In the First Early Days of My Death

In the First Early Days of My Death



About the book

  • Shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Fiction Award
  • Shortlisted for the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award
Wendy Li is floating above the city, unravelling the story of her own untimely end, frustrated that she can’t help with the investigation. Of course, things aren’t always what they seem.

About the author

Hunter, Catherine

Catherine Hunter teaches English at the University of Winnipeg. In addition to her previous thrillers, Where Shadows Burn and The Dead of Midnight (Ravenstone Press), she has published one spoken word CD, Rush Hour, and three collections of poetry, Necessary Crimes, Lunar Wake, and Latent Heat, for which she received the Manitoba Book of the Year award.


In the first early days of my death, I could easily rise above the earth, past the massive, crenulated tops of the elm trees, over the scent of honeysuckle, into the summer sky that was ­thick and soft as a dark bolt of cloth, stars pushing them­selves through like bright needles.

I could see the narrow, muddy Seine trickling north and the wide, muddy Assiniboine flowing east, both of them empty­ing into the Red River. I could see the whole length of the Red, its gleaming black surface with the wake of the moon upon it like a curved path I could trace to the horizon. I saw every house I'd ever lived in and the orange cross above the hospital where I'd been born and where I now lay. I peered into the windows of build­ings and learned to part the glass like cur­tains so that I could pass right through.

If I wanted to, I could reach anywhere, feel the whole world at once, full of water and white sand and polar ice, fish in the oceans, red peppers and basil and lilies with their folded petals closed, unbearably lush and delicate and quiet in the dark­ness. I could hear everything, each exhala­tion of the humid air breathing through the branches far be­low, each muted puncture of the sky as another star poked through.

Some nights, if I let the wind blow through me, I could hear the dead begin to speak.

It's true.

Their voices, low and insistent, rustled past me like the wings of flying birds, and some­times they sang.

But I was not interested in them.


Maybe my life would have ended differently if I'd ac­cepted Mrs. Kowalski's invitation to join her at that pro­test rally at City Hall. Mrs. Kowalski was a determined woman, the most persuasive of my mothers, but I'd said no. I had to clean the house that day. I had to prune the oregano before it encroached any fur­ther on the lettuce patch. And I defi­nitely had to phone a locksmith. Besides, Mrs. Kowalski was always pro­test­ing some­thing. The year I was thirteen, it was pesti­cides. The year I was fourteen­, it was pornogra­phy. By the time I was fifteen, I'd gone to live on Langside Street with old Mrs. Lamb, who was far be­yond the mothering age and cer­tainly past pro­testing anything. But Mrs. Kowalski never gave up. That summer, she was against gamb­ling. Or at least gambling down­town.

The City of Winnipeg had changed a lot of bylaws so that All-Am Development could tear down four square blocks of Winnipeg's remaining core and erect a luxury casino complex, com­plete with gourmet restaur­ants, fountains, and skylights, and a glass tower with a green spire that would be the tallest structure ever built in the city. This plan angered a lot of people be­cause of the historic buildings that would be destroyed, including the Walker The­atre, where Nellie McClung had staged the fa­mous mock parlia­ment in 1914 which debated the issue of granting the vote to men. It enraged others simply because the mayor pushed through the by­laws with­out con­sulting the public. And it in­censed people like Mrs. Kowalski, who didn't believe in games of chance. She grounded me once for playing poker with the boy next door, although we were only playing for pennies. She was the strictest mother I ever had, and wouldn't listen to excuses. "Don't push your luck," she always said. Maybe she was right, con­sidering the way every­thing turned out.


Reserve a spot on your New Year's reading list for Catherine Hunter's latest novel. With two thrillers, three collections of poetry and one spoken word recording already behind her, this Winnipeg author continues to reveal the scope of her rich… >>

The Winnipeg Free Press

I had originally intended to write about Catherine Hunter’s mystery book set in Wolseley as the second post in my series on Winnipeg neighbourhoods through crime fiction. What neighbourhood revels more in its stereotypes and is riper for parody than… >>

— Catherine Macdonald

This is an elegant little novel built on the Chinese legend that those who die violently remain in spirit in the place of death until their life's business is completed. In Wendy Li's case, that means drifting about Winnipeg attempting… >>

The Globe & Mail

Wendy Li knows who her murderer is as she lies nude at the foot of her staircase under the parka she wears. When she finds herself floating above the streets of Winnipeg, she realizes things aren't going her way. She… >>

Style Magazine


Wednesday, December 2



Catherine Hunter is interviewed by CKUW's Ron Robinson about her new novel, After Light.
(MP3 file, 8:52)

Download the MP3 clip
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