a new RCMP recruit and his wife walk down a dirt road

The Observer is a quiet book, a small book that sneaks up on you, insinuating itself in your heart before it bursts at its seams, that grows to envelop the extremities of human experience, rendering them with a powerful grace and beauty. Robert Wiersema, Toronto Star

early praise for The Observer

Marina Endicott has a rare gift, given to only a very few writers: the ability to write about
decency with clear-eyed conviction.
The Observer radiates love, a young woman’s love for her
partner, a good cop, who struggles with depression, and love for her children, unanticipated gifts.
This is a profound, dazzling novel about hard-won hope in the toughest of circumstances.
Guy Vanderhaeghe

An in-depth portrait of a young RCMP officer and his family—the debilitating trauma the job exacts, the silence that accompanies the damage, the soul-quaking isolation. It’s also a testament to love, loyalty, duty and patience; the desire to make things right; and the power of bearing witness. Endicott’s prose is clean, light, swift. Readers will leave this book altered, more compassionate, with a deeper understanding of how power works, and how it fails us. Lisa Moore

I’m still marvelling at this novel’s disorienting juxtaposition of natural beauty, familial tenderness and everyday terror. It’s the story of a marriage forged inside a crucible of unspoken trauma—extraordinary, affecting and unforgettable. Lynn Coady

· • ·

The Observer will be featured at the Banff Book Discussion Weekend, May 24-26 2024—extra happy to be reading there, since the Banff Centre is pretty much a character in the book.

· • ·

I’ll be teaching NOVEL at the U of T Summer School of Creative Writing, July 15-19 2024:

University of Toronto Summer Writing School, The Novel

Always a wonderful week of workshops and discussion. If you’re working on a manuscript, join us for some useful rejuvenation.

The Difference won the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize.

In The Difference, Marina Endicott brings readers on a sweeping voyage aboard sailing and steamer ships in 1912 and 1922. A mesmerizing nautical travelogue and a coming of age story full of realistic and yet magical landscapes and seascapes. This is what Heart of Darkness might look like if it were told by and about young women. With lush language, vivid imagery, and deliberate pacing, the reader is deeply immersed with the sounds, sights and smells of a lost time. In this world of fast news, fast reads, fast travel, fast everything, here we are required to slow our breath to be in rhythm with the slap-slap of the waves and the emptiness and bounty of the ocean. This is a beautiful, wondrous book that feels like it was written in a long-ago era yet is entirely new and fresh. It examines questions about forgiveness and atonement that resonate deeply today.”

Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize jury remarks

A starred Kirkus Review for

The Voyage of the Morning Light:

“A novel to return to again and again… a quiet, elegant triumph with no easy answers.”

Two sisters sail around the world. It’s 1911, and after her much older half sister marries a ship’s captain, teenage Kay joins them onboard the Morning Light for a trip around the world. Their strict father has recently died, and as they travel, the sisters find themselves still haunted by his legacy: He’d run a school for Native American children in remote Canada, where scores of students apparently died from tuberculosis. Now Kay suffers from nightmares so severe she wakes up screaming. But as the trip continues, both Kay and her sister, Thea, begin to have a look around them. Kay begins studying ancient Greek with an English missionary who’s joined them. Things change when Thea, who longs for a child, adopts a young boy from a poor Micronesian island. Kay is troubled by the adoption, though she can’t immediately articulate why. Endicott depicts her characters with great delicacy and sympathy. Kay, especially, is a wonder to behold: She’s barely a teenager when the novel begins, and to witness her first encounters with the world, as she quietly unravels her own feelings and beliefs about what she sees, is simply marvelous. The novel’s second half shifts in time and mood in a way that feels both surprising and exactly right. There is so much in this book to linger over, from Kay and Thea’s relationship with each other to the strength and autonomy of Kay’s mind to Endicott’s lyrical descriptions of the sea and the ship. It’s a novel to return to again and again. Endicott’s latest novel is a quiet, elegant triumph with no easy answers.

A starred review from Booklist

Sweeping, seafaring coming-of-age novels about young men are standard fare. What makes Endicott’s contribution to the genre, which is based on a true story, so noteworthy is the grit, determination and charm of her young female adventurer. Endicott artfully combines a bracing world voyage and the equally transformative journey of a young woman discovering and honoring her genuine nature. With her passion for all the creatures and cultures she encounters, Kay shines as a timely embodiment of the solace of human connection across time and space.— Carol Haggas

More reviews:

The Difference is one of the Globe and Mail’s Best Books of 2019

It breaks your heart (over and over), is heavy with sorrow and has no neat endings or answers – and yet, it also opens you up to wonder, making you yearn to know more, see more and love more.

From the Globe & Mail: It is 1912, and these are middle-class white people who believe their duty is to help those with less than them, and in Thea’s eyes, this starving child is surely among “the least of these.” She has also just had two miscarriages, and begins to despair of having a child of her own. And then, of course, there are the other children: the ones in the Anglican school her father ran in northern Alberta. The ones she taught after they had been taken from their parents. The ones whipped for speaking their own language. The ones who died that long, cold winter. Whatever Thea’s motivations – and Endicott does a masterful job of subtly drawing out both hers and those of other characters – her decision to “adopt” Aren is the pivot around which this exquisite novel turns. And it is exquisite: In its prose, which brings the bowels of a ship and the breezes of the South Pacific alike alive in delicate, evocative descriptions; in its balancing of light and dark, deftly balancing sly humour and dark undercurrents of sorrow; and in its intelligence that allows a slow-moving, measured plot to feel like a delight instead of the doldrums it might have been in less skilled hands… It is one of those very, very rare books: It breaks your heart (over and over), is heavy with sorrow and has no neat endings or answers – and yet, it also opens you up to wonder, making you yearn to know more, see more and love more. And that, I suppose, is its real difference. Sarah Laing

From the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix:

The Difference is all about just that: animals, people, different customs in different parts of the world, and the eternal question of who gives who the right to impose their way on another person, place, or thing.

In the same way that Moby Dick is and very much isn’t just a novel about whaling, The Difference is often a ripping sea adventure, replete with storms, whales, eccentric sailors and ports, but is much more about what a novelist can do—and some certainly feel must do—in post-Truth and Reconciliation Canada. Endicott…takes on the challenge of facing up to the role white, self-declared, decent Christians took in the pain and suffering visited upon First Nations people under the guise of missionary work and education. Indeed, The Difference, freighted with metaphor, is buffeted on high seas of nightmare, bad memories, and interminable argument between the two sisters… As these arguments seethe, Thea’s seasickness is revealed as pregnancy, she loses the child, and in the West Indies the ship takes on a passenger—a white missionary taking the Christian gospel to the South Sea Islands. But Mr. Brimner is nothing like the girls’ father. He’s a gentle Greek and Latin scholar, not entirely sure if what he will be doing in the islands is right, but happy to earn his passage by taking Kay under his wing as a student. And so, with a living, breathing example of good, or misguided, missionary work right in front of them, the argument between Kay and Thea continues. Endicott marshals missionaries, captive monkeys, dolphins, whales, a Shanghai garden, and a pair of tuberculosis wards to illustrate the sisters’ debates… The Difference is all about just that: animals, people, different customs in different parts of the world, and the eternal question of who gives who the right to impose their way on another person, place, or thing. As Kay says to Thea: “I don’t care about virtue, or whatever people say is virtue. I care about being kind.” Bill Robertson, Star Phoenix

recent readings, workshops & festivals…

Friday September 6, 2019: Eden Mills Writers’ Festival
In Conversation: Marina Endicott and Guy Gavriel Kay
Featuring a special appearance by Garry Thomas Morse and Matt Brubeck
7:00 pm

Also at Eden Mills:

Sunday September 8, 2019: Where Do We Belong?
with Anthony De Sa, Children of the MoonMarina EndicottThe Difference, and Rabindranath Maharaj, Fatboy Fall Down; Host: Vish Khanna
When we feel as though we are different, when we struggle to belong, or when we fail to look outside of our own experiences, how does that shape our identity, our choices, and the assumptions we make about the world?

• Reading at Booked! in Fernie, British Columbia, 7 pm, May 30, 2019

• An intensive week on Writing Historical Fiction at University of Toronto’s Summer Writing School, July 8-12, 2019


Denman Island Writers Festival July 19-22, 2018, with Caroline Adderson, Yasuko Thanh, Emily St. John Mandel

Books Actually bookshop in Singapore with Helen Oyeyemi,  April 19, 2018

Saskatchewan Writers Conference, Saskatoon, January 2018

with South African novelist Mandla Langa in Tonga

other pieces…

Read online: a new short story, Lynch Law, in the Walrus Magazine

Brick Magazine, “Childhood books: Terrible, Horrible Edie,” Most formative childhood book, in most formative magazine.

The Policeman’s Wife, some letters,” Mayerthorpe poems, in Numero Cinq, July 2011.

“Eden in Alberta,” with Matteo Pericoli, the New York Times, June 4, 2011.

New Year’s Eve, an adult literacy book for Good Reads Canada.

On E.H. Young’s Miss Mole,” from Writer’s Choice, on the venerable normblog. Other writers’ choices can be found here.

The Fine Art of Basking,” a chain story in the National Post, August 12, 2011.

Little pieces…

Hiveblog, a UK booksellers site, asked me to do five guest blogs:

1. Displaywriter I wouldn’t be a writer at all if it weren’t for the IBM Displaywriter, a word-processing system used by the Canadian government in the early 80s.

2. Life into Art In my twenties I lived in London, trying to break into theatre, full of passionate intensity. Strangely believe it, the English theatre lacked all conviction that it ought to be impressed…

3. Razzle Dazzle I’ve been living in vaudeville for some time now, the pinkish gaslight gleam of early vaudeville, known as Polite Vaudeville.

4. Writing the War I intended the The Little Shadows to be a vaudeville romp. I wanted to sashay around onstage and make jokes and have a good time for a change.

5. The Quality of the Failure “Half the time I fail to do it on the first trial, but by means of a lot of little extra comedy turns following the failure, I usually succeed in making my audience believe my failure is intentional.”

Practice alone before a mirror, then before one or two of your friends, and ask them to tell you of any faults they see in your work.

Frederick LaDelle, How to Enter Vaudeville


I enjoyed talking to Will Johnson for the Humber Literary Review

Eric Forbes’s Book Addict interview

Ten Terrifying Questions, Booktopia

Good Reading Magazine, Australia

The fabulous Writer’s Pet interview with bonus photo of my dog.

Marita Dachsel’s writing mothers’ blog, All Things Said & Done

rob mclennan’s 10 or 20 questions

earlier readings:

The Festival of Words in Moose Jaw, July 14-16, 2017

Historical Fiction at U of T Summer Writing School, July 10-14, 2017

The beautiful Shoe Project in Canmore, AB, May 30-June 24, 2017—best workshop ever!

Reading from Lincoln in the Bardo with George Saunders, Calgary Wordfest, May 9, 2017

Madeleine Thien interview, St Albert StarFest, April 29, 2017

U of A/MacEwan writer- in-residence reading, with Jaspreet Singh, March 17, 2017

Hudson Story Fest, October 20, 2016

Reading with Alissa York, Edmonton, October 19, 2016

Sunshine Coast Writers Festival, Sechelt, BC, August 11-15, 2016

Panel discussion with Greg Hollingshead, Nino Ricci and Alissa York, Harbourfront June 17, 2016

…a while ago, in patches:

CLOSE TO HUGH longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize

Kingston Writers Festival

Saturday, September 26, 9-11 pm:  Saturday Night SpeakEasy
Sunday, September 27, 3:30-5 pm:  Reading Women, Biscotti & Books

Lorenzo Reading Series
Thursday, September 24, 7 pm:  UNB Saint John, Ganong Hall Lecture Theatre
Wednesday, September 23, 8 pm:  UNB Fredericton, Dugald Blue Auditorium in Marshall D’Avray Hall
Tuesday, September 22, 7 pm:  St Mary’s University, Loyola 170, 923 Robie Street, Halifax

Readings in Newfoundland
Writers Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador
Reading Sunday, September 20, 8 PM
at Cox and Palmer Second Space, LSPU Hall, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Reading Thursday, September 17, 7 PM
Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook

earlier still…

CLOSE TO HUGH launch, Edmonton, Audrey’s Books, 2 pm Sunday, May 24, 2015, in conversation with Jacqueline Baker

HUGH on the Eh! List at the North York Public Library, 7 pm Wednesday, May 27 in conversation with Alissa York

and at the Bookshelf Café, Guelph, 7 pm Thurday, May 28, 2015

CLOSE TO HUGH at the St Albert Public Library,  2 pm Sunday, May 31, 2015
with Jacqueline Baker again—we’ve got a lot to talk about…

Marina Endicott & Guy Vanderhaeghe
Calgary Wordfest Event, June 1, 2015 7 pm, Dutton Library

CLOSE TO HUGH at McNally Robinson
in Winnipeg, 7 pm Monday, June 8 2015 with Debbie Patterson
and in Saskatoon, 7 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2015, with Connie Gault

talking about HUGH online: Toronto Public Library Book Buzz, Thursday, June 4, 2015

CLOSE TO HUGH at the Bayfield Festival, June 18, 2 PM

Elephant Mountain Festival in Nelson, BC, Saturday, July 11, 2015
onstage with Kate Pullinger and Bob Bossin

Contact us.

Follow @marinaendicott