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Book cover for Unearthing, by Kyo Maclear


By Kyo Maclear

Knopf, Penguin Random House Canada

“In recursive, often incantatory prose, Maclear meditates on the fragile nature of kinship and memory. A finely plotted and intricate narrative, Unearthing reimagines the garden metaphor and explores the porous grounds of self, culture and belonging. This quiet, arresting work softens the line between memoir and philosophy.”

—Peer assessment committee: KatłĮà Lafferty, Lorri Neilsen Glenn and Rinaldo Walcott


An unforgettable memoir of a long-held family secret, full of twists and turns, interwoven with a personal botanical history, Unearthing is a bold portrait of human relationships and a deeply thoughtful consideration of connection in our fragile and fractured world.

When a DNA test reveals that the father who raised her was not biologically related to her, Kyo Maclear becomes a detective in her own life, unravelling the mystery piece by piece in a search tied to the seasons, plant life and the making of a garden.

Through its brief and beautifully composed chapters—each a portal—Maclear reflects on race and lineage, grief and loyalty, art and refuge, and the fierce and sometimes funny love between a mother and daughter, to tell a captivating and propulsive story of inheritance that goes beyond heredity.

What gets planted, and what gets buried? What role does storytelling play in unearthing the past and making sense of a life, particularly in the shadows of missed opportunities and failing memories? Can the act of tending a garden provide common ground, and even joy, for an inquisitive daughter and her reticent mother? As it seeks to answer these questions, Unearthing bursts with the very love it seeks to understand.

Kyo Maclear poses in front of a full bookcase.


Kyo Maclear is an essayist, novelist and children’s author. Her books have been translated into 18 languages and published in 25 countries. Her hybrid memoir, Birds Art Life (2017), was a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and winner of the Trillium Book Award. Kyo teaches with the University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA and lives with her family in Toronto, Ontario.

Photo: David Wall

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