Steepmilk Deerdog: A Novel
MacLean-Evans, Leah Bryn 1992-
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Steepmilk Deerdog is an urban fantasy novel set in contemporary Ottawa and centering on the stories of three women. It opens as the protagonist, Kiki, receives an urgent phone call from her absent sister, Juliet, begging her to return to their hometown. Kiki rents a basement apartment from an elderly woman named Maureen who lives in the house above her. As Kiki attempts to make contact with her sister and uncover the secrets of her absence, Maureen’s developing dementia becomes more and more apparent. Maureen’s only regular visitor, a charming city councillor named Roger, offers Kiki work but may have ulterior motives for fostering his friendships with these women. Meanwhile, Kiki’s longtime online flirtation, a porn actor in Montreal, visits for the first time and they attempt to navigate their relationship. But something is off about reality, and only Kiki and Juliet seem to have noticed. Magical things begin to happen, and Maureen’s house upstairs seems to act as a gateway for them. Kiki is befriended by Maureen’s talking cat as the older woman begins to forget her pet, and the rest of the city is oddly concerned with tracking down a deer that has been sighted in the neighbourhood. However, the characters do not perceive the magical elements as unusual in any way, and Kiki continues to assert that nothing is different about this reality, despite it being a different reality. By the novel’s culmination, magic becomes metaphorical for power gained and power lost. As the centre of Canada’s federal political power, Ottawa is a unique and apt choice of setting. The integration of magical elements into an otherwise verisimilar world attempts to redress the underrepresentation of real-life Canadian urban spaces in works of fantasy. In doing so, Steepmilk Deerdog draws attention to the relativity of perspective, enabling the novel to explore the traps of the patriarchal and economic systems in which we live, the ways in which women resist these, and the ways in which Canadian cities continue to be sites of these struggles.
DegreeMaster of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
DepartmentInterdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity
CommitteeNeufeld, Eric; Hynes, Peter; McMullen, Linda
Copyright DateOctober 2016