Effigy

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A stunning novel of loss, memory, despair and deliverance by one of Canada’s best young fiction writers, set on a Mormon ranch in nineteenth-century Utah.

Dorrie, a shock-pale child with a mass of untameable black hair, cannot recall anything of her life before she recovered from an illness at seven. A solitary child, she spends her spare time learning the art of taxidermy, completely fascinated by the act of bringing new and eternal life to the bodies of the dead. At fourteen, her parents marry her off to Erastus Hammer, a polygamous horse breeder and renowned hunter, who does not want to bed her. The role he has in mind for his fourth and youngest wife is creator of trophies of his most impressive kills, an urgent desire in him as he is slowly going blind. Happy to be given this work, Dorrie secludes herself in her workshop, away from Mother Hammer’s watchful eyes and the rivalry between the elder wives.

But as the novel opens, Hammer has brought Dorrie his latest kills, a family of wolves, and for the first time in her short life she struggles with her craft, dreaming each night of crows and strange scenes of violence. The new hand, Bendy Drown, is the only one to see her dilemma and to offer her help, a dangerous game in a Mormon household. Outside, a lone wolf prowls the grounds looking for his lost pack, and his nighttime searching will unearth the tensions and secrets of this complicated and conflicted family.

Inspired by the real events of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857, Alissa York blends fact with fiction in a haunting story of a family separated by secrets and united by faith.


From the Hardcover edition.

READ AN EXCERPT

Utah Territory

1867


–1–

She’s been looking out for them since the sun still hung over the Stansbury Range. Now, as they finally shimmer into view, it is ­night.

Standing in the open barn door, Dorrie peers out across moon­lit pasture, marking their...
Read More

READING GUIDE

1. How has Dorrie been shaped by what she lived through as a child? How does she make a life for herself on the Burr farm and, later, on the Hammer ranch?

2. From the moment she lays eyes on Mr. Cruikshank’s lifeless sky-blue budgie, Dorrie is entranced. What do you think taxidermy means to her–both in...

Read More

PRAISE FOR

“A small masterpiece. . . . Exhilarating and genuinely fresh.”
National Post

“York’s writing is graphic and impressionistic, sharp-edged and sensual. Though both style and landscape at times bring to mind Annie Dillard and Cormac McCarthy, York’s voice is very much her own.”
Quill & Quire

“York’s mesmerizing tale is rich in historical detail and driven by a cast of deftly drawn and perfectly memorable characters ... A wonderful book.”
—Lori Lansens

"Alissa York's Effigy is a historical fiction almost frighteningly real. Her creation of Erastus Hammer’s four wives and complex household in frontier Utah is so precise and convincing, and allows the reader so entirely and readily inside, that the only uncertainty is how to get back to the present again. This is a rewarding read. Don’t miss it."
—Fred Stenson