• I (Athena)

I (Athena)


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978-1-77439-067-2 | 2023 April | 352 Pages


When Athena was a young girl in the 60s, she lost her hearing to a childhood fever but was misdiagnosed as "profoundly retarded" and institutionalized for thirty years. Now she's out of the institution, awkward and bookish, and learning to integrate with mainstream society where nothing works quite like she thinks it should. Athena researches her past, trying to understand why she was institutionalized in the first place and why the people looking after her made such a huge mistake. At the same time, she tries to find a way to live with the man who was her lover in the institution, uncovering all sorts of surprises along the way.

Vibrant, tough, and serious-minded, Ruth DyckFehderau’s I (Athena) recalls the work of Barbara Gowdy and Elizabeth Strout.

“Ruth DyckFehderau is a master in that beautiful art of the slow reveal. She has created in Athena a character I will not soon forget. Athena's story is fascinating and piercing, sometimes funny and sometimes utterly heart-rending; it is thoroughly researched and so well told. I read with wonder from the opening pages to the delightful final scene.”
— Astrid Blodgett, author of You Haven’t Changed a Bit

“As Athena breaks free from her stolen years, she’s plunged into a world she must make sense of. By turns funny and heart shattering, rich with mesmerising detail and unsentimental prose, her journey is a profound exploration of what it means to be human.”
— Fran Kimmel, author of The Shore Girl and No Good Asking

“In this harrowing, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant novel, Ruth DyckFehderau peels back the complex layers of identity and shows us, in moving, clear-eyed prose, how swiftly human rights can be stolen and how urgent is the fight to win them back.”
— Frances Peck, author of The Broken Places

“A catastrophic misdiagnosis shunts a young life off the rails, leaving young Verity Blessure to waken, again and again, to worlds that profoundly mistake her. In I (Athena), Ruth DyckFehderau leads us on a memorable quest for human recognition and dignity through the eyes of the irrepressible Verity (Athena). A journey full of surprises, both wrenching and joyous, I (Athena) also uncovers along the way the endlessly resourceful bonds of longing and belonging among the socially discarded and historically spurned, immersing us in a community that remains too often unseen, unheard, unwritten, to this day.  A debut novel that on multiple levels reflects a triumph of informed empathy and imagination.”
— Christine Wiesenthal, author of Instruments of Surrender and editor of The Collected Works of Pat Lowther

“Ruth DyckFehderau brings to life a shameful and terrible piece of Canada’s history, when institutions were used as convenient solutions for any parenting difficulty, and unscrupulous experimentation and treatment regimes victimised the children sent there. Using a unique cadre of points of view and an intimate and unusual narrative style, DyckFehderau draws us right into the dark heart of this eugenics-motivated system by immersing us in the daily life at an Alberta-based institution. Reading oneself into Athena and Athena’s story is challenging but well worth the journey. Beware, here be heartbreak--but also an eventual triumph.”
Candas Jane Dorsey, author of Black Wine and Vanilla and Other Stories.

This novel is impressive in its undertaking and at times heart breaking and then on the next page, making you laugh out loud.” 
— Laurie Burns, The Miramichi Reader (full review)

"[P]resents with symptoms of acute excellence ... well composed, making perfect use of voice, found-form composition and sentence-level beauty."
— Emily Woodworth, CAROUSEL Magazine (full review)