For two traumatic days, Livvy Higgs is besieged by a series of small heart attacks while the ghost of her younger self leads her back through a past devastated by lies and secrets.
The story opens in Halifax in 2009, travels back to the French Shore of Newfoundland during the mid-thirties and the heyday of the Maritime shipping industry, makes its way to wartorn Halifax during the battle of the Atlantic in World War II, then leaps ahead to the bedside of the elder Livvy.
Caught between a troubled past, and her present and worsening living conditions, Livvy is forced to pick apart the lies and secrets told by her greedy, prideful father, Durwin Higgs, who judges her a failure, and her formidable Grandmother Creed, who has mysteriously aligned herself with Livvy's father, despite their mutual hatred.
Tending to Livvy during her illness is her young next-door neighbour, Gen, a single mother, social-work student, and part-time drug dealer. Overnight, a violent scene embroils the two in each other's lives in a manner that will entwine them forever. In The Deception of Livvy Higgs, the inimitable Morrissey has written a powerful tale, the Stone Angel of the East Coast.
Donna Morrissey is the award-winning author of Kit’s Law, Downhill Chance, What They Wanted, and Sylvanus Now, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She recently wrote a children’s book, Cross Katie Kross, illustrated by her daughter, Bridget. Morrissey grew up in The Beaches, a small fishing outport in Newfoundland and now lives in Halifax.
I step carefully onto the iced side steps, knees creaking like an old stair, and fling feed to the grey hubble of pigeons coo-cooing about the door-place. The air is stiff with morning, dawn yawning tepidly up the eastern skyline over Halifax Harbour. The houses on the street still sleep, their drawn drapes darker than mine. Something about my backyard twigs my attention—footprints. One pair. Leading across the fresh-fallen snow and out of sight behind the house. They weren’t there ten minutes ago; the snow had been smooth as fresh-poured cream. I know, for when the hands of the clock touched seven I was already sitting up in bed, looking out the window as I always do and saying good morning to the souls resting in the cemetery that borders my backyard— most especially that dear wooden cross facing my window, its arms seeking to embrace me while lending shadow to that smaller cross that lies behind it. I hear a sound: someone—or something—is rustling through the cedar shrubs near the basement door towards the back of the house.
Laying down the feed bowl, I button my wool coat, go down the steps and trudge through the snow. It topples inside the mouth of my rubber boots and presses cold against my legs. “Who’s there?” I call, and am more surprised than startled when Gen, the young single mother living next door, quickly rises from the shrubs. She’s wearing her puffy red parka and striped-legged pajamas tucked into a pair of unlaced Ski-Doo boots.
“What’re you doing outside so early,” she scolds. “I can hear you wheezing.”
“What’re you doing?”
“I’m looking for Ronny’s hockey puck, he lost it here somewhere.” She won’t look at me, she’s shoving something into her pocket. “Brr, it’s cold, you shouldn’t be out, it’s bad for your asthma,” she says. “Wrap a scarf around your mouth. Ronny’s asthma is acting up again, I told him he’s catching it from you. Did you see his puck? It’s his lucky puck, swears he can’t score a goal without it.”
She’s clumping back through the snow towards her yard. She’s tall and big boned, with messy dark hair pinned above a long narrow face that’s usually brightened by big brown eyes and showy white teeth. She’s not smiling right now, though, and keeps her eyes from mine as she straddles the railing separating our backyards, still talking about...
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