The Globe and Mail: The Reconstruction

June 9, 2011

May 10, 1997

It’s easy to see why this first novel by Vancouver writer Claudia Casper was the subject of a heated bidding war before Penguin snatched it up and published it last year. The writing is beautiful, with passages of dazzling poetic intensity on nearly every page. Margaret, the central character, is a thirty-something sculptor whose cold, controlling doctor-husband has just left her. Her finances are in a shambles and even her teeth are a mess. She is hired by a curator at the local museum to “reconstruct” a life-sized model of Lucy, the three-million-year-old female Australopithecus afarensis whose bones were discovered in Africa. Margaret retreats to her studio, cutting off nearly all contact with the outside world. Beginning with casts of Lucy’s bones, she works outward, adding muscle, blood vessels, skin and hair. Casper effortlessly folds in surreal resonances and literary, artistic and scientific references as Margaret works and reflects on her own life and her miserable marriage, and—after months of compulsive work and fever dreams—ultimately finds the resources to put her life back on track.