“If there is such thing as a CanLit cult classic, Birrell’s Mad Hope is it, a book with a fervent following, and a reference point for readers in the know: “Mad Hope.” “Oh, yeah.” The stuff of this book is the stuff of the world, the whole world, from Ceausescu’s Romania to online pregnancy forums. Birrell deftly makes connections to illuminate the ordinary as extraordinary—and the disturbing as present among us all. It’s an absolutely stunning collection.”
-- 49th Shelf, Canadian Short Stories: The New Generation
“completely enthralling, and profoundly grounded in an empathy for the traumas and moments of relief of simply being human”
-- The Toronto Review of Books
a Globe and Mail top fiction pick for 2012
“(…) a collection of 11 stories that beautifully illustrate the fragility of existence. Death is a recurring character, as is birth, motherhood, grief and resilience. The book could be described as a collection of fictional reflections on the search for truth in grief, yet the stories are never dreary. They transport the reader to emotionally corrosive places, yet are alive with a sense of levity even within their darkest passages.”
-- The National Post
“I enjoyed it so much that I became irrationally angry whenever I had to put it down at the end of streetcar ride. Mad Hope made me feel like Toronto’s traffic flow is too swift and efficient. That’s saying something.
-- The Word on the Street Blog
In the stories of Mad Hope, Journey Prize winner Heather Birrell finds the heart of her characters and lets them lead us into worlds both recognizable and alarming. A science teacher and former doctor is forced to re-examine the role he played in Ceausescu’s Romania after a student makes a shocking request; a tragic plane crash becomes the basis for a meditation on motherhood and its discontents; women in an online chat group share (and overshare) their anxieties and personal histories; and a chance encounter in a waiting room tests the ties that bind us. Using precise, inventive language, Birrell creates astute and empathetic portraits of people we thought we knew – and deftly captures the lovely, maddening mess of being human.