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by Karen Connelly
 
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The much-anticipated debut novel from the remarkable Karen Connelly, award-winning poet and non-fiction writer, is a hymn to human resilience, love and humour — a potent act of empathy and witness. Inside his solitary confinement cell, Teza, who once electrified the people of Burma with his protest songs against the dictatorship, now applies his acute intelligence and Buddhist patience to finding meaning in the interminable days. Arrested by the Burmese secret police, cut off from his family for the first seven years of a twenty-year sentence, Teza painstakingly unrolls the newspaper filters of his rationed cheroots to seek news of the outside world. But even in isolation, he has a profound influence on the people around him. His integrity and humour inspire the conscience-ridden senior jailer to radical change. His very existence challenges the brutal authority of the junior jailer, perversely nicknamed Handsome. Teza’s most steady human contact, the common criminal Sein Yun, his food server, views him as his ticket out of jail, trying to entice Teza into Handsome’s web. Lastly there’s Little Brother, an orphan who’s grown up inside the jail, imprisoned by his own deprivation. Teza and the boy are prisoners of different orders, but their extraordinary friendship frees both of them in utterly surprising ways. Overturning our expectations, Karen Connelly presents us with a world that celebrates human spirit, and spirit itself, in the midst of injustice and trauma.

about the author
Karen Connelly’s first book of poetry, The Small Words in My Body, won the Pat Lowther Award. Her first book of prose, Touch the Dragon: A Thai Journal — an account of the year she spent in Thailand at seventeen — won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction in 1993; at twenty-four, she was the youngest writer ever to win that prize. Her first novel is set in Burma, a country that has fascinated her for a decade. She is currently working on a book of essays set in the refugee camps and among the rebel armies along the Burmese-Thai border. She makes her home in Toronto.
 
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