What Is Left the Daughter

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A two-time National Book Award finalist delivers a stirring tale of the passions - tender, obsessive, even murderous - that are unleashed by a wartime love triangle.

Seventeen-year-old Wyatt Hillyer is suddenly orphaned when his parents, within hours of each other, jump off two different bridges - the result of their separate involvements with the same compelling neighbor, a Halifax switchboard operator and aspiring actress. The suicides cause Wyatt to move to small-town Middle Economy to live with his uncle, aunt, and ravishing cousin Tilda.

Setting in motion the novel's chain of life-altering passions and the wartime perfidy at its core is the arrival of the German student Hans Mohring, carrying only a satchel. Actual historical incidents - including a German U-boat's sinking of the Nova Scotia-Newfoundland ferry Caribou - lend intense narrative power to Norman's uncannily layered story.

Wyatt's account of the astonishing events leading up to his fathering of a beloved daughter spills out twenty-one years later. What Is Left the Daughter is Howard Norman at his celebrated best.


1. What is the meaning of the epigraph, taken from Erasmus? What, for Wyatt, would be the “unaccustomed Element”?

2. Discuss the significance of the novel’s title, taken from a parable recounted in the opening chapter.

3. How does history intervene and intensify courtship and marriage...

Read More


"Norman writes with spare elegance and dry humor, and the extraordinary emotional power of his slim new novel is earned with authentic grace. Grade: A"
--Entertainment Weekly

"What Is Left the Daughter starts off with a bang--or, rather, a splash.... Howard Norman is a gentle, deliberate writer, and his humor is smart and dry [in this] novel about the illogic of love and the violent chaos it leaves in its wake."
--The New York Times

"Norman's piquant insights into life's wildness, human eccentricity, and love's maddening persistence are matched by rhapsodic and profound descriptions of everything from perfectly baked scones to pelting rain and the devouring sea, while anguish is tempered with humor, thanks to rapid-fire banter and marvelously spiky characters."