Algoma [novel, 2011]

Design by Megan Fildes

Algoma: A year after watching his brother go through the ice, twelve-year old Ferd refuses to believe Leo is gone. Convinced his brother is still alive, Ferd enters into a campaign of letters to persuade his brother to come home, ”mailing“ notes in any pool of water he can find. Soon, sopping notes begin to appear around the house – folded squares of paper in the rain reservoir, kitchen sink, and washing machine. Ferd’s mother, Algoma, finds the letters and keeps them to herself in an attempt to hide them from her increasingly distant husband. Gaetan, a bartender who obsessively records the weather, rejects his family’s increasingly erratic behaviour and disappears one night leaving behind his weather journal, a newly pregnant wife, and a son consumed with talking to the dead.

Robert J. Wiersema, author of Bedtime Story:

“To read Dani Couture’s Algoma is to be reminded of the aching beauty of loss, the thin, pale terror of hope, and the strength and sacrifice required just for living, day by day. Haunting and fundamentally human, Algoma is a gift.”

Globe & Mail

“This debut novel by an emerging young Canadian poet has the texture and resonance of a mature work…The sense of loss is overpowering and Dani Couture brings a poet’s eye, if not always a poet’s ear, to this impressive debut.”

National Post:

“Couture is a sensitive and talented writer…Algoma is a strong debut novel with a haunting landscape, convincing characters and a vivid sense of the haphazard nature of our lives.”

Chatelaine Magazine:

An Editor’s Pick: “In her debut novel, Dani Couture captures the starkness of Northern Quebec life, grief’s many forms and the idea that even in the midst of sorrow and upheaval there can be hope.”

Quill and Quire:

“…this is a very good first novel from a refreshing new voice.”

Review in Atlantic Books Times:

“…[Couture’s] affinity for deft and delicious imagery is much in evidence in her first novel…temptation to tie the story up with a trite little bow, choosing instead to reflect the truth that losing a loved one changes families irrevocably.”

Toronto Star: Reviewer’s Top 100 Books of 2011:

“Award-winning poet’s ambitious first novel, a family tragedy plays out in northern Quebec.”

Best books of 2011, The Coast

“This debut novel is best devoured next to a woodstove in a snowstorm, as it conjures chilly, lovely images of loss, wilderness, weather and a chain of siblings christened after a fleet of ships.”

IN Toronto:

“A heart-breaking tale told in elegant, lyrical prose…”

THIS Magazine

“Each entry begins with a descriptive note…with which Couture skillfully exposes her characters’ day-to-day lives. Ultimately, it’s those images and routines that make Algoma outstanding. Couture’s minimalist and frequently sharp prose places the smallest details above plot, focusing on the difficulty of living with what’s bene lost and the eventual bitter sweetness of unburdening.”

The Winnipeg Review:

“This year’s winner of a ReLit Award for her poetry collection Sweet (Pedlar Press), Dani Couture brings a poet’s eye and ear to prose that is muscular but emotionally clipped. The chapters read like abbreviated breaths taken outside in freezing winter air. Decisive declarative sentences propel the story ahead, though the narrative eye is continually casting backwards in time, searching for something—a body, a word, a happier moment—no longer there. Scenes are minimally dressed, their drama intense but brief, even fleeting. This method succeeds, if its purpose is to create an atmosphere of progress suspended. Time passes but nothing’s changing with the Beaudoins.”

Keeping It Real Book Club (KIRBC):


Literary Mama

“…Couture’s graceful and distinctive voice…raises questions of companionship, family, fate and our place in the world. It’s a moving read from a talented writer.”

The Coast (Halifax):

“Dani Couture’s background as a poet, and now a first time novelist, shines with finely tuned insights. She’s a line writer and builds on her sentences to form gorgeous paragraphs.”

The Fiddlehead:

“Why do we need the novel? Why among literary forms has it seemingly conquered the world? Algoma answers the question very well. Simply in human terms we need the novel in order to understand the family. And Tolstoy is right. We need it most of all to understand the unhappy family.”

Reviewed by Susan Haley in the Winter 2013 issue of The Fiddlehead

Books in 140:

“ALGOMA/Couture: Quirky, poetic portrayal of small town, family & what it means to love, lose & live. Emotional w/ stunning sense of place.”

Type Books Type Talk e-newsletter:
“The debut novel from Toronto poet Dani Couture. Think early Atwood style … and plenty of weather.”

Winnipeg Review:

“Notes to the Dead: An Interview with Dani Couture”

Previews, Mentions, Letters, Words, Punctuation

Algoma was included in the Quill & Quire‘s 2011 Fall Preview, which was compiled by Steven W. Beattie:

“Toronto-based poet Dani Couture returns with her first novel, a surreal and iconoclastic take on that perennial CanLit staple: the family drama. Algoma (Invisible Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.) tells the story of a family attempting to cope with the aftermath of a young child falling through the ice and drowning.”

Preview in the September edition of FASHION magazine by Zoe Whittall:

“Couture is another poet-turned-novelist, and the Torontonian offers up a beautiful story about the nature of expectations and our frequent inability to accept the cards we’re dealt…Algoma is a thoughtful book from a promising young voice about what it means to love and accept loss.”

Fall book season includes Ondaatje, Atwood,” Winnipeg Free Press:

“For readers seeking new novels, Douglas & McIntyre is excited about Nicole Lundrigan’s Newfoundland family crime tale “Glass Boys,” while Invisible Publishing is pushing poet Dani Couture’s “Algoma,” about a family coping with the drowning death of a young child.”

“Fall Picks: From John A. MacDonald to Haruki Murakami,” National Post

“I am excited to read Lynn Coady’s The Antagonist. That’s probably the answer everyone’s going to give, but Coady’s actually that good. She’s funny without laughing at her characters, who are always deeply flawed, deeply fascinating human beings. I’m also looking forward to Jamie Popowich’s Metraville. His stories are about a strangely real city where the population is plagued by banana peels and each other. At least, that’s how the one story in the collection I’ve read was; I can’t wait for the others. Then there’s Jenny Sampirisi’s Croak, which is listed as “a frog-and-girl opera,” which is very intriguing. And Dani Couture’s Algoma — her poetry is so graceful and insightful, so I know her first novel will be excellent. Book-wise, it’s going to be a great fall. Rebecca Rosenblum is the author of The Big Dream (Biblioasis, $19.95).”

“What We’ve All Been Waiting For: Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2011,” Canadian Bookshelf

“Canadian Fiction: 7 up-and-comers for Fall 2011,” The Haligonian

“Fall season in full swing,” Chronicle Herald

“Staff Pick – Algoma by Dani Couture,” ScotiaToday – “…compelling slice of literary fiction…”


3 thoughts on “Algoma [novel, 2011]

  1. Pingback: Al « Dani Couture
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