In her fifth novel, award-winning writer Jane Urquhart interweaves the sweeping power of big historical events with small but very moving personal stories. Klara Becker is the granddaughter of a woodcarver in German-settled southern Ontario. She has a love affair with a brooding, silent Irish lad who then goes off to fight, and die, in World War I. Meanwhile her older brother Tilman has literally snapped the ties that would have chained him to the family home, and vanished.
Of course, as in all great romantic epics, the two are destined to meet again. Tilman loses his leg in the war and experiences joyful belonging with an exuberant Italian immigrant family in industrial Hamilton, Ontario, before finally venturing home. Klara remains a spinster in her small town, sewing and working on and off for years on the figure of an abbess carved from wood. The novel culminates in the building of a huge stone monument to Canada's war dead in Vimy, France. Klara and Tilman are both compelled to visit the site of this insanely ambitious artistic obsession of real-life Canadian sculptor Walter Allward; both find that they have a personal struggle to overcome the past and learn to express love. Urquhart grasps her characters from outside and inside as precious few authors manage to do. She is, in her own way, a sculptor who carves a radiant and enduring tale from the elegant material of raw language. --Nigel Hunt