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Fiction Literary

How to Be Alone

by (author) Heather Nolan

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Literary, 21st Century, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


A breathtaking duet of spare, poetic novellas documenting the double-edged sword of self-acceptance.

Heather Nolan returns with How to Be Alone, a pair of novellas that depict the euphoric highs of a Queer awakening and the crushing lows of feeling Othered in a world that isn’t built for you. In this short but weighty book, Nolan explores themes such as isolation, trauma, and loss against the vibrant streets of Montreal. Here, in a city famous for bringing people together, the streets serve as a palette with a different purpose: a foil for those struggling to connect with the world around them.

How to Be Alone on Boulevard Saint-Laurent follows a fragmented trail left by Kaitlin, a narrator who finds moments of astonishing absurdity and beauty in the mundane as she wanders along Boulevard Saint-Laurent. In How to Be Alone on Rue Sainte Catherine, Lev moves to the Gay Village in Montreal to escape his mother, but what he finds is not what he expected.

A writer of uncommon talent, Nolan creates characters that reveal themselves through an understated confessional — the empty spaces holding meaning as much as the worded ones.

About the author

Heather Nolan’s work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies across Canada, the US, and the UK, including ARC Poetry Magazine, EVENT Magazine, Riddle Fence, and Solliloquies Anthology. They are the author of the critically acclaimed novella This Is Agatha Falling and the poetry collection Land of the Rock: Talamh an Carriag. They’ve also worked as a musician (they are the former guitarist for the band, Lady Brett Ashley), photographer, and knitwear designer. Nolan’s knitwear designs, published under the name Oileánach Knits, use making as a tool for connecting with place, heritage, and lost ancestral language.

Heather Nolan's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“With this nimble pair of delicate novellas, Heather Nolan joins the ranks of Canadian authors who continue to find inspiration in Montreal’s city streets. Alternating between darkly sardonic and affectionally tender, Nolan’s parallel stories pack an emotional punch, surprising you as they sneak up on you with their lean, fragmented, and graceful prose. These twin tales deftly depict different ways of being alone in a city brimming with people and possibility.”

Christopher DiRaddo, author of <i>The Family Way</i>

“In How to be Alone, Heather Nolan takes us through the stark daylight and dark corners of Montreal, weaving brushstrokes of isolation, addiction, and longing, and finding connection within the fragility of modern humanity. This work is mesmerizing, eloquent, and just stunningly beautiful. A new favourite.”

Bridget Canning, author of <i>No One Knows about Us</i>

How to Be Alone emulates the vertiginous sense of watching train cars hurtle past, lives half-glimpsed behind each window. Its characters take on a similar fragmented quality. They are drawn to community, yet, through circumstance and their own design, they are pulled toward isolation. Readers are left with an impressionistic and melancholy portrait of queer urban existence.”

<i>Literary Review of Canada</i>

“There’s a range of sensation, wit, eroticism; a spectrum of human nature, expressed through fully realized, tactile senses of sight and sound and taste.”


“With acerbic humour and lyrical grace, Heather Nolan sweeps a whole sultry city into this slim volume.”

Eva Crocker, author of <i>All I Ask</i>

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