Format: eBook, 352 pages
Publisher: Knopf Canada
ISBN: 978-0-307-37395-3 (0-307-37395-9)
Pub Date: May 4, 2010
Buy this eBook
“The longer you stare at the mountain, the more it seems a refuge above human borders and distinctions and this constant dialogue of violence. Up there, he’d hoped, he and Sophie could step away from trouble for a while.”
Lewis Book, a doctor with a history of embroiling himself in conflicts, and his daughter, Sophie, travel to Nepal to join a climbing expedition. One evening, as Sophie sits on the border between China and Nepal, watching the sun set over the Himalayas, she spots a group of Tibetan refugees fleeing from Chinese soldiers. When shooting starts, Dr. Book rushes toward the ensuing melee, ignoring the objections of Lawson, the expedition leader, who doesn’t want to get involved and spoil his chance to be the first climber to summit Kyatruk. Lawson is further enraged when Amaris, a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker recording the expedition, joins Book with her camcorder in hand. When the surviving Tibetans are captured just short of the border, Lawson and Sophie look on helplessly as Book and Amaris are taken away with them, down the glacier into China. From that point, Lawson continues his ascent, and the fugitives are caught in an explosive and thrilling pursuit that will test their convictions, courage, and endurance.
From one of Canada’s finest writers comes a literary page-turner of the highest order. Inspired by an actual event, Every Lost Country is a gripping novel about heroism, human failings, and what love requires. When is it acceptable to be a bystander, and when do life and loyalty demand more?
From the Hardcover edition.
16 Writerly Questions for Steven Heighton
1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
It's a novel about a humanitarian doctor, his daughter, and a Chinese-Canadian woman filmmaker who desert a mountaineering expedition, and its megalomaniacal leader, to involve themselves in a violent refugee crisis in Tibet.
2. How long did it take you to write this book?
I wrote the first sentence in May 2007 and finished the copy-edit just before Christmas 2009.
3. Where is your favorite place to write?
For prose, my study. For poetry, anywhere but my study — the kitchen table, a room in someone else's house, a train or bus, a cafe, a dimly lit bar. Anywhere other.
4. How do you choose your characters’ names?
I have no formula; I doubt I've ever arrived at any two characters' names in the same way. The names just need to sound and feel right.
Interesting how, even if you try not to mean anything via your characters' names, they end up signifying anyway. Here's an example. I named my hard-edged Chinese-Canadian character, who was adopted in infancy by a white couple in Vancouver, "Amaris," finding the name a good fit for obscure, intuitive reasons I can no longer explain. Then I learned that one of the name's several competing etymologies correlates it with the Hebrew root for "bitter." At which point I also saw the amer in it — bitter in French. Then the Latin amor. The name's overlapping associations average out, I guess, to "bitter love". And those associations are there for readers (I myself am not one of them) who want a hint of allegory in their characters' names.
5. How many drafts do you go through?
With prose, about three main drafts involving large textual overhauls and insertions and deletions, and then another four or five polishing drafts, each entailing successively fewer and smaller improvements, mainly stylistic or factual.
6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Sounds like you mean the book I set out to write every time — that's the one I wish I'd written, or will write. I never get there, of course, but the ideal remains.
I could leave my answer there, but now, having just finished for the first time George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, I'll add that I do wish I'd written it, or something like it. To have acted as Orwell did — not just talked or editorialized but acted — in going to Spain to fight the Fascists; to have survived a serious wound and the decimation of one's ideals; to have come home and written with a fastidious, unromantic, self-interrogating honesty about the experience; to have penned that great, lyrical last page about the countryside of childhood and "the deep meadows where the great shining horses browse and meditate" — and then, in the final line, to fiercely undercut that nostalgic idyll; that's all something to envy.
And he wrote the book in two or three months.
7. What’s your favourite city in the world?
Impossible question. My favourite city of the moment is Ypres, or Ieper in the Flemish spelling. I was just there. The heart of the old medieval town is a stunning place. But partly what I love is the weird virtuality of the spectacle — how the place is in fact a cunning replica of the original medieval town, since everything, including the magnificent Gothic cathedral, was shelled flat in the First World War and then, in the 20s, meticlously rebuilt, stone by stone, gargoyle by gargoyle. And you'd never know.
8. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?
I listen to music after I finish writing, especially while cooking dinner, but never while I write. I can't. Music seems to preoccupy the part of my brain that processes words — an interference that's counter-productive while I'm at work, though a welcome relief when I'm done. At that point I use music, booze, exercise — whatever does the trick — to short-circuit the word-wiring and mute the neural chatter.
9. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
Most of my guilty distractions involve films on DVD, not reading. Even recreational reading I find too active to be a true escape.
10. What’s on your nightstand right now?
I've just finished my friend Jay Ruzesky's enchanting The Wolsenburg Clock. Am about to start Andre Gide's L'immoraliste.
11. Did you always want to be a writer?
Or else a singer-songwriter or visual artist. I was equally passionate about all three until my late teens, when for some reason I started to focus more on writing.
Actually, now I think of it, through my late teens and early twenties I did far less of all three pursuits — writing, guitar-playing, visual art — but writing was the one enthusiasm I phased out least. And in my mid-twenties it caught fire in me again.
12. What do you drink or eat while you write?
Coffee and Japanese tea (usually genmaicha, a green tea with bits of toasted rice in it). Sometimes red wine or beer if I'm working in the evening, usually on poetry or translations. I don't eat while I write unless I'm weltering in deadlines and have no choice but to eat at my desk.
13. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
Laptop for prose, though I print out each draft and scrawl messy marginal corrections with a pen. For poetry, pen for the first draft, typewriter for draft two (I use a 1940s Underwood manual: gorgeous old artefact), then laptop for draft three, with marginally annotated print-outs punctuating the process after that — so for each poem I end up with a stratified fossil record of between fifteen to thirty pages, draft on draft, with the latest version on the surface.
14. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
I shouted, then started singing at the top of my lungs that great, exultant Patti Smith-Bruce Springsteen song, "Because the Night," the student rooming house empty, the acceptance letter and opened envelope clenched in my fist.
15. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
I go by instinct. Lately I'm choosing a lot of female perspectives. I think I'm doing it partly out of sheer curiosity — I've always felt "write what you don't know and discover it in the telling" is as valid a piece of advice as the banal "write what you know" — but also as a way of avoiding a mid-career lapse into default mode. I mean, on one level it would be too easy for me to keep writing from the POV of male characters of my age and mindset and frame of reference. To avoid telling the same stories over and over, you have to keep reaching, extending yourself. It's basic neurology: you keep shaking things up and testing yourself or you go on autopilot for the rest of your life.
16. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
Recently a woman who invited me to talk to her book group gave me three bottles of really good wine and a handwritten note. That combo would have to be high on any writer's shortlist.
From the Hardcover edition.
“So deliriously good that it’s hard to put down. . . . Heighton is a superb writer.”
— Ottawa Citizen
“Heighton remains an admirable storyteller. . . . Heighton is especially adept at rendering physical danger: the overwhelming moments of fear and exhilaration when life is threatened by a gunshot, or a precipitous fall. One thinks of John Le Carré or Graham Greene at these moments, and the comparison holds.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“A stunning new novel. . . . Suspenseful, superbly paced, stark and cinematically glamorous, this novel recalls a Hitchcock thriller, but with better scenery — a landscape so spectacular, so sublime, it steals your breath and hurts your heart. Heighton is also a poet and his precise detail pinpoints effect, while rippling with meaning.”
— Toronto Star
“Heighton’s language continues to grow in beauty. . . . Every page, minor character and plot twist matters. . . . Every Lost Country is more un-put-downable than many escape tales. . . . Simultaneously shockingly real and terrifyingly mannered.”
— T.F. Rigelhof, The Globe and Mail
“A gorgeous book in so many ways — well-written, packed with interesting history and great views. . . . It’s a compelling, rewarding read.”
— The Mirror (Montreal)
“Considering the subject matter, Every Lost Country is a surprisingly apolitical book. The lost countries of the title could just as well refer to the yearning for home any individual may suffer as to the circumstances of the Tibetan people. The novel’s strong suit is its characters, and their actions are true to the dictates of their emotions.”
— The Gazette
“A Lord Jim for the 21st century, but told with the pace of the slickest modern thriller. . . . With Every Lost Country, Heighton not only succumbs to the modern taste for non-stop action, he masters it. . . . Fast-paced, clear and hard-hitting. . . . What sets the novel far above the thriller norm is the diversity of the viewpoints it incorporates, blended invisibly into the heart-pounding narrative by means of constant small miracles of characterization. . . . Readers who decide to follow along will experience a fast and often harrowing ride. But be warned: Once embarked, there is no escape.”
— John Barber, The Globe and Mail
“A truly exceptional novel . . . Every Lost Country will be cherished for its characters, who are numerous, challenging and deeply alive; for its precise and beautiful language; and for its ambitious (and successful) effort to grapple with issues that are central to the way we live in a world of ever-increasing moral ambiguity.”
— The Walrus Blog
“The bone-chilling lunar landscape [is] powerfully evoked.”
— National Post
“The writing moves skilfully through a range of registers, from tragic to (darkly) comic, intimate to political. And the magnificent setting is dramatically evoked on a lush canvas. . . . Every Lost Country has an expansive moral vision wedded to a thrilling plot.”
— Quill & Quire
“From the opening pages, you won’t be able to put down Steven Heighton’s Every Lost Country. A dizzying read, it’s one of those rare finds where gorgeously drawn characters and a galloping plot merge effortlessly. Heighton proves himself once again a young lion of Canadian literature.”
— Joseph Boyden, author of Through Black Spruce
“Every Lost Country is thrillingly plotted, elegantly detailed, and alive with characters who will seem as real to you as people you’ve known for years and can still talk to for hours on the phone. Heighton sets them down in what is literally the world’s most breathtaking landscape, at the very limits of human physiology, where the compass of moral courage points them into uncharted territory. Read this novel to be transported and enthralled.”
— Jamie Zeppa, author of Beyond the Sky and the Earth
From the Hardcover edition.
"Although this is not the type of book I usually read, I found this to be a good book. The subject matter was engrossing. I was drawn into the story early on, and I couldn't put it down until it was done. I would recommend this book to others as it was very well written and shed some much needed light on the situation in Nepal and Tibet."
- Brigitte M, Saskatchewan
"I really liked this book. I thought it was very interesting and thought provoking."
- Linda F, Ontario
"I enjoyed it from the very first page. The characters felt real to me and I was completely involved in the story from start to finish. I've always loved the Dalai Lama and this Tibetan suspense/adventure story was excellently written. Steven Heighton made you feel that you personally knew each of the main characters. I will definitely be looking for more of his books."
- Renelle R, Ontario
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
What Love Requires
Every Lost Country
From the Hardcover edition.
Steven Heighton is the author of the novel Afterlands, which has appeared in six countries; was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice along with a best book of the year selection in ten publications in Canada, the US, and the UK; and has been optioned for film. He is also the author of The Shadow Boxer, a Canadian bestseller and a Publishers Weekly Book of the Year. His work has been translated into ten languages, and his poems and stories have appeared in the London Review of Books, Poetry, Tin House, The Walrus, Europe, Agni, Poetry London, Brick, Best English Stories, and many others. Heighton has won several awards and has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Trillium Award, and Britain’s W.H. Smith Award.
From the Hardcover edition.
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