On My Reading List: In the Slender Margin

Remember the interview I did with the wonderful, talented writer Eve Joseph?

Her new book In The Slender Margin was released this April, and I’m really excited to read it.


Okay, so a work of non-fiction with a subtitle that reads “The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying” may not be typical fodder for a summer reading list, but if this excerpt from Eve’s award-winning essay “Intimate Strangers” is anything to go by, her ability to write about death in surprising, compelling ways is going to keep me turning the page, no matter what season it is.

An excerpt from the essay:

In North America, we don’t quite know what to do with our dead. We plant trees and engrave the names of our loved ones on memorial benches overlooking the ocean; we gather as families to scatter the ashes but are not quite prepared for their weight and texture or for the way the wind doesn’t disperse them as we had imagined. In movies, human ashes seem more like stardust; the bright dust, in the night sky, we imagined as children.

The reality is somewhat different. When we scattered my mother’s ashes off the dock in front of the Cannery Seafood Restaurant on Burrard Inlet they didn’t lift in an ethereal manner; rather, they turned a luminescent green as they sank in the water and swirled downwards. It appeared as if my mother had turned into a fish and left us abruptly with a flash of her new emerald scales.

I love the image of her mother, transformed, flashing her scales. It’s such a unique way to describe that moment and transition from life. This kind of writing makes me want to curl up with a stack of poetry and get lost in it, the way I used to when I was in the depths of my creative writing degree. It reminds me of why I wanted to become a writer myself.

I don’t have an excerpt from In the Slender Margin, but it’s official description says this:

“Part memoir, part meditation on death itself, In the Slender Margin is an exploration of death from an “insider’s” point of view. Using the threads of her brother’s early death and her twenty years of work at a hospice, Joseph utilizes history, religion, philosophy, literature, personal anecdote, mythology, poetry and pop culture to discern the unknowable and to illuminate her travels through the land of the dying.”

Sounds intriguing, right? And it’s getting excellent reviews…

From National Post:

“[Joseph’s] meditations take her, and us, into the many rooms death inevitably visits. The darkness is never quite made light, but in her careful prose her encounters with the dead, dying and mourning take on a kind of grace. Blending elements of memoir, reporting, and bookish contemplation, In the Slender Margin is an intricate and beautiful essay on approaching that good night we all go into, gently or otherwise.”

The Vancouver Sun

“The wonder of personal essays is their meandering nature. The author has questions, may find some answers, but mostly she writes to find out what she is thinking. That’s the case with Joseph’s exceptional book, divided into short essays within four sections. She called on everything in her experience in order to be with the dying. We can be grateful for that work, calling upon everything to give sorrow a voice . . . Joseph’s words are the language of a poet, deliberate, careful and distilled.” 

And author Bill Gaston wrote:

“With a poet’s honest eye, from decades on the slender margin, Eve Joseph has done the miraculous, shining a light into everyone’s ultimate darkness. Her quest is respectful, wise, and contagious. In all seriousness, I have never enjoyed death so much.”


Eve Joseph. Photo via evejoseph.wordpress.com


What do you guys think? Want to read In the Slender Margin with me? (For my readers outside of Canada, the book will be in print in the U.S. in 2015, but you can order it now through amazon.ca.) What’s on your summer reading list? I’d love to know—feel free to share in the comments!

For those of you in Victoria, the launch of In the Slender Margin is this Wednesday, July 11th at Munro’s Books. If you go, please tell Eve I said congratulations :)


ps. My interview with Eve Joseph, and Eve’s interview with The Coastal Spectator, discussing The Slender Margin.


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