The fine line be­tween fact and fic­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - GRA­HAM ROCKINGHAM The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor

In a sense, all fic­tion has an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal com­po­nent. It’s im­pos­si­ble for au­thors to di­vorce them­selves from their char­ac­ters, to not draw on the land­scape of their own lives. It’s what makes fic­tion real, for both reader and the au­thor.

Hamil­ton-born writer Cather­ine Gra­ham ad­mits her de­but novel “Quarry” may be more au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal than most.

“Quarry” is the de­light­fully told com­ing-of-age story of a young woman named Caitlin Ma­harg, grow­ing up in south­ern On­tario in the 1980s. Caitlin is a young girl when she and her par­ents move from a lively home in Grimsby to an iso­lated wa­ter-filled quarry near Fort Erie.

We fol­low Caitlin’s life as she winds her way through life­guard­ing at a lo­cal sum­mer camp, hawk­ing sketchy bus tours on the Clifton Hill strip in Ni­a­gara Falls, and, at McMaster Univer­sity, fall­ing for a “my-door-is-al­ways-open” pro­fes­sor.

The story is stocked with a com­pelling cast of char­ac­ters, all some­what fa­mil­iar (in­clud­ing a cameo by Buf­falo news­caster Irv We­in­stein) in their foibles and flaws.

Dom­i­nat­ing them all, are Caitlin’s par­ents — Rusty, a chain-smok­ing stay-at-home mom, and Don­ald, a larger-than-life trav­el­ling sales­man with a love for Cadil­lacs and the Buf­falo bar scene. There is a mys­tery un­der­ly­ing their love that pulls the reader through the pages, un­ex­plained un­til af­ter both their un­timely deaths.

On the phone from her Toronto home, Gra­ham ac­knowl­edges that her own life par­al­lels much of her char­ac­ter Caitlin’s. Gra­ham was born in Hamil­ton and moved to Grimsby at a young age, then on to a house near Ridg­way, built on the banks of a quarry.

Yes, Gra­ham did sell bus tours on Clifton Hill, and yes, she even at­tended McMaster Univer­sity be­fore Teach­ers’ Col­lege at Brock. (Gra­ham taught el­e­men­tary school for a time in An­caster).

More im­por­tantly, both of Gra­ham’s par­ents died at just about the same time as Caitlin’s.

“I had to write this book, be­cause it was so tied to my par­ents,” Gra­ham says. “It be­came my own per­sonal trib­ute to them. The fact that it is touch­ing read­ers is a fan­tas­tic bonus, but I re­ally wanted to do this for them. They are in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters and I loved play­ing with the ex­tremes of the out­go­ing fa­ther ex­travert and the quiet in­tro­verted mother, how as a writer I could por­tray those dif­fer­ences.”

While “Quarry” is her first novel, Gra­ham is the au­thor of five ac­claimed poetry col­lec­tions, in­clud­ing “Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of In­sects,” a fi­nal­ist for the Ray­mound Souster Award and the CAA Poetry Award (Her six poetry book “The Cel­ery For­est” will be pub­lished by Hamil­ton’s Wol­sak & Wynn this fall.

“Quarry” was re­leased last month by small Toronto pub­lisher Two Wolves Press and has gained strong re­views, in­clud­ing one from the Toronto Star.

Gra­ham, who stud­ied poetry in North­ern Ire­land and has read her work in sev­eral ma­jor fes­ti­vals in Europe and North Amer­ica, says she be­gan writ­ing to help deal with the deaths of her par­ents.

“I don’t know if I would be a writer if I hadn’t lost my par­ents,” Gra­ham says. “It was through death that poetry found me and I found poetry. It be­came a life­line for me, a cre­ative way to not only deal with all of what I was go­ing through, but a way to help me move through life … and also keep them in some way. I’ve al­ways been writ­ing about them, whether obliquely in my poetry or di­rectly.”

In this way, “Quarry” be­comes not just a com­ing-of-age tale, but also a state­ment of grief and iso­la­tion. As Caitlin deals with the loss of each one of her par­ents, she learns a lit­tle more about their past and the se­crets they held.

“It didn’t work as a me­moir,” Gra­ham says. “It needed to be fic­tion. I needed to work with my imag­i­na­tion. I needed to push and re­ally keep to the core of what the story needed to be.”

Gra­ham hopes read­ers don’t spend too much time on try­ing to sep­a­rate fact from fic­tion in her work.

“I would rather peo­ple en­joy the book for what it is — a work of the imag­i­na­tion — than see them try to dis­cern what is real and what isn’t.”

“All of life is a blend of the truth, the curve is the ques­tion mark,” — Cather­ine Gra­ham, from her novel “Quarry.”

Cather­ine Gra­ham’s ‘Quarry’

Hamil­ton-born au­thor Cather­ine Gra­ham.

Cover of ‘Quarry,’ au­thor Cather­ine Gra­ham’s new novel. Pub­lished by Two Wolves Press. 261 pages.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.