The Beguiling

The Beguiling

By Zsuzsi Gartner
288 pages
September 2020


An electrifying debut novel from the Giller Prize-shortlisted author of Better Living Through Plastic Explosives that takes readers for a wild ride with urban-gothic flair and delectably wicked humour.

Lucy is a lapsed-Catholic whose adolescent pretensions to sainthood are unexpectedly revived.
It all starts when her cousin Zoltan, in hospital following a bizarre incident at a party, offers her a disturbing deathbed confession. Lucy's grief takes an unusual turn: Zoltan's death appears to have turned her into a magnet for the unshriven. Lucy is transformed into a self-described "flesh-and-blood Wailing Wall" as strangers unburden themselves to her. She becomes addicted to the dark stories, finds herself jonesing for hit after hit.

As the confessions pile up, Lucy begins to wonder if Zoltan's death was as random and unscripted as it appeared. She clutches at alarming synchronicities, seeks meaning in the stories of strangers. Why do the stories seem connected to each other or eerily echo elements of her life? Could it be because Lucy has her own transgressions to acknowledge? And then there is that stubbornly resurfacing past, like a tell-tale ribbon of hair snagged on a fish hook.

With ruthless wit and dizzying energy, The Beguiling explores blessings and curses, sainthood and sin, mortality and guilt in all its guises. Weaving together tales of errant mothers, vengeful plants, canine wisdom, and murder, it lays bare the flesh and blood sacrifices people are willing to make to get what they think they desire.

“Every sentence in Zsuzsi Gartner’s debut novel The Beguiling is a masterclass in the art of fiction. . . . It’s a series of bravura literary acts, and one could be impressed solely by the stylistic and structural elements. The Beguiling is a sucker punch of a book. . . . You have to experience it: it’s apt to be one of the finest books you read this year.”
Toronto Star
“Hard to believe that this multiaward-winning fiction writer could be releasing a debut, but it’s true. Beloved and critically acclaimed for her short stories, including the Giller-nominated collection Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, Gartner delivers a wild ride of a debut novel. . .”
The Globe and Mail

“The gothic flair, dark humour and quirky characters promise a good read.”
—Toronto Star