The Canada Reads Longlist is Here!

House of Anansi Press

Coming Up for Air

Written by Sarah Leipciger

Published March 03, 2020 | ISBN 9781487006501
FICTION / Literary

Cover of Coming Up for Air

Regular price $22.95 CAD

320 pages | 8.25 in × 5.5 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

Coming Up for Air

Sarah Leipciger

A lyrical, powerful, and richly textured novel about three lives that intertwine in poignant and surprising ways.

L’Inconnue is a young woman lost in turbulent Paris at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Pieter is a Norwegian toymaker and father to two young children in the 1950s.

Anouk is a contemporary Canadian suffering from cystic fibrosis, a medical condition that leaves her constantly fighting for air, swimming through the boundary between life and death as she awaits a lung transplant that could save her life.

The way their stories intersect takes us effortlessly through time and space, revealing how our lives can be changed by strangers ? and how we, in turn, can shape events far beyond our apparent reach. An unforgettable novel about what lives on beyond us, Coming Up for Air exists in the moment between the exhale and the inhale and the space between water and air. It explores the cycle of life and the nature and transcendental power of storytelling.

About the Author

Sarah Leipciger

SARAH LEIPCIGER is the author of the acclaimed novel The Mountain Can Wait. She won THIS Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt and her stories have been shortlisted for the Asham Award, the Bridport Prize, the Fish Prize, and the PRISM International Short Fiction Contest. She holds a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria and an M.A. in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths at the University in London, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, also at Goldsmiths. Born in Canada, she now lives in London, U.K., with her husband and three children, where she teaches creative writing in prisons.

Awards and Praise


“Leipciger’s beautiful words are elegant, sharp, and bold, but what makes Coming Up for Air completely stunning is that it shows how people, living at different times and in faraway places, can breathe life into each other. The three lives run through the novel, flowing farther and faster until they converge in a powerful rush. The ending left me gasping.” — Claire Cameron, author of The Last Neanderthal and The Bear

“Vivid and evocative . . . moving and intricate . . . A book about tragedy, love, and ultimately hope.” — Claire Fuller, author of Bitter Orange

“Sarah Leipciger captures the nature of solitude and stillness in a way that no other writer does. The Mountain Can Wait was a wonder. Coming Up for Air expands her range even further, exploring that eerie shoreline where land and ocean meet, where breathing becomes drowning, and life teeters on the very edge.” — Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

“A beautiful and moving novel with an intriguing multi-point-of-view structure and an interesting and diverse cast of characters — a lady’s companion in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, a toymaker in Norway, and a mother caring for a daughter with cystic fibrosis. Sarah Leipciger weaves back and forth seamlessly — and suspensefully — among them. The prose is lovely, particularly the descriptions of nature, and the dialogue is punchy and spare. The ending is as unexpected as it is satisfying. A fine novel.” — Roberta Rich, author of The Midwife of Venice and A Trial in Venice

“Leipciger writes with great compassion and precision, her language is an exquisite mix of muscle and grace.” — Michèle Forbes, author of Ghost Moth

“Writing to sink into. Just stunning.” — Wyl Menmuir, author of The Many

“An elegant, mesmerizing, elegiac novel that draws us in as surely as the rivers and seas that move through these pages draw the various characters to their fates.” — Cynthia Holz, author of Benevolence

“An extraordinary three-century braid of air and water: the way we float, the way we drown, the way we surface again against the odds.” — Francis Spufford, author of Unapologetic


“A deft and beautiful novel about all that is untameable and wild, in both the landscape and in ourselves.” ? Maggie O’Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am

“As haunting, wild and compelling as the landscape it describes.” ? Claire Cameron, author of The Bear

The Mountain Can Wait is a taut, psychologically gripping novel populated by original characters constantly at battle with nature, family, society, and themselves. This is a book that kept me up at night. Leipciger has Margaret Atwood’s rare flair for crafting an intelligent and suspenseful novel.” ? Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs

“In this assured debut novel Leipciger beautifully captures the tender and mercurial relationship between father and son, Tom and Curtis Berry. These are characters you care about, flawed and haunted by regret, existing in the harsh yet undeniably radiant world of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Leipciger writes with great compassion and precision, her language is an exquisite mix of muscle and grace. The Mountain Can Wait resonated with wonderful imagery which will stay with me for a very long time.” ? Michèle Forbes, author of Ghost Moth

“Clear and beautiful, like swimming in a mountain lake.” ? Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

“Genuinely moving.” ? Kirkus Reviews