Up from underneath came a blue-black swell, rising in a long arc. Kay waited, hovering in the difference between herself and the whale.
Knopf Canada, September 2019
What is the difference between ourselves and other humans? Between human and animal? Where does that difference persist in our minds? These are the questions this sweeping, intoxicating novel explores in a voyage on the Morning Light, a three-masted barque from Nova Scotia sailing the trade winds to the South Pacific in 1911.
A breathtaking tour-de-force by one of our most celebrated authors, a writer with the astonishing ability to bring a past world to vivid life while revealing the moral complexity of our own.
Kay and Thea are half-sisters, separated in age by almost twenty years, but deeply attached. After the death of their stern father, head of a residential school in western Canada, Thea returns to Nova Scotia for her long-promised marriage to the captain of the Morning Light. But she cannot abandon her young sister, so Kay too embarks on a life-changing voyage to the other side of the world.
At the heart of The Difference is a crystallizing moment in Micronesia: Thea forms a bond with a young boy from a remote island and takes him as her own son. Over time, the repercussions of this act force Kay, who considers the boy her brother, to examine her own assumptions—increasingly at odds with those of society around her—about what is forgivable, and what is right.
“They ended up buying the little boy for four pounds of tobacco. He didn’t know anything. When he saw stairs he started down head first on hands and knees. Of course, he had no manners either! He had to be taught.”from Kathryn Ladd’s account of her mother’s purchase
Inspired by a true story, Endicott shows us a now-vanished world in all its wonder, and in its darkness, prejudice and difficulty, too. She also brilliantly illuminates our present time through Kay’s contemplation of the idea of “difference”—between languages, people, classes, continents, cultures, customs and species. The Difference is a breathtaking novel by a writer with an astonishing ability to bring past worlds vividly to life while revealing the moral complexity of our own.
In sailing through a wilderness of new sensations and wonders, vivid and strange, The Difference takes on a deeper and more troubling past. As Kay works to understand how to be in the world, she asks questions that resonate today: what makes us human? How do we atone for unforgivable sins, and how do we make this right?