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House of Anansi Press

Dual Citizens

Written by Alix Ohlin

Published June 04, 2019 | ISBN 9781487004866

Cover of Dual Citizens

Regular price $22.95 CAD

256 pages | 9 in × 6 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

Dual Citizens

Alix Ohlin

Reader's Guide ↓

From Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Alix Ohlin comes an intimate and compelling novel of motherhood, love, a search for belonging, and what it means to be a sister.

All her life, Lark Brossard felt invisible, overshadowed by the people around her: first by her temperamental mother; then by her sister, Robin, a brilliant pianist as wild as the animals she loves; and finally by Lawrence Wheelock, a filmmaker who is both Lark’s employer and her occasional lover. When Wheelock denies her what she longs for most — a child — Lark is forced to re-examine a life marked by unrealized ambitions and thwarted desires. As she takes charge of her destiny, Lark comes to rely on Robin in ways she never could have imagined.

In this meditation on motherhood, sisterhood, desire, and self-knowledge, Alix Ohlin traces the rich and complex path towards fulfillment as an artist and as a human being.

About the Author

Alix Ohlin

ALIX OHLIN is the author of five books, including the novels Inside and Dual Citizens, which were both finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Best American Short Stories, and many other publications. Born and raised in Montreal, she lives in Vancouver, where she chairs the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia.

Awards and Praise


Finalist, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
Finalist, Scotiabank Giller Prize
Finalist, Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize
A Globe and Mail Book of the Year
A CBC Book of the Year

“With supreme confidence, Ohlin’s quicksilver prose and brilliant characterization at once seize and pull the reader into the wide-ranging and complex world of half-sisters Robin and Lark as they struggle with questions of identity, the slow burn of mental illness, and the need to leave your mark on the world. Her characters are as complex and real as your own dearest loved ones. Dual Citizens is a compulsively readable novel about family, sisterhood, and those uncontrollable forces that drive and haunt us.” — Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury Citation

“Fascinating and unexpected.” — Chatelaine

“Evocative … Traces [its] characters over long arcs of time and place with equal amounts grace and wit.” — Vogue

“If storytellers seduce not just with the tale but how they tell it, then Ohlin is exemplary.” — Toronto Star

“Dual Citizens deftly identifies the oddities and frailties of two women’s lives.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“Touching … Dual Citizens has a lot in common with Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and Claire Messud’s The Burning Girl.” — Wall Street Journal

“Ohlin’s prose and insight are luminous … As with her prior novel, Inside, Ohlin is adroit at articulating her characters’ internal dialogues, and it becomes apparent to the reader as it does to both women that they are at their most harmonious when connected to each other.” — Shelf Awareness

“Alix Ohlin’s gorgeously understated writing brings her characters to vivid, brilliant life, especially fiercely loyal and socially awkward Lark, who felt like someone we’d love to be friends with.” — Apple Books Canada

“Luminous … Ohlin’s touching, beautifully crafted story traces the unbreakable bond holding the sisters together, even when miles apart, through many changes.” — Booklist

“[Dual Citizens] is a lovely, deeply moving work. A lyrical account of the lives of two women, their failures and hopes, and ultimately their quiet redemption … [Ohlin] asks smart, complicated questions not only about family, but also about the nature of narrative itself — whether in literature or in film — about the difference between artifice and truth and the meaning of nostalgia.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[An] engrossing, intricate tale … Ohlin smartly chooses a broad scope and expertly weaves disparate lives into a singular thread, making for an exceptional depiction of the bond between sisters.” — Publishers Weekly

“The potential, the striving, the would-be, the decidedly not, the reluctant, the accidental, the planned, the step, the embittered, the proud, the crazy, the painfully sane, the sorrowful, the joyful, financially precarious, secure, too old, too young, missed, fled: In Alix Ohlin’s books, watch out for the mothers … Ohlin’s work up to this point focused almost entirely on biological motherhood. With Dual Citizens the focus shifts to more nebulous forms of female relation.” — Globe and Mail

Dual Citizens is a gentle and moving exploration of what bonds us to those we love and the evolving strength or tenuousness of those bonds.” — Sewanee Review

“I hesitate to call Dual Citizens Alix Ohlin’s best book — because her previous ones are among my favourite recent works of fiction — but it’s perhaps her most entrancing. A spellbinding fever dream of a tale that will leave you forever changed, and will surely earn Ohlin a place among the greatest writers of our generation. I loved it.” — Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

“Ohlin’s story of sisters wraps its tendrils deep as any family. Dual Citizens leads a reader through landscapes of compassion and crisis in this deeply felt, iridescent novel of the spells and surprises a sibling creates.” — Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark

“There’s so much life in this novel! Alix Ohlin is such an effortless, absorbing stylist, and with Dual Citizens she has given us a story about family and sacrifice that will give readers a great deal to consider. It’s a wonderful book that you will want to share.” — Owen King, author of Double Feature

“For longtime admirers of Alix Ohlin’s fiction, the psychological complexity and keen observations in this novel will come as no surprise. In Dual Citizens, Ohlin examines the conflicting desires of two sisters from Montreal with a riveting precision reminiscent of fellow Montreal native Mavis Gallant. However, unlike Gallant’s Montreal girls, Ohlin’s are not of a generation ‘trained to be good and patient’ but to follow their ambitions. A lifelong witness to one’s shifting longings, this wise and luminous novel shows, is a sibling.” — Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew

“Alix Ohlin is a thrilling and singular writer who intimately captures and celebrates a lifetime of desires, disappointments, and everyday triumphs in these two sisters’ lives. I couldn’t stop thinking about it: Dual Citizens will take up residency in your mind and heart for quite some time.” — Jennifer Gilmore, author of The Mothers

“This novel sneaks up on you the way life does — full of chance and yearning. It’s a precise, subtle, sad, and graceful story about how we care for each other, and how we try to, and how we fail.” — Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror


Finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
Finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
An Best Books: Editors’ Picks
An Best Books: Top 10 Canadian Fiction
A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book
A Quill & Quire Books of the Year
An Oprah's Book Club Summer Reading Pick
An iTunes Store Best Book of 2012
A Heather’s Pick
“Vividly pictorial … Ohlin has as unsettling an old soul as Leonard Cohen’s.” — Globe and Mail

“A superb second novel … next to brilliant phrases and scenes of laugh-eliciting satiric jabs, there are brutal, heartbreaking circumstances.” — National Post

“Can any of us really save another person? Or is each of us solely responsible for his or her own life? That’s the question lurking behind Alix Ohlin’s astute novel.” — O, The Oprah Magazine

“A skillful storyteller … attractively quick-witted and wry.” — J. M. Coetzee

“Ohlin has a great eye, a great ear, and all the other equipment auguring a very successful future.” — Jay McInerney

“Ohlin displays a profound empathy for people at their least rational — and most human.” — Entertainment Weekly

“Wondrously engrossing.” — Boston Globe

“[Alix] Ohlin makes us care.” — Guelph Mercury

“A twisty, clever, and captivating read … this cunning writer yanks you inside her world.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“A serious literary talent.” — Washington Times

“Expect to hear her spoken of in the same reverent breath as Lorrie Moore and Joy Williams.” — Heidi Julavits

“Ohlin writes in elegant prose that is flush with wit and style, as clever and as smooth as Lorrie Moore.” — The Rumpus

“The next big thing in North American literature.” — Terry Rigelhof


“Winning … tightly crafted … these snippets of life’s upheavals highlight Ohlin’s keen eye for observation.” — Publishers Weekly

“By the time you’re through reading Signs and Wonders you’ll be fully under Ohlin’s spell." — FASHION

“Unputdownable. It’s the literary equivalent of a Paul Simon album: crisp, focused, lovely, and lasting. Ohlin’s characters are so genuine you’ll be reminded of people you know, love, and hate.” — Marie Claire

“Intense and beautifully shaped.” — Boston Globe

“A writer who should be famous” — Globe and Mail

“Impressive … with enjoyably mordant humour and a surgical hand with relationship dissection, Ohlin examines the corrosion-prone faces of love.” — National Post

“Wise and whimsical … there’s plenty of playfulness and warmth throughout these stories, but there’s plenty of insight, too.” — O, The Oprah Magazine

“These closely worked stories about life on earth — they soar. They do.” — NPR

“I’ll come right out and say it: Read this!” — Montreal Gazette

Quill & Quire “Conversational, irreverent, and stealthily humorous … [Ohlin blends] pathos with acerbic wit.” — Quill & Quire