The Work of Mercy


These nine stories from Stephen Guppy poignantly evoke the complex emotional terrain of children and teenagers from broken or dysfunctional families. These brilliantly conjured stories include a young Mormon girl from Utah and her mother who run away from the girl’s stepfather only to drive into the radioactive dust cloud from an atomic bomb test. Two brothers in Edmonton disappear as their mother tries to protect them from a polio epidemic.

A man recollects his disjointed childhood spent with a war bride mother as they shuttle back and forth across the west. Two twins blame their mentally challenged younger brother for their fragmented youth. A young man breaks with the hippie lifestyle of his parents only to discover that his wife is more comfortable with his counter-culture father than with him. A young boy struggles with his father’s new girlfriend as her sons torment him and he reacts in an unexpected way. A frustrated daughter escapes her gambling family by cheating at cards. A lonely boy finds solace in fishing with his silent stepfather, and then years later repeats the experience with his own son.

Each of these affecting stories reveals the fragility of childhood and family set against the treacherous and often incomprehensible backdrop of our volatile and dangerous world. Guppy is masterful in evoking the emotional charge of wounded youth.


...a beguiling writer with the power to make us believe his tall tales.

The Globe and Mail

That Guppy's characters remain defiantly human is Guppy's calling, and our gift.

The Malahat Review

Guppy...clearly has a gift for dazzling images.

Toronto Star

Guppy...puts all his craft on display here, evincing an eye for the telling detail, an ear for a sentence's best rhythm, and an instinct for just the right twist.

Quill & Quire

...captivating and crackles with insights on its subject...

Canadian Literature

[Guppy] strolls up to an ending that leaves the reader...gasping.

The Ottawa Citizen

About the Author

Stephen Guppy

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
Stephen Guppy photo

Stephen Guppy

Poet, novelist and short story writer Stephen Guppy lives on Vancouver Island. He is the author of a novel The Fire Thief, a story collection Another Sad Day at the Edge of the Empire, and two books of poetry, including Understanding Heaven, which was short-listed for the BC Book Prize. He teaches creative writing at Malaspina College in Nanaimo.