A hilarious, surprising, and poignant love story about what happens when strangers become family.
- Winner of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize
- Shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award
- Shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award
- Longlisted for the 2021 Dublin Literary Award
Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers are dying. Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family, come together only because their mothers share a hospital room. When Felicia’s mother dies and Edgar’s “Mutter” does not, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as Mutter’s caregiver. While Felicia and Edgar don’t quite understand each other, and Felicia recognizes that Edgar is selfish, arrogant, and often unkind, they form a bond built on grief (and proximity) that results in the birth of a son Felicia calls Armistice. Or Army, for short.
Some years later, Felicia and Army (now 14) are living in the basement of a home owned by Oliver, a divorced man of Portuguese descent who has two kids–the teenaged Heather and the odd little Hendrix. Along with Felicia and Army, they form an unconventional family, except that Army wants to sleep with Heather, and Oliver wants to kill Army. Then Army’s fascination with his absent father–and his absent father’s money–begins to grow as odd gifts from Edgar begin to show up. And Felicia feels Edgar’s unwelcome shadow looming over them. A brutal assault, a mortal disease, a death, and a birth reshuffle this group of people again to form another version of the family.
Reproduction is a profoundly insightful exploration of the bizarre ways people become bonded that insists that family isn’t a matter of blood.
“Vastly enjoyable…. Top-notch comic dialogue makes this light-footed navigation of race and gender politics fizz on the page, as the steady dopamine hit of Williams’s deliciously juicy phrasemaking works in tandem with typographical high-jinks that look gimmicky but earn their keep.” — DAILY MAIL UK
“Captivating…. The consequences of procreation between unsuited partners—a lifetime of misery and the likelihood of subsequent generations repeating the same mistakes—are explored with subtlety and wit over the novel’s four decades….There’s a fluidity and zest to Williams’s insightful writing, underpinned by numerous experiments with form and style: a flow-chart illustrating a character’s thought process; absent-minded asides embedded in a smaller font within sentences; and short paragraphs, sometimes just a couple of lines, that read as distilled prose poems…. Williams has a penchant for juggling multiple perspectives…. A finely balanced novel.” — THE GUARDIAN
“Williams’s imaginative, intricate tapestries are dazzling […] In his rich probes of language and intimacy, legacy and inheritance, he slyly shows that reproduction is consequential, but so is everything else.” — THE NEW YORK TIMES
“This gorgeous novel vibrates with life. Williams’ compassion for his characters transforms them from ordinary beings into uncommon souls. We know these people: their flaws, their foibles and their fuck-ups. We recognise them because we share the same vagaries of living, wherever we are born. Stylistically inventive and narratively compelling, Reproduction is a stunning achievement.” — AMINATTA FORNA, author of The Memory of Love
“Innovative, smart, funny, joyous, poetic, generous and forgiving of human foibles. Reproduction is Williams’s first book of fiction, but it is clear he will be around for a long while.” — ALEKSANDAR HEMON, author of The Lazarus Project
“Ian Williams’s Reproduction is many things at once. It’s an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography. It’s a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again.” — JURY CITATION, Scotiabank Giller Prize
“…This work successfully examines major themes of empathy, responsibility, secrecy, race, multiculturalism, misogyny, and honesty.” — LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred review
“Williams’s unsparing view on the past’s repetition is heartrending. This ambitious experiment yields worthwhile results.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“An intergenerational novel…that examines how love can supersede blood ties. [Reproduction’s] complicated path mirrors how many families are built on experiences that don’t make the photo albums, and illuminates how dark and painful moments can share equal space with joy and laughter…. With Reproduction Williams joins authors like David Chariandy and Catherine Hernandez—whose recent novels are set in Scarborough—showcasing the bounty of stories of those who live beyond the CN Tower’s shadow.” — TORONTO STAR
“Driven as much by its relationships as its characters, and is intensified and enriched by an inventive style that borrows from Williams’s giant poet’s brain.”
— THE GLOBE AND MAIL
“Ian Williams thrives on stylistic daring in debut novel Reproduction…[it] thrums with an array of devices, from a chorus of perspectives to discussions written as asides, which reflects [Williams’s] taste for surprise and delight in literary endeavours&hellip. Divisions due to race and class, and kinship that transcends, embroider his work.” — THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT
“Williams’ Reproduction contains examples of the compromises and mutually agreed upon lies that bind families together. The ability of humans to wilfully ignore past misdeeds, to keep secrets for decades and forge on despite human frailty and failings are all clearly depicted in Williams’ story.” — WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
“In this novel about fathers who vanish and the families that spring up in their place, the Vancouver-based poet deftly weaves together the voices of a 14-year-old Black boy, a 16-year-old white girl and a motley crew of middle-aged parents who are all struggling to do right by their children—with mixed results.”
— CHATELAINE Magazine
“Reproduction’s genius is its weaponized empathy, the precision-etched intensity of Williams’ gritty, witty, wholly unsentimental exploration of the collision of human hearts and the messy aftermath. Love, and its lack, form a spectrum that the characters bounce between, searching for connections, redemption and meaning.”— EDEN ROBINSON, author of Son of a Trickster and Trickster Drift
“The startling brilliance of Ian Williams stems from his restlessness with form. His ceaseless creativity in sussing out the right patterning of story, the right vernacular nuance, the right diagram and deftly dropped reference—all in service of vividly illuminating the intermingled comedy and trauma of family.”
— DAVID CHARIANDY, author of Brother and I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You