Winner of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize in Canada, Reproduction is a playful novel that begins with the meeting of two very different strangers in a hospital room occupied by their mothers, and weaves through three decades of the family and relationships that follow such an unexpected and unbidden encounter. Williams writes with a poet’s ear and an inventive spark, exploring love, class, race, and the multicultural community in Toronto where this artful story unfolds in ways both light and deeply felt.— Melinda
“I hardly know where to start with my need to talk about this book! Reproduction is a love story spanning three decades, from the early ’80s to the 2000s, starting in Toronto, a city of vast differences in wealth and cultures. The unlikely couple (Edgar, a rich, idle German, and Felicia, a poor 19-year-old immigrant from the West Indies) meet and start an unconventional relationship, with lifelong consequences for them both. Don’t let the 550-page count fool you: The writing style is the opposite of weighty and dense — it is mischievous, funny, moving, and full of stunning revelations about how strangers become family. Simply breathtaking!”
— Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
A hilarious, surprising, and poignant love story about the way families are invented, told with the savvy of a Zadie Smith and with an inventiveness all Ian Williams' own, Reproduction bangs lives together in a polyglot suburb of Toronto.
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.