The Two-Headed Calf
The Two-Headed Calf
McClelland & Stewart, 1997
A dazzling collection of short stories that juxtapose cultures and generations with the often conflicted yearnings of the human heart.
In the title story, a young illegitimate girl begins to understand the double-edged nature of the world. In another, a woman returns to her Winnipeg home and finds herself once again surrounded by memories and drawn in by the encroaching need of those society has left behind. An elderly retired couple grapple with which side of the truth they can understand on a long drive to Saskatoon where their granddaughter will go on trial for her part in a murder. The relationship between a divorced woman and her teenage daughter is brilliantly portrayed as the girl’s ache for independence leads her into a strange, potentially dangerous situation. Set some time between two wars in farming country, the final story recalls the tragic tale of twins who remain on the fixed course of middle-aged bachelorhood until a young woman’s attentions instil a poignant hope, and their lives change irrevocably.
Set in urban and rural Manitoba, these nine beautifully rendered stories draw on both the past and the present at they explore the dislocations that occur between cultures and generations, and between the conflicting aspects of ourselves and our yearnings.
Medals & Ribbons
- Finalist for Governor General’s Award for fiction
- Book of the Year Award, Saskatchewan Book Awards
- City of Regina Book of the Year
Praise for The Two-Headed Calf
- “Like Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro and Carol Shields, Ms. Birdsell has a talent for capturing the ebb and flow of the deeply personal and, by definition, domestic relationship: she looks at a neighbourhood with the roofs removed.” — The Ottawa Citizen
- “With precise and crystalline writing she peels away the conflicting layers of her characters until they stand bold and vibrant, naked against their environment.” — Uptown, Winnipeg
- “Sandra Birdsell explores human beings with intelligence, sensitivity, and wit. And there’s a wonderful clarity to her stories that fixes them in the mind and makes the imagination return to them.” — Calgary Herald
- “These stories wear their words like catsuits, fitted to perfection…. deceptively simple prose.”
- “In Birdsell’s beautiful understated prose, characters move through uncharted landscapes with compasses set.” — Georgia Straight
- “Moments of lyric insight, the dailiness of our days, a hunger for meaning: these things struggle against each other like the impulses of the two brains of the calf … the narrative holds them in a taut and satisfying balance.” — Montreal Gazette
- “(Readers) will recognize the sinuous prose and the yearning characters, the tenebrous themes and graphic images. This is vintage Birdsell.” — The Globe and Mail
- “In these stories, history rises up with a power that lifted the hairs on my arms …”
— The Vancouver Sun
- These stories “made me recall a great American critic’s comment about the inspired Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai: When he is at his best, he is the best.” — The Edmonton Journal
- “… elegantly constructed stories, both humorous and horrifying …” — Maclean’s