Andrew Ladd is the blog editor for Ploughshares, and hiswork has also appeared in Apalachee Review, CICADA, Memoir Journal, and The Rumpus, among others. He grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has since lived in Boston, Montreal, and London; currently he lives in Brooklyn, with his wife and cat.
$26.00 hardcover | 265 Pages
Publication Date: January 2014
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AWP Award Series in the Novel
This remarkable, haunting novel tells the story of the McCloud family and their life on Eilean Fior, a very small island off the northwest coast of Scotland. The clarity of Andrew Ladd’s prose is as deceptive as the clues to the cryptic crossword puzzles George McCloud, the family patriarch, is obsessed with solving. The book’s true subject is time, the island not only a place but also the uncanny, enclosing moment. In What Ends "time isn’t passing, it’s circling," and the story of one family’s life on a Hebridean island becomes an apocalyptic vision of what it means to live in time, that "blink of stone on a giant sea."
—Kathryn Davis, AWP Award Series judge
With the Great War things changed, of course—it simply wasn’t safe to gad about the Atlantic anymore, even in the relatively sheltered sea around the Hebrides. Your grandfather, George had told them, sitting at the island’s highest peak one day, used to come up here and look for submarines. He pointed out across the ocean. You could see their shadows beneath the water, he said—like little black slugs, slithering along. He put extra emphasis on slithering and leapt up towards the children as he did so, fingers wiggling. They laughed and shrieked, and scattered for the path.
After the war things started to pick up again, but then the thirties came, and the depression—and after that the tourists increasingly stayed away. The population shrank; the island’s owner was forced to sell. And at that point their dad would always change the subject or gloss over the details, refusing to say more even when they asked him. It was only from Mr. Lewis, the island’s schoolteacher, who’d been there for only eight years himself, that Barry learnt the truth: where the old owner loved the place for what it was, the new one was simply an investor, convinced the island would be a lucrative source of peat. When that came to nothing he raised the rents instead, and while the few who could bought their homes and land outright at that point—the McClouds and their guesthouse among them—the poorer families and the smaller croftholders had no choice but to leave. And they never stopped leaving, Barry, Mr. Lewis explained, sitting on the edge of his desk with his glasses sliding down his nose. Even after the old crab died and his children donated the land to the wildlife trust, they didn’t want to stay. He pushed his glasses back up as Barry, leaning forward, asked: why? The teacher shrugged. Who knows, Barry? Sixty people left in five years. It was half the island. Probably the rest of them just couldn’t bear to see it.