Twenty-Six | Penguin Random House Canada
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Publisher: Emblem Editions
By The Acclaimed Author Of Like This,
A Finalist For The Giller Prize

Leo McKay Jr.’s bestselling novel is set in a small Nova Scotia town, where a family is changed forever after a devastating mining accident claims the lives of twenty-six men. As the story shifts back and forth in time and between characters, we meet the men and women of the Burrows family: brothers Ziv and Arvel, drawn to the mine for different reasons; their father, a former union organizer; Ziv’s ex-girlfriend, now living in Japan; and Arvel’s wife, who hopes for a better life for herself in the city. In the aftermath of the explosion, and as the investigation into its causes unfolds, the members of the Burrows family are forced to confront each other – and themselves – bringing the novel to its moving and redemptive conclusion. Written in spare, hard-hitting prose, and inspired in part by the Westray mining disaster, Twenty-Six is a novel of universal human struggle and understanding that evokes in all its drama and pathos a community transformed by tragedy.


Death hides its face in winter, when trees are impossible to distinguish. The bony hands of branches clutch at the sky, waiting for the sun to rise high enough to warm them back to life. With so many elms sick, and some of them dying now, the only thing was to wait for spring before you put your hope anywhere.

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“Universal in its scope.… The novel is about memory, loss, guilt, and the light of redemption – sometimes, but not always, before it is too late.”
–Alistair MacLeod

“Remarkable.… Beautifully written.… Clarity is the miracle that chugs away at the heart of Twenty-Six. McKay –David Macfarlane, Globe and Mail

“Swift, honest, unsentimental storytelling and characters, both real and imagined, vivid enough to rise above their hard, often tragic lives.… [A] moving, well-crafted novel.…”

“[A] knockout debut novel bound for classic status. Twenty-Six resonates with style, lyricism and compassion.… An impressive work of fiction that pulsates with imaginative life.… It can be placed alongside Each Man’s Son, Mercy Among the Children, Fall on Your Knees and No Great Mischief. It’s that good.”
–Kitchener-Waterloo Record

“A cleanly crafted, richly evocative portrait of a community of families.… Leo McKay Jr. has created an entire world so skilfully that it’s jarring when the book ends, when one is reminded that these are merely characters, no matter how human they seem.”
Vancouver Sun

“Just as David Adams Richards has made the Miramichi district of New Brunswick his own literary turf, so has McKay laid claim to Nova Scotia’s Pictou County.… Twenty-Six is an enjoyable novel full of pulsating life, crisp dialogue and clear observations that you want to consider long after you’ve read the last page.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Sparse yet powerful prose, sharply etched characters, a riveting story with a catastrophic tragedy about to befall; these make for a compelling novel.… It’s a stunning debut, showing a deft touch with language and an ability to depict human frailty.…”
Hamilton Spectator

“A compelling account of lives shattered and lives redeemed by disaster.… An unforgettable story of one family’s anguish and survival.”
–Halifax Chronicle-Herald

“[Twenty-Six is] brilliant in the way it constantly exposes the rawness of lives lived in a world where those who should give a damn – those in positions of power – simply
don’t.… Engrossing.…”
Edmonton Journal

“Brilliant.… Twenty-Six is a beautiful book.…”
–St. John’s Telegram