From the author and translator of And the Birds Rained Down, a 2015 CBC Canada Reads selection
An abandoned mine. A large family driven by honour. And a source of pain, buried deep in the ground.
We’re nothing like other families. We are self-made. We are an essence unto ourselves, unique and dissonant, the only members of our species. Livers of humdrum lives who flitted around us got their wings burned. We’re not mean, but we can bare our teeth. People didn’t hang around when a band of Cardinals made its presence known.
With twenty-one kids, the Cardinal family is a force of nature. And now, after not being in the same room for decades, they’re congregating to celebrate their father, a prospector who discovered the zinc mine their now-deserted hometown in northern Quebec was built around. But as the siblings tell the tales of their feral childhood, we discover that Angèle, the only Cardinal with a penchant for happiness, has gone missing – although everyone has pretended not to notice for years. Why the silence? What secrets does the mine hold?
Praise for the French edition of Twenty-One Cardinals:
‘With its explosive, poignant, funny and tragic story and memorable characters, Les héritiers de la mine is an important novel … Through the destiny of this large family, the author talks about Abitibi, where she lives, and of its broken dreams and cheated workers, the blind power of multinationals,the disappearance of villages and families decimated. Her protagonists have the makings of heroes, the stuff to withstand adversity; they may be local heroes, but their fight is universal.’ — Voir (translated from the French)
Crafted with expertise and infused with dark humor, this novel showcases Saucier's talent, now being discovered by English-speaking readers. The Cardinals raised their 21 children in the mining community of Norcoville, Quebec and 30 years after their mine closed, they reunite at a mining conference where the Cardinal patriarch is being honored. For the first time in decades, all 21 Cardinal children and their parents will be assembled in one place. Knowing they will be counted, the Cardinal children realize that the secret they've been harboring will be revealed. The responsibility for storytelling in this novel shifts between the different children. First the youngest, then the eldest daughter; one-by-one through to Carmelle, a twin who's twin is conspicuously absent, the Cardinal children fill in the gaps in each other's stories. They tell of family traditions, of the diaspora that defines their adult lives and finally of the tragedy that led to their long separation. This slim tightly written novel masterfully tells a big story, flush in dark secrets, social commentary and an army of memorable characters.