The Change Room

Publisher: Random House Canada
Happily married, great career, mother of two. What more could a woman possibly want? Enter The Change Room, by award-winning writer Karen Connelly, and find out.

 Eliza Keenan is the mother of two young sons, the owner of a flower studio that caters to the city's elite, and the loving wife of a deliciously rumpled math professor named Andrew. She's on the move from dawn until her boys are in bed, and after they're asleep she cleans her house. Her one complaint about her life is that the only time she has for herself is her twice-weekly swim in the local community centre pool, where sunlight shines in through a tall window and lights up the water in a way that reminds her of the year she spent as a footloose youth on an island in Greece. Then one morning into this life that is full of satisfactions of all kinds except sexual (because who has the time or the energy once the kids are asleep?) comes a tall, dark and lovely stranger, a young woman Eliza encounters at the pool and nicknames 'the Amazon.' The sight of this woman, naked in the change room, completely undoes Eliza, and soon the two of them are entangled in an affair that breaks all the rules, and threatens to capsize not only Eliza and her happy family, but her lover's world, too. And yet the sex is so all-encompassing, so intimate, so can it be bad?        Be ready to be shaken up, woken up, scandalized and deeply stirred.


Sometimes she felt desperate for it.

After she dropped the boys off, she hurried along the icy street, afraid of slipping. A few other parents, late getting their kids to school, waved in her direction. They were also in a rush, no one could stop and chat. Thank god. I have forty-five minutes, she thought, and...
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“Erotic. Truthful. Cunning. This is the juicy peach of a novel you’ve been longing to devour. Bless Karen Connelly for writing the life of a middle-aged woman with all the lusty bravura it deserves. I dare you to read The Change Room and not be simultaneously astonished and aroused.” —Ami McKay, author of The Witches of New York

The Change Room is a book couples should take to bed and read out loud. Never embarrassing or lurid, always deeply arousing, the sex in this book is exquisitely written. But The Change Room offers the reader so much more than titillation. Connelly gives us a challenging view of marriage, a frank appraisal of the physical and mental exhaustion so many of us feel carrying the weight of domestic life, and a long overdue acknowledgement of our shared desire for respite. More than that, The Change Room directs our gaze to an ancient and fundamental truth: sex is sacred and if we forget this as a culture, or don’t appease this aspect of the divine within ourselves, our spirit, our relationships and our society suffers.” —Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author of The Spawning Grounds

“[A] sexy, stirring novel.” —49th Shelf


“One of the best modern Canadian novels. . . . A masterwork of imagined identification with a character and an environment that its writer could not possibly know. When I first finished The Lizard Cage (which is so gripping that I was not distracted by extraneous thoughts until the end), I wondered how on earth Connelly was able to write such a visceral, subtle, complex book, how could she know specifics about life in prison in Myanmar, what people ate, what people did to one another, what people did in the name of the freedom to write and read.” —The Globe and Mail

“So consummate is Connelly’s skill in The Lizard Cage that such elements compel us to keep turning the pages. . . . Her writing is muscular and taut, bringing inmates and warders fully alive. Still more impressive, she avoids anything so trite as an affirmation of the human spirit in the face of injustice.” —The New York Times

“In a feat of epic vision, Karen Connelly uses her every art to tell the urgent story of what The New York Times calls ‘Myanmar, arguably the most repressive regime in the world.’ The suspense never relents. Hope is small, but it lives, strengthened by this powerful book.” —Maxine Hong Kingston, author and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley

The Lizard Cage is ridiculously and beautifully cinematic. . . . Connelly is an exacting writer. She burrows into scenes and surroundings and returns with startling imagery. There are great moments in the book, strung together like honed passages in a collection of poetry.” —Quill & Quire

“Connelly’s writing is fluid and well-paced, and her fictive prison world, set in the actual political hellhole that is present-day Burma, is as affecting as any UN statistical report about the conditions of life in that ruined country.” —Edmonton Journal

“The story unfolds perfectly and unaffectedly, with Connelly striking a remarkable balance in a tale that by turns delights, surprises and shocks. But even when writing of some of the darkest depths to which humanity can sink, her poet’s heart shines through; she observes with lucidity and without moralizing. . . . The resiliency of the human spirit is the beacon that informs this work.” —National Post

“In this novel, as in her previous books, there is a restless search for truth in a complex and sometimes tarnished world . . . perhaps this book, by shedding some light on the brutality and abuses in Burma, by giving voices and faces to those who silently suffer, can stir the conscience of the wider world more effectively than all the dry reports and statistics and polemical tracts. In this sense, Connelly reminds me of Latin American writers and poets like Pablo Neruda, who wrote so eloquently about the ills of their homelands. Like these writers, too, Connelly finds beauty and kindness and the potential for redemption in the most unexpected places. . . . There are no gratuitous scenes, no shrillness, no pandering to particular audiences. Instead there are graceful images and observations which, most likely, will remain with the reader long after he or she has put aside the book. . . . [It] bears the imprint of an experienced writer attuned to minute and subtle details. . . . I’m sure that somewhere, a reader unfamiliar with Connelly, will after reading this book, mistakenly assume that she is a much older writer.” —Rabindranath Maharaj, author of The Perfect Pledge, The Globe and Mail

“Hunger, disease and brutality are all antagonists in this novel. Hope, resistance and the written word are weapons. This is a place where song lyrics against the state are treason, and songwriters are soldiers. The time is now. . . . Author Karen Connelly’s knowledge of Burma’s political history (she lived in Thailand near the Burmese border as a teen) and of Buddhism is attached to the storyline without burdening it, and her prose manages to elevate her desire for radical social change above the didactic. The Small Words in My Body, Connelly’s first book of poetry, landed her a Pat Lowther Award, and her inaugural book of prose, Touch the Dragon, earned her the Governor General’s literary award for nonfiction. I’d like to vote she also get three gold stars for making learning satisfying again.The Georgia Straight

“Connelly demonstrates a gift for describing sensory details without resorting to lazy exoticism. The cage’s mildewed concrete leaves a clammy residue on your hands; you can taste the deliciously stinky salted fish Teza yearns for and smell the acrid smoke of contraband cheroots. That talent for detail also makes her descriptions of the violent prison atrocities almost too much to bear. . . . Her ability to draw subtle parallels between the scars left on a country by imperialism and those left on a child by abuse is stunning, her exploration of politically engaged Buddhism intriguing. She also shows great grace in speaking for those silenced by fear and violence. These are stories that need to be told.” —NOW (Toronto)
“Her characters are authentic, and it is a testament to her talent that she is able to get under the skin of these people, living as they are in a small Southeast-Asian country and suffering daily under the combined forces of poverty and tyranny.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“[Nyi Lay is] one of the most compelling fictional characters in years. . . . It’s characters like Nyi Lay and Teza . . . that make her book an instant classic in prison and liberation literature. It is an intense, utterly unforgettable story of courage, oppression and glimmering hope.” —Edmonton Journal

“Not many writers could write a 500-plus page novel set in the monotonous world of a prison, but Connelly tells the story with the precision and compassion of a poet.” —Calgary Herald

“Connelly is a master storyteller who can plunge into the depths of human pain and still find beauty. The Lizard Cage is a prison somewhere near Rangoon that has captured the bodies but not the minds of Burma’s political prisoners. . . . By the time the novel draws to an end, the reader has long ago accepted that the human body can be broken many times but the mind and the spirit can still be free.” —The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

“There is something beautifully—and surprisingly—tender about Karen Connelly’s debut novel . . . Connelly peels away much of the political rhetoric and gives us the human story, which is both fragile and resilient. . . . The fact that Karen Connelly is a poet . . . is very much evident here. Her prose is suffused with agonizingly sharp images . . . it is Connelly’s solid storytelling that, ultimately, is at the heart of this fine novel.” —The Gazette

“A brutal exposé with harrowing descriptions of prison life and heavily spiritual overtones, Connelly’s novel combines a thriller-like pace with finely etched portraits that show how each character takes control of his own freedom.” —Publishers Weekly


“Connelly is an exacting writer. She burrows into scenes and surroundings and returns with startling imagery.” —Quill & Quire

“Karen Connelly has an enviable, somewhat disquieting ability to possess the spirit of a place. . . The unknown, the faraway, the endlessly strange spring to life in her work.” —Books in Canada

“Hers is an authentic voice, the voice of a born poet intoxicated by language.” —Atlantic Books Today

“. . . a genius for framing the texture of daily life—the feel, the shape, the inner longing, the sounds—in language of sublime perfection.” —The Hamilton Spectator