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Joan Clark
The Birthday Lunch



The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark

Hal McNab has planned a lovely lunch to celebrate the birthday of his wife, Lily—still his beloved after decades of marriage. But Lily’s sister, Laverne, who lives in the apartment below Hal and Lily, has a nasty habit of interfering in the couple’s relationship. In an effort to foil any attempt Laverne might make to hijack this day, Hal calls her the night before to say that he’s made a birthday lunch reservation—for two only. Despite this, Laverne has prepared lunch and invites Lily to join her. When Hal inexplicably encounters car trouble—leaving him late to pick up Lily—a mundane series of events culminates in Lily’s tragic death. But was the car trouble really just unfortunate serendipity or the result of a malicious act intended to produce another, less deadly, outcome? In the midst of their grief, the complex relationships within Lily’s family and those of the small town of Sussex where she lived are revealed, and the questions surrounding the events of the day of Lily’s birth, and ultimately her death, are finally resolved.


Praise for Joan Clark's The Birthday Lunch:

Longlisted, International Dublin Literary Awards (2016)

“Clark’s writing is deliciously precise and the book quietly explosive.”
—Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth Is Missing

“Utterly absorbed, I read The Birthday Lunch in two sittings. With measured steps, Joan Clark leads us into the heart of tragedy, exposing its stunning swiftness and pain-layered aftermath. This beautiful, wise novel delineates place—1980’s Sussex, New Brunswick, with its lilacs, morning mists, church bells—and character, a family stunned by death. Grief, love, accusation: Clark is unflinching in her examination of tragedy’s bewildering effects, and how, in the summer days that follow devastation, a family comes together in its new pattern and finds a bittersweet equilibrium. Unforgettably, The Birthday Lunch renders the mundane brilliance of shock—a new way to see the world.” —Beth Powning, author of The Sea Captain’s Wife

“A richly detailed, enthralling account of a family struggling in the aftermath of a woman’s sudden death. Clark grabs you with a powerful opening sentence then takes you on a weeklong journey through grief, regrets, recrimination and betrayal. It’s a surprising and beautiful ballad of loss that begs us to question our grasp on this world, and on each other.”
—Lori Lansens, author of The Mountain Story

Praise for Joan Clark's An Audience of Chairs:

Winner, The Bennington Gate Fiction Award (2006)
Winner, The Winterset Award (2005)
Selected, The Globe And Mail Books Of The Year (2006)
Shortlisted, The Evergreen Award (2006)
Longlisted, The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2006)


“Joan Clark dares to write about those who live with a disability that is not physically manifest, but makes of life a labyrinth of potential disasters. Her risk is our benefit—if only we have the wit to live as intensely as Moranna lives. And as William Cowper has it, ‘there is a pleasure in madness’ that we all might wish to know.” —The Globe and Mail

“Elegantly written and deeply grounded in place, this moving, compassionate novel is far more than a story of mental illness. Moranna’s quest is for peace, joy, and connection—the same yearnings that drive us all.” —Quill & Quire


Praise for Joan Clark's Latitudes of Melt:

Longlisted, International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2002)
Shortlisted, Commonwealth Writers Prize, Canada/Caribbean Region (2001)

“Casts a cumulative spell of ancestral continuity that is deeply and subtly true to life.” —The New York Times Book Review

“[Latitudes of Melt has] wonderful moments of clarity and transcendence, but never loses sight of what an ordinary life is.” —Carol Shields

Latitudes of Melt is rife with ethereal, transcendent imagery and writing . . . This book has the making of myth: huge landscapes, big events, the quest for family connection.” —The Globe and Mail


Length: 272 pages (pb)
Publication Date: June 2015

World English rights, Knopf Canada

For all other rights contact The Cooke Agency.
Author Name

Photo Credit: Ned Pratt

JOAN CLARK has been nominated for the Commonwealth Fiction Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. She has won many national awards for her work in Canada. She has published four novels and several collections of short stories. Her books have been translated into several languages. Her novel Latitudes of Melt was a 2002 New York Times Book Review Notable Book, calling the novel “ . . . deeply and subtly true to life.”













  • Adult fiction:
  • An Audience of Chairs
  • Latitudes of Melt
  • Eiriksdottir: A Tale of Dreams and Luck
  • Swimming Toward the Light
  • The Victory of Geraldine Gull
  • From A High Thin Wire
  • Children's fiction:
  • Road to Bliss
  • Snow
  • The Word for Home
  • The Dream Carvers
  • The Moons of Madeleine
  • Wild Man of the Woods
  • The Leopard and the Lily
  • The Hand of Robin Squires
  • Thomasina and the Trout Tree