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You Are Not What We Expected

Written by Sidura Ludwig

Published May 05, 2020 | ISBN 9781487007348
FICTION / Short Stories

Cover of You Are Not What We Expected

Regular price $19.95 CAD

192 pages | 8 in × 5.25 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

You Are Not What We Expected

Sidura Ludwig

When Elaine Levine’s eccentric older brother, Isaac, moves back from L.A. to the quiet suburb of Thornhill, Ontario, to help her care for her suddenly motherless grandchildren, he finds himself embroiled in even more neighbourhood drama than he would like. Meanwhile, a nanny, miles from her own family in the Philippines, cares for a young boy who doesn’t fit in at school. In a house down the street, a young mother is given the news that her marriage is over by her mother-in-law while her husband sits silently. And a woman in mid-life contends with the task of cleaning out the house in which she grew up, while her teenage son struggles with why his dad moved out.

This stunningly intimate collection of stories, which spans fifteen years in the lives of the Levine family and the other characters, is an exquisite portrait of a Jewish community, the secular and religious families who inhabit it, and the tensions that exist there, by a writer with a keen eye for detail, a gentle sense of humour, and an immense literary talent.

About the Author

Sidura Ludwig

SIDURA LUDWIG is the author of the widely successful novel Holding My Breath. Her short fiction has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. She works as a communications specialist and creative writing teacher, and her creative nonfiction has appeared in several newspapers and on CBC Radio. She is currently working on her M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults through the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, she now lives in Thornhill, Ontario, with her husband, Jason Shron, and three children, Boaz, Dalya, and Isaac.

Awards and Praise


“I fell more and more in love with the people in these linked stories as I read. Each story reveals a striking new facet of experience, a shift in perspective, an unexpected complication. Layers of assumption lift away as you turn the pages. Written with warmth, clarity, and compassion, You Are Not What We Expected is surprising, engrossing, and heartbreaking.” — Sarah Selecky, author of Radiant Shimmering Light


Finalist, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award

“Holding My Breath is calm and absorbing, its themes handled with delicacy. The writing is precise and each lyrical moment is earned.” — Telegraph (U.K.)

“Ludwig’s first novel is a warm, deftly rendered Jewish family saga . . . The characters are distinctive and Ludwig has a talent for storytelling.” — Guardian

“Ludwig’s setting, the North End of Winnipeg, is richly drawn without intruding on the calm, quiet story . . . Ludwig has the gifts to launch beyond the predictable.” — Globe and Mail

“[A] nicely observed debut . . . Charming.” — Publishers Weekly

“Ludwig creates a group of characters who are complex, strong and distinct . . . Her sensitive and detailed exploration of character, combined with her skill at evoking the specificities of time and place, create something to which everyone can relate.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“Impressive . . . Ludwig tells an absorbing story, and we look forward to hearing more from this young writer.” — Chicago Jewish Star

“There’s much to admire in Sidura Ludwig’s debut novel, Holding My Breath, a coming-of-age story set in the mid-twentieth century: its powerful evocation of setting, compelling cast of complex female characters, and affirming celebration of Jewish family life.” — National Post

“Ludwig captures the complexities of love, as it relates to personal happiness but also responsibility to family, friends, and community. She has a talent for dialogue and manages to communicate the feeling garnered by those uncomfortable moments we’ve all experienced when something awkward is said and people flounder to find a response.” — Jewish Independent

“A polished work from a new voice in Canadian literature.” — Halifax Chronicle Herald

“The women shine as complex characters, furious and forgiving, resistant and resigned. Ludwig is particularly good at evoking atmosphere, the heaviness of summer in Winnipeg, the smell of holiday cooking, the oppressive measurements of meddlesome community.” — Books in Canada

“Ludwig’s honest, clear writing and patient, compassionate observations render the characters and their insular world entirely believable.” — Literary Review of Canada

“Holding My Breath is a skillful exploration of one Jewish family in the North End of Winnipeg during the aftermath of the Second World War . . . Ludwig deftly weaves historical markers and references to Winnipeg into the story, allowing the reader to focus on the characters, their ambitions, triumphs, and tragedies. Holding My Breath is a polished and satisfying novel.” — Jury Citation for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award

“Quietly compelling . . . Ludwig explores the universal conflict between individual needs and family ties with sympathy and compassion.” — Clare Morrall, author of Astonishing Splashes of Colour

“Beth, our delightful narrator, stakes her own claim early on, and the reader is instantly smitten. Holding My Breath is a sweet, sad, and compulsively readable tale that manages, along with its lovely, unbreakable characters, to soar.” — Jennifer Gilmore, author of Golden Country

“This is a portrait of an era, a city, a family, a story lovingly told by a girl born into Winnipeg’s postwar Jewish community . . . Here are three sisters . . . seen through the eyes of a daughter torn between familial devotion and restless, brilliant ambition. This novel depicts the tremendous capacity for love and the sometimes tragic tendency to hold our loved ones too tight.” — Margaret Sweatman, playwright and author of When Alice Lay Down With Peter