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A Novel by Mariianne Mays Wiebe

Kate Wake

Kate Wake Cover


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Kate Wake

Kate Wake is a tender and deeply engaging novel from a distinctive new voice.

It’s 2008. Blue Hills is a haunted place. Katie fights to reclaim her life from the grip of a profound psychological crisis, tracing back a maternal thread through a stumbled-upon and uncertain family history at the nearby, now-abandoned prairie mental asylum. As Katie seeks to rehabilitate the present by understanding the past, her fate becomes imaginatively intertwined with that of her great-grandmother Kate Wake, an enigmatic independent-minded artist with a remarkable story of her own.

In returning to a scene of loss, this elegant variation on the Eurydice-Orpheus myth reconsiders, with a fresh, unsentimental vision, the roles of trauma, madness, creativity and memory in relation to art and literary form.

Sharply realized and fortified by a fierce, poetic grace, Kate Wake testifies to the timeless, urgent power of art and music with a delicately experimental, multi-genre story that unfolds its narrative mystery to reveal a shocking core.

Critical Comment

"[T]he heart of Kate Wake lies in its exploration of love, grief, and the reconciliation of loss through art." ... "The inner worlds we create for ourselves and the mysteries of the human psyche are central to the novel. One of the major settings in the book is the Hill, a so-called lunatic asylum in the 1920s. Through various characters, Wiebe explores the treatment of mental illness in Canadian history, paying specific attention to the institutionalization of women.”

“Wiebe’s work is a lot like the women who grace its pages: complicated, whip-smart, and truly unconventional.”

— The Montreal Review of Books, 2020

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Mariianne Mays Wiebe's "dreamlike debut" Kate Wake is "engrossing" with "compelling characters." Kate Wake explores "... the history of mental health facilities in the early 20th century and Kate Wake’s experience within one. These scenes serve as brutal and terrifying emotional touchstones for Katie’s experience through mental turmoil. Katie’s experience is not the same, but the return to Kate Wake’s past evokes a powerful sense of dread and fear, crystallizing an experience of something that is still somewhat taboo in our current moment: mental illness."

— The Winnipeg Free Press, 2020

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Author Mariianne Mays Wiebe

Wiebe author

Author Biography

Mariianne Mays Wiebe is a published poet and professional editor with a lively interest in history, performance and visual art, about which she has written extensively. She lives in Winnipeg. Kate Wake is her first novel.

49th Shelf

Kate Wake, Mariianne Mays Wiebe, 273 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, Novel, December, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-927599-46-4 (paper) . . . $21.95

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