Saturday, April 9, 2016

Billie Livingston

Billie Livingston is the award-winning author of four novels, a collection of short stories, and a poetry collection. Her novel One Good Hustle, a Globe and Mail Best Book selection, was nominated for the Giller Prize and for the Canadian Library Association’s Young Adult Book Award. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Livingston's latest novel is The Crooked Heart of Mercy.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have just begun reading a collection of interwoven short stories called Mother of Sorrow by Richard McCann. The book came out in 2006 and I had never heard of it before last week.

A few days ago, I finished a book tour down the west coast of the United States. My last stop was Book Passage in San Francisco. Because The Crooked Heart of Mercy is an American debut for me—and because bookstore readings are notorious for the empty-chair factor—we had a small crowd of five people gathered. And yet it was a wondrous evening. After the reading and talk, the six of us got into a conversation about different faiths, spirit and spiritualism, dying and strange visions. In the front row was a woolly bearded man, slim with silver hair and quiet eyes. He sat clutching one of those emergency foil thermal blankets. He talked about reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead to his dying mother. His mother had been his best friend, he said. He talked about being a 67-year-old gay man and growing up Presbyterian in Kentucky. He'd been living on the streets for many years now.

At the back of the room was a woman from Ottawa who said she had been killing time there in the Ferry Building Marketplace before she had to travel. She saw a poster outside the bookstore advertising the appearance of a fellow Canadian writer— she herself was screenwriter. At the end of the evening, the Kentucky man told me how much the evening had meant to him and that he would love to buy the book but he had no money. Before I could say anything, the Canadian woman called to him from the cash register. She asked him not to leave because she was buying him a copy of Crooked.

As I signed his book, I told him that in the novel, there is a priest named Francis. I explained how Francis was a gay man and that he was often confused and going off the rails and yet he was the character in the book with enormous grace and a way of bringing people together. "Really?" he said, "He is? That’s wonderful. I can't believe this night is happening. I feel like I'm going to cry."

My god. This man was so open and truly graceful himself. Before he left, he suggested that I read a book called, Mother of Sorrows by Richard McCann. "I think you'll like it very much," he said in his gentle drawl. "If you can find it, it seems like a book for you."

I ordered Mother of Sorrows the next day. I’ve just started reading and I think he was right.
Read more about the author and her books at the official Billie Livingston website.

My Book, The Movie: Cease to Blush.

The Page 69 Test: The Crooked Heart of Mercy.

My Book, The Movie: The Crooked Heart of Mercy.

--Marshal Zeringue