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Fiction Short Stories (single Author)

We Have Never Lived On Earth

by (author) Kasia Van Schaik

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2022
Short Stories (single author), Coming of Age, Contemporary Women, 21st Century, Literary
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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Where to buy it


Kasia Van Schaik’s debut story collection follows the journey of Charlotte Ferrier, a child of divorce raised by a single mother in a small town in British Columbia after moving from South Africa. Mother and daughter wait out the end of a bad year in a Mexican hotel; a friendship is tested as forest fires demolish Charlotte’s town; a childhood friend disappears while travelling through Europe; and a girl on the beach examines the memories of dying jellyfish. The stories traverse the most intimate and transforming moments of female experience in a world threatened by ecological crisis. Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2023.

About the author

Kasia Van Schaik is a South African-Canadian writer, teacher, and literary critic living in Montreal/Tiohtià:ke. She holds a PhD in Literature and teaches Creative Writing at McGill University.We Have Never Lived On Earth, a linked story collection that explores what it means to come of age in the era of environmental collapse, is her first book of fiction. It was shortlisted for the Concordia University First Book Prize and the ReLit prize.Kasia is the author of the poetry chapbook Sea Burial Laws According to Country. She received the Mona Adilman Prize for poetry related to ecological concerns, the Peterson Memorial Fiction Prize, the Quebec Federation’s Short Story Prize, and has been shortlisted and longlisted for the CBC short story and nonfiction prize. Kasia’s writing has appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry Anthology, Electric Literature, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, PRISM International and more.

Kasia Van Schaik's profile page


  • Short-listed, ReLit Award, Short Fiction
  • Long-listed, Scotiabank Giller Prize
  • Short-listed, Concordia University First Book Prize

Excerpt: We Have Never Lived On Earth (by (author) Kasia Van Schaik)

“She rests her hand on my arm, her eyes clear and serious. We could be the same person, encountering each other in a fragment of time lived twice.”

Editorial Reviews

"In Kasia Van Schaik’s visionary stories a generation will recognize its rootlessness and frail sense of futurity, as well as its desire for grace. We Have Never Lived On Earth is a beautiful collection that explores all realms of experience—what we see and what we dream. I couldn’t get enough of this work’s exquisite precision and depth." Seyward Goodhand, author of Even That Wildest Hope

"Kasia Van Schaik’s debut short story collection explores the slipperiness of memory, poking at the past to see what kinds of ephemeral meaning might be found there. Throughout, Van Schaik’s craftsmanship is unfaltering. She sketches out fully realized characters with just the lightest of strokes, then traces connections between them that resonate with familiarity… We Have Never Lived on Earth augurs the arrival of a major literary talent, a writer of great skill with an unfailing barometer for emotional resonance. It’s an outstanding debut collection that’s polished and unvaryingly satisfying, leaving an enduring mark on the reader’s memory." Jury comments, Concordia University First Book Prize

"Full of diffuse longing and hallucinatory memory, these stories shimmer and compel like half-remembered dreams. Van Schaik's poetic linked collection brings the reader on an evocative journey across decades and continents." Saleema Nawaz, author of Songs for the End of the World

“Themes of geography, movement, departure, and renewal animate We Have Never Lived on Earth, weaving a narrative cohesiveness that balances the contrast between stories set at various times and in various places…. As a narrator, [Charlotte] is incisive and compelling; as a character, she is appealingly vulnerable. The collection manages to be both dense and sparsely elegant…. The writing is intellectually rich without being obtrusive, and often warm and poignant, sometimes highlighting moments that hover between comedy and pathos…. We Have Never Lived on Earth is bold in the questions it asks, and the scope of the narrative it conveys, but in the tradition of the best short stories, it is the small, precisely rendered moments that make it resonant, familiar, and refreshing.” Danielle Barkley, Montreal Review of Books, December 8, 2022 [Full review at]

“We Have Never Lived On Earth explores the care that exists between mothers and daughters, and between friends and lovers. It also considers what it means to care for other species — land animals, birds and whales — and, above all, for the planet.” -- Carol Matthews, British Columbia Review of Books, December 8, 2022. [Full review at:]

“Traversing themes such as transience, loss, painful attachment, and belonging, Kasia Van Schaik’s stories recall literary icons Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro, though with a more immediate, youthful, contemporary lens. The vital introduction of topics such as parenthood in an age of climate crisis, Canada’s history of genocide against Indigenous peoples, as well as immigrant women and girls’ experiences in Canada, make this a powerful and much-needed addition to Canadian publishing.” Jenna Butler, author of Magnetic North

“A riff on loneliness. Exquisitely written. Profoundly moving. A must read.” Rosemary Sullivan, OC, award-winning author

"Charlotte is a compelling heroine whose story captures the specific strangeness of contemporary women’s comings-of-age with pathos, poetry, and humor. The collection is engrossing, compulsively readable, bold in its formal experimentation, and masterful on both the sentence and story levels." Miranda Cooper, Foreword Reviews, September/October 2022 [Full review at]

"We Have Never Lived On Earth contains a bright humour, a sharpness. There's an authentic, human thrumming behind these stories. With their focus on mothers, fathers, and daughters, these linked stories explore how initial models of care feed into our romantic loves. Kasia Van Schaik captures the souring phase of relationships, where the glue has become brittle and two individuals begin to lean away from each other. Yet the characters forge their way through these moments of dislocation with grace, humour, and the perfect amount of self-awareness, which makes the reader laugh out loud, or nod knowingly. At least it did for me." Eliza Robertson, author of Demi-Gods

"We Have Never Lived on Earth is the debut collection of Kasia Van Schaik, a South African-Canadian writer. In this Bildungsroman of linked short stories, Charlotte, a nomadic young woman, leaves home, tries different careers and lovers, travels to Germany to teach, and wanders through Europe. Beautifully written and rich in allusions to women writers (Virginia Woolf, Emily Carr, H.D.), the collection captures the loneliness and chaos of the narrator’s transition to maturity.... Juxtaposing personal truths and imagery of ecological crisis, We Have Never Lived on Earth explores a young woman’s insights into the hazards of living on earth." Kat Cameron, Prairie Fire Magazine, October 23, 2023 [Full review at]

"Van Schaik debuts with a compelling collection of short stories. The character-driven coming-of-age narratives focus on Charlotte, a South African immigrant raised by her single mother in Canada. The stories explore every intimate aspect of life... Notes of fantasy give the richly detailed writing a dreamlike atmosphere, while topics from objectification to ecology keep listeners tethered to reality... [The stories] will appeal to listeners seeking brief, beautiful stories about family, friendships, and their power to transform. Recommended for fans of Chelsea Bieker, Elizabeth Strout, and Zadie Smith." Lauren Hackert, Library Journal, August 2023

"Kasia Van Schaik is an extraordinary writer. She paints story worlds from memory akin to how Isak Dinesen recreated her farm in Africa. She drills into difficult topics like parental neglect, sexual assault, heartbreak, poverty, aloneness and mental illness without shame, and with a tragic beauty that reminds of Elizabeth Smart or Heather O’Neill. And she describes Charlotte’s most vulnerable insecurities – her disappointments, her secrets, the moments that break her heart – in so intimate a way you feel like your own heart is breaking." Wanda Baxter, The Miramichi Reader, March 16, 2023 [Full review at]

“We Have Never Lived On Earth speaks to many readers’ own experiences of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, which involve the difficult work of figuring out how to move through loss and grief and, ultimately, how to be most alive in all of our imperfections. I have read many novels and collections that capture the feeling of threat the world can impose upon female bodies, but the quality of Van Schaik’s prose made these experiences alive, honest, and corporeally real throughout each story in a way I had not encountered before." Heather Jessup, author of The Lightning Field and This Is Not a Hoax: Unsettling Truth in Canadian Culture

"Few writers can work with memory as vividly as Kasia Van Schaik—fusing fiction and remembrance with confidence, sensitivity and the shivering logic of dream. These are stories that glitter and then duck away from view, like a swimmer half-discerned. A beautiful book you can't forget." Sean Michaels, Giller Prize-winning author of Us Conductors and The Wagers