Written by Nadia Bozak
Publication Date May 07, 2016
Spanning the late 1970s to the late 1980s, Nadia Bozak’s thirteen stories are narrated from the perspective of Shell, the only child of bohemian artisans determined to live off their handicrafts and uphold a left-wing lifestyle. At the age of five, Shell’s world is transformed when the family moves into a new house, where she grows up. Over time, she gradually trades her unconventional upbringing for junk food, rock music, and boys. All the while, Shell quietly watches her parents’ loveless marriage fall apart and learns to survive divorce, weight gain, heartache, and first love.
A funny, sensitive portrayal of the innocence and uncertainty of childhood and adolescence, Thirteen Shells is a true-to-life collection that is as unforgettable as it is poignant.
Nadia Bozak is the author of the novels Orphan Love and El Niño, the first two parts of her Border Trilogy. She has also written a book of film theory, The Cinematic Footprint: Lights, Camera, Natural Resources, and, most recently, a novel-in-stories, Thirteen Shells. She is currently Assistant Professor of English at Carleton University, where she teaches creative writing.
"Nadia Bozak’s coming-of-age snapshots are a gentle reminder of all that’s immediate and fleeting. Wistful, distinct, and full of life." Iain Reid, author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things
"Unflinching and forgiving, sentimental and unsparing. Nadia Bozak writes straight to the heart of girlhood, where secrets are both awkward and empowering, as childhood’s magic gives way to the discomfort of adolescence and a young woman comes into her own. Thirteen Shells is a beautifully written book." Teva Harrison, author of In-Between Days
"Thirteen Shells is a true-to-life account of a totally captivating character, another unforgettable work of fiction from [Nadia Bozak]" Owen Sound Sun-Times
"There is a certain beauty in literature that only can be expressed through the naive, unsure nature of a child growing up amidst the razor edges of dysfunctionality. In Thirteen Shells, Ottawa author Nadia Bozak takes this to a new level by dulling these edges with the unassailable love of a girl for her parents…Shell is no angel. She lies and steals, at least a little. Experiments with drugs. And has her petty jealousies. But by the midpoint in the novel, the readers find themselves rooting for Shell, hoping that her dreams will come true. And that is the novel's brilliance." Ottawa Review of Books
"Bozak’s interwoven stories most obviously parallel [Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women]. Both Shell and Munro’s women and girls come of age in extremely realistic fictional Ontario towns. Both can be broken down to stand alone as stories, or read through as a novel. Both focus less on a particular climax, and more on the ongoing understated crises of expectations: the ones we put on ourselves, and the ones other people have of us. Furthermore, both authors are masterful when it comes to language, churning out brilliant turns of phrase worth revisiting….Thirteen Shells quietly captures each painful gasp of growing up: the anxiety and shame, along with the treasures found along the way." National Post
"Bozak’s newest book, [is] all repressed heartbreak and wry humour…It is difficult not to be entranced by Shell" Ottawa Citizen
"...Thirteen Shells is enticing, reminding us of the difficulty and joy of simply growing up and getting on with it." Winnipeg Free Press
"richly detailed...There's a grittiness and emotional dynamism in these... tales" Quill & Quire
"Nadia Bozak's gorgeous collection of linked short stories, Thirteen Shells is drawing tons of praise, including comparisons to Alice Munro, for its deft rendering of a young girl coming of age...Bozak's funny and poignant prose connects us with Shell's deeply relatable longings." Open Book
"As a vivid picture of growing up in the ‘80’s, Thirteen Shells is a landmark." The London Yodeller
"Like Munro, Bozak is less interested in dramatic incident than in a careful examination of everyday events; like Linklater, she focuses closely on isolated moments in Shell’s life…Bozak has structured her work carefully, providing repeated images and symbols, as with musical themes, that serve as unifying devices across different stories, deepening the reading experience as the volume progresses." Globe and Mail
"The linked-collection form is well-suited to this exploration of identity since the stories can be read in isolation or in any order, but read straight through they function as a coming-of-age novel, a full and satisfying bildungsroman. Like a shell necklace, beauty can be found in both the parts and the whole…Though Thirteen Shells departs from Bozak’s earlier fiction in terms of content, the quality of this new offering is consistent with the first two widely acclaimed novels. Bozak is a talented writer and brings insight and beauty to her account of a southwestern Ontario childhood." Winnipeg Review
"Nadia Bozak gets to the heart - and the heartbreak - of girlhood with Thirteen Shells." CBC Candy Palmater show
"A coming-of-age tale that resists the usual clichés to focus on the telling details that reveal the essence of a life. " Kirkus Reviews
"Finally, there exists a penetrating, nuanced account of Canadian girlhood." Booklist
"This wise, moving ode to an era turns the pain of growing up with divorce into a hopeful journey." Foreword