Ascension

Publisher: Vintage Canada
The acclaimed author of Finnie Walsh turns from small-town hockey to the extraordinary intrigues of circus life during the heyday of the Big Top through the story of Salvo Ursari, undisputed master of the high wire.

As the novel opens, it is the summer of 1976. Salvo is 66 years old and has decided he can never retire. Already famous thanks to his days in an American circus, he has made a living in recent times performing solo walks of extraordinary difficulty. And so he finds himself attempting to accomplish the most difficult feat of his career: to walk a wire strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, 1350 feet from the ground.

Transylvania in 1919 is a place of poverty and persecution for the Rom people. Salvo follows his father to a village church, where the senior Ursari -- the only man who volunteers for the task -- is to climb the steeple to replace a large iron crucifix that had been removed for safe-keeping during the war. He restores the cross, but it is not properly attached and as they are leaving, it falls, killing a priest. When the villagers exact their revenge, Salvo’s parents are killed and he is separated from his brother and sister. Thus begins nearly a lifetime of being forced to flee from suspicion and misfortune that takes the reader from Europe to the US to British Columbia’s Fraser Valley and back to Manhattan.

Ascension combines powerful storytelling -- including stories of the Romany people, poverty-stricken but resourceful, and rich in legend -- with great surprise and originality; Steven Galloway makes it clear why he is one of the hottest young writers in Canada today.

Excerpt from Ascension

“Once a newspaper man had asked him what it felt like to walk high above the crowd, with death looming beneath you and success a long way off on the other platform. Salvo had told the man that it was like being a bird, an eagle, but he knew that wasn’t true at all. He was a man, nothing more. Still, he was a man who dared do things other men watched and admired and were jealous of. He walked for these people as much as for anyone. But today he was walking only for himself. That was the difference with these solo walks. When he was among them, he was one of them, but here he is timeless, one man on a wire far above it all, in a separate place. He was not free, but he was as free as he would ever be.”


From the Hardcover edition.

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One

There is a steady wind, and it blows cold on Salvo Ursari’s face and hands but does not deter him. He dips a hand in the pouch he wears at his waist, pinching out a clump of baby powder that he rubs onto both of his hands. Beyond the practical purpose of preventing the slippage of the seventy-pound...
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PRAISE FOR

“One of the most suspenseful introductory chapters in Canadian literature. … Once you’re a handful of paragraphs into Ascension you’re rapt; this is a book that comples attention, then holds it throughout…. His knack for a gripping story never falters.” -- The Georgia Straight

“Galloway shows a rare flair for inhabiting minds at moments of exhilaration and peril…. His attention to detail lends an uncanny veracity to the skywalk passages and the book has loads of neat lore….. Ascension is a novel that has stuck in my mind, and I don’t expect it to leave any time soon.” -- The Gazette (Montreal)

“Steven Galloway negotiates a mesmerizing line…. Rising above all else soars the elegance of the storytelling. Galloway’s balance on the narrative line is a pleasure to experience.” -- Vancouver Sun

“This is an rengaging read. Each episode, like the high wire, is tautly strung between two places of refuge.” -- Denise de Montreuil, Times-Colonist (Victoria)

“Galloway is a master of suspense, dangling his readers by an elbow or foot from a sagging wire. Throughout his tale, his storytelling left me on the edge. His narrative is so gripping that I often had to pause and take a breath before carrying on. … You simply will not put this book down until the final sentence.” -- Andrew Armitage, The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

“Galloway is a born story teller. In Ascension, he takes us up to the high wire. The tale we find there -- through its setting and complicated characters -- is taut and compelling. Once you start, there is no safe turning back. You really must finish.” -- Timothy Taylor, author of Stanley Park

“What a gorgeous novel. Salvo Ursari is a great hero, a man who lives and perhaps survives our deepest fears. Steven Galloway has imagined a story that is as alluring and spellbinding as the wire itself.” -- Madeleine Thien, author of Simple Recipes

“Steven Galloway weaves his tale with the sure hand of a born storyteller.” -- Thomas Wharton, author of Salamander

“Will be remembered as one of the year’s best books.” -- Noah Richler, National Post

“What makes Ascension worth the read is Galloway’s storytelling powers; his is a self-possessed voice that seamlessly weds narrative and tone. . . . Galloway has the power to move and astonish, seemingly without sweat or effort.” -- Quill & Quire

Praise for Finnie Walsh:

Finnie Walsh is a terrific first novel, brilliantly conceived and inventively executed, with a power house of an ending that resonates long after the book is finished -- a stunning accomplishment from a young writer who deserves a close look.” -- Quill & Quire

“An eminently readable and warmly witty debut with a seamless narrative and a sucker-punch ending.” -- The Georgia Straight


From the Hardcover edition.