This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.
Today we're launching The Heart Beats in Secret, by Katie Munnik, a novel that explores the wilderness of the heart, the secrets concealed with every beat and the many ways it is possible to be a mother.
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
A young woman inherits her grandmother’s house, only to find a wild goose living in the kitchen.
Describe your ideal reader.
My ideal reader loves birds, 1940s foraged gin recipes, layered family histories, Scottish nature writing, migration stories, feminism and politics, poetry and possibly Laurel and Hardy songs.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
My book leans on Anne Michaels for wordcraft, Carol Shields for daily life, Ina May Gaskin for practical and spiritual midwifery, Esther Woolfson for birds, and Nigel Tranter, whose house and daily walk feature in my book.
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
I learned not to hold onto structure too tightly. Because my story plays with the shifting sands of family memory, I discovered I could play with non-chronological detailing, letting the characters and reader learn about events or motivations in different orders. In that way, writing a novel could be like writing a poem. This is something I’d experienced from reading Michael Ondaatje and Alice Munro but learned in a more practical way through writing this novel.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
I saw a road sign. The name on the sign—Birthwood—felt so evocative to me, and whole story lines sprang up from there. Before that, I thought books needed to start with character or maybe plot, but through imagining and then writing this book, I discovered place could spark story. Many of the places I included in this book are autobiographical, and it felt right to include them and mine them for their own stories.
An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.
I’m really grateful to Joan Barfoot who was my wonderfully blunt first-reader and super encourager while I was writing on this book.
What are you reading right now or next?
I’m really looking forward to reading Naomi K. Lewis’ GG shortlisted memoir, Tiny Lights for Travellers. It looks like the perfect, complicated travel story for these strange and grounded days.
About The Heart Beats in Secret:
In a house on the east coast, Jane faces motherhood alone. With her husband away at war, there is no one to protect her from small town suspicions and she must learn to keep her secrets to herself.
Three decades later her daughter Felicity leaves their life behind for Montreal, glad to flee the unknowns that have plagued her so far. But her personal battles are nothing compared to the unrest here, where a commune in rural Quebec and a child of her own might be her saviours.
The child grows up to be Pidge, a woman surprised to find that she will inherit her grandmother's Scottish house, yet curious about the ingredients that make up a family's history. Amidst the flying feathers of the wild goose that stalks the kitchen, Pidge will find unexpected answers to the questions that have beset these women through the years.
The Heart Beats in Secret is a powerful story of three women and the secrets and bonds that have defined them. It explores the wilderness of the heart, the secrets concealed with every beat and the many ways it is possible to be a mother.