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is/was by Jenny Sampirisi
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Set in the media-saturated 1980s, when images of missing children first occupied the public imagination, is/was explores one town’s complex emotional reaction to the brutal rape and murder of a child within its bounds.

It is October 1983 and eight-year-old Abigail Wren has gone missing from a tiny Ontario town. In the crosscuts and fragments of each day’s news, word of the abduction filters into the troubled Fitch family household. Roland Fitch becomes unhinged by long kept secrets, while his wife Eva, turns inwards, tracing the aftermath of her own surgically precise loss.

In the days and weeks following Abigail Wren’s death, the Fitch children, Andrew and Isabel, are increasingly left to parent themselves. As the already tenuous boundaries between family members are slowly effaced, once solid definitions – of the child, the adult, and the body – come unmoored.

At its core, is/was is an unflinching meditation set at the very edge of human limits. Boundaries of language, media, and the body itself transform to hold the complex currents of lust and absence. This investigative first novel is never reductive, but with subtlety and nuance, unfolds the terrible trajectory of loss.
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