Marina Endicott

Marina Endicott’s novel Good to a Fault won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book, Canada and the Caribbean, and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her next, The Little Shadows, was short-listed for the Governor General’s award and long-listed for the Giller Prize, as was her last book, Close to Hugh. Endicott lives in Alberta most of the time.

The Difference

A major new novel by the award-winning author of Good to a Fault and The Little Shadows, about two sisters who live aboard a merchant ship on a fateful voyage through the South Pacific.

“Up from underneath comes a blue-black swell, a whale rising in a long arc. Kay waits, hovering in the difference between herself and the creature.” 

What is the difference between ourselves and other humans? Between human and animal? Where does that difference persist in our minds? These are the questions Marina Endicott, one of our most beloved storytellers, explores in this sweeping, intoxicating novel set on the Morning Light, a ship from Nova Scotia sailing the South Pacific in 1912. Thea and Kay are half-sisters, separated in age by more than a decade. After the death of their stern father, head of a residential school in western Canada, the elder sister, Thea, returns east for her long-awaited marriage to the captain of the ship. She cannot abandon her younger sister, so Kay joins her, and together they embark on a life-changing voyage around the world. 

At the heart of The Difference is one crystallizing moment in Micronesia: Thea forms a bond with a young boy from one of the islands, and takes him as her own. The repercussions of this act reverberate through the novel–forcing Kay to examine her own assumptions about what is forgivable, and what is right. Taking inspiration from the true story of a small boy who was brought on board a Canadian sailing ship in the South Seas, Marina Endicott shows us a vanished world in all its wildness and wonder, and its darkness, prejudice, and difficulty too. She also brilliantly illuminates our own times through Kay’s preoccupation with the idea of “difference”–between people, classes, continents, cultures, customs, and species. 

A breathtaking tour-de-force by one of our most celebrated authors, a writer with the astonishing ability to bring a past world to vivid life while revealing the moral complexity of our own.