafted, emotionally resonant stories focusing on nearly every family issue under the sun, Birdsell has woven past and present into a disturbingly honest portrait of small-town and suburban life.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Impressive.…A masterful storyteller, able to render quiet moments of beauty and grace.…”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Like Alice Munro, Sandra Birdsell writes of the trials of family, and of the past that clings to us no matter what efforts we make to scour it from our bodies and souls.…Sandra Birdsell is here to stay.”
–W.P. Kinsella, The Reader

“Birdsell writes with the kind of emotional and psychological honest that distinguishes Munro’s work.…She has good insight into family relationships and the alternating loyalty, duplicity, jealousy, treachery and compassion of its members.…By the final story, we feel we know this family as well as any other in Canadian fiction.…Birdsell has us well and truly hooked.”
Globe and Mail

“An infinite pleasure.”
Minnesota Daily