The Birthday Lunch

Publisher: Knopf Canada
From the bestselling author of Latitudes of Melt and An Audience of Chairs: The Birthday Lunch is the story of one pivotal week in the life of a family facing a tragic loss, rich with dramatic tension and beautifully rendered.
Free-spirited Lily has always played the peacemaker between her fierce, doting sister, Laverne, and her own loving, garrulous husband, Hal, as they competed for her attention. The competition has only grown worse since the three of them moved into a large house in the town of Sussex, New Brunswick. On Lily’s 58th birthday, a steamy day in late June, Laverne feels she has bested Hal by winning her sister’s company for a gourmet lunch, but it becomes a bitter and short-lived victory when the day’s events take an unexpected and tragic turn.
            In The Birthday Lunch, Joan Clark explores the different ways each member of Lily's family confronts her shocking death: Hal's open sorrow, her daughter Claudia's reappraisal of her own life, her son Matt's determination to assign blame. And unforgettably, Laverne's eccentricity and isolation, her intensifying conflict with Hal, illuminates the brutal territory of accusation and regret. Compassionate and engrossing with a powerful sense of place, The Birthday Lunch is an extraordinary new novel from one of our most gifted storytellers.


“A richly detailed, enthralling account of a family struggling in the aftermath of a woman’s sudden death.  Clark grabs you with a powerful opening sentence then takes you on a weeklong journey through grief, regrets, recrimination and betrayal. It’s a surprising and beautiful ballad of loss that begs us to question our grasp on this world, and on each other.”
—Lori Lansens, author of The Mountain Story
“Utterly absorbed, I read The Birthday Lunch in two sittings. With measured steps, Joan Clark leads us into the heart of tragedy, exposing its stunning swiftness and pain-layered aftermath. This beautiful, wise novel delineates place—1980s Sussex, New Brunswick, with its lilacs, morning mists, church bells—and character, a family stunned by death. Grief, love, accusation: Clark is unflinching in her examination of tragedy’s bewildering effects, and how, in the summer days that follow devastation, a family comes together in its new pattern and finds a bittersweet equilibrium. Unforgettably, The Birthday Lunch renders the mundane brilliance of shock—a new way to see the world.”
—Beth Powning, author of A Measure of Light
“Clark’s writing is deliciously precise and the book quietly explosive.”
—Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth Is Missing