Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Clay Girl

Rate this book
Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.

Eight-year-old Hariet, known to all as Ari, is dispatched to Cape Breton and her Aunt Mary, who is purported to eat little girls . . . With Ari on the journey is her steadfast companion, Jasper, an imaginary seahorse. But when they arrive in Pleasant Cove, they instead find refuge with Mary and her partner Nia.

As the tumultuous ’60s ramp up in Toronto, Ari is torn from her aunts and forced back to her twisted mother and fractured sisters. Her new stepfather Len and his family offer hope, but as Ari grows to adore them, she’s severed violently from them too, when her mother moves in with the brutal Dick Irwin.

Through the sexual revolution and drug culture of the 1960s, Ari struggles with her father’s legacy and her mother’s addictions — testing limits with substances that numb and men who show her kindness. She spins through a chaotic decade of loss and love, the devilish and divine, with wit, tenacity, and the astonishing balance unique to seahorses.

The Clay Girl is a beautiful tour de force that traces the story of a child, sculpted by kindness, cruelty and the extraordinary power of imagination, and her families — the one she’s born in to and the one she creates.

347 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Heather Tucker

3 books194 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,413 (57%)
4 stars
686 (27%)
3 stars
262 (10%)
2 stars
64 (2%)
1 star
37 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 474 reviews
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
398 reviews588 followers
December 18, 2021
"The Clay Girl" by Heather Tucker is an achingly beautiful story!

Eight-year-old Hariet Appleton and her five older sisters watched their father blow his head off! Their mother, in a constant alcoholic state and unable to cope, sends her daughters to live with relatives.

Hariet travels with her constant companion Jasper, an imaginary seahorse, to Nova Scotia to live with her two aunts, Aunt Mary and her partner, Aunt Nia. With them, Hariet discovers what it feels like to be loved and nurtured.

Hariet's mother has always referred to her as a 'bag of dirt'. She hates her misspelled name and, with the help of her two aunt's, takes on the new name of Ari. They assure her she is 'clay not dirt' and Ari learns she has the ability to shape her own life.

Her mother, now remarried, forces Ari to return to Toronto. There, she grows to love and trust her new stepfather. School is Ari's salvation where her teachers encourage her abilities as a gifted artist, poet and storyteller.

Then, with the blink of an eye, everything changes again as Ari continues to navigate through the turbulent decade of the 1960's. How does this child manage to keep joy in her heart?

What a beautiful story I've stumbled upon! Be warned though, this is not a book for the faint-of-heart. It's the story of a child finding ways to survive the dysfunctional family into which she was born. A heart wrenching story full of hope, wit and wisdom. This young girl is doing all she can to get to the other side and feel goodness in her torn life.

I love this main character who talks to her imaginary seahorse, Jasper. Ari's spirit animal, the seahorse, is symbolic for security, loyalty and devotion, all of which are lacking in her family life. So Ari creates a protector within herself, Jasper.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Morgan Hallett whose voice of Ari was perfectly portrayed. With so many characters the gender voicing is a bit muddled but the story is so compelling and beautifully written, I never lost my way!

My heart aches with every inch of this story. Ari is a hero, a survivor and a shining light through this nightmare. A mix of historical fiction, literary fiction and, in my humble opinion, social horror! This is a stunning debut novel and one of my top reads for this year. I highly recommend!

I'm currently listening to Cracked Pots by Heather Tucker Book #2 in this series, the Advanced Listening Copy is courtesy of NetGalley. It picks up right where this one ends. It was published on 12/15/21. Look for my review soon!
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
685 reviews3,641 followers
March 4, 2018
I can’t believe that I’d originally put this book aside to be unhauled, simply because I thought I’d lost interest in it. On a whim, though, I yesterday decided to give this novel a chance after all. It’s now the next day, I’ve finished it, and I’m now convinced that this is going to be amongst my favourite novels of 2018.
Ari is such a hero! She’s the protagonist of this story, and she’s really called Hariet with a spelling error because of her mother’s ignorance. Jasper is her imaginary seahorse friend who helps her through the horrors of growing up with an abusive father and an alcoholic mother.
Ari has 5 other sisters who go through the same horrible things, and even though they can lean on each other for support, they sadly start to drift apart because of the traumatic experiences they go through under the same roof.
Ari is a hero because she’s tough, gifted and one of the best characters I’ve read about who made me feel so much sympathy and admiration. My heart was breaking for her while I was cheering on her, and as I read on, I realized that Ari is one of those fictional characters whom I would really love to meet in real life.
This is an AMAZING book on so many levels! It’s a gift to the world, and I feel so happy that I decided to pick it up eventually instead of giving it away - what a loss that would’ve been!
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews38 followers
August 30, 2016
can scarcely believe you are her child. And what I know of your father I despise.
But I despise not a single hair of you, so you are far removed from any likeness to him as well". Len smiles down as he

The above excerpt is small sample of the writing style. Notice the quotation mark after
the word 'well'. Throughout this novel - there are many right side quotation marks.
I'm not familiar with this type of punctuation. I'm curious about it. Also sentences 'stop' as in the last sentence: "Len smiles down as he". Very unique writing...which at first seems awkward - yet there is something very beautiful going on.
There are diamonds in the sand the way this very sad story is told.

Here's another excerpt:
so his ashes can be closer to
his parents."
beating. I can't protect myself if you
don't go where you're safe.
Threatening you is how they get me
to dance whatever friggin' thing
Appleton going on a plane to Europe."

Ari lives with her two aunts in Nova Scotia who love her and provide safety. She's only 8 years old when she arrives. Her mother makes Ari move back home in Toronto. It's a horrific situation. ( more than you want to imagine)...
Ari does go to school - her savior- Teachers are kind--but it's a devastating situation with her mother and father. She witnesses things no adult should ever have to, let alone a child.
Ari has a step father who tries to be of help...but it's the memory of the short stay with her aunts - a real home -safe & sound- where she felt love and protected, that gives her hope. She spends her growing years trying to get back to them.
If it wasn't for the interesting-unique-lovely-lyrical prose- reading this story would unbearable.

I love the creativeness and symbolism that Heather Tucker brings to this story with
the Seahorse. Symbolically, seahorses carry significances: patients, protection, friendliness, generosity, contentment, and a relatively calm and mild-mannered creature that roam the seas.

Thank You ECW Press, Netgalley, and Heather Tucker

Profile Image for Barbara.
1,342 reviews700 followers
January 12, 2017
“The Clay Girl” is worth the effort to get through the first 30 pages. Author Heather Tucker uses an eight-year-old girl, Ari, to tell her story of a family plagued by sexual abuse and cruelty. Because this amazing story is told from Ari’s point-of-view the reader must be patient with Ari’s parlance. Ari is clever and unusual so she sees things in unusual ways. Once the reader gets the rhythm of Tucker’s writing and Ari’s vernacular, this story is, well, spectacular.

Ari is the youngest of six sisters. At the beginning of the story, her father shoots himself in front of his girls. As Ari tries to make sense of this, she is shipped off to her Aunt Mary’s home. Aunt Mary and her partner become her saving grace. Between these two Aunts, Ari gets wise advice, such as: “Auntie Mary says we’re all the same clay. The elements make us different, but we’re all still lumps of clay. It’s up to us what we make of it.”

Ari is cursed with a cruel and emotionally manipulative mother who makes Cruella DeVille look like Mary Poppins. This is a story of a little girl who is a survivor. Ari is a remarkable character that finds her way through chaos and cruelty and remains strong and healthy. Fabulous and kind characters abound in her life, and she is able to recognize those who can help her and those who can’t. This is a story of resilience and love in the wake of insanity. Author Heather Tucker’s writing is brilliant. Plus, she throws in beautiful observations such as this one about grief: “The weight, the size of the loss never diminishes. But you grow more muscled so it feels lighter, more bearable to carry.”

I highly recommend this novel for everyone. It’s a beautiful story of the power of the human spirit.
Profile Image for Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun).
315 reviews1,969 followers
July 14, 2017
4.5 stars. This book has stunning language, a fantastic protagonist, wit galore, and heaps of sadness and struggle and joy. It's about building a family and an identity against the odds, and about the potential in people to be molded for good or evil by the forces both outside and within them. My only criticism is that I think there was a bit too much internal hero worship of the main character - I loved Ari to pieces, but it felt like every "good" character told her she was the best thing that ever happened at least 5 times. Still, this book is beyond lovely and I absolutely recommend it.
1 review
September 1, 2016
I just finished reading Heather's book, The Clay Girl. For some reason I can't contain my tears. I'm not ready to write a full review, but it's the best story I've read in a long time; once started, I couldn't put it down, and I really need to read the sequel. Even the author's acknowledgments at the end made me weep, thinking about losses and gains and the treasures we have in our own family.

Thank you, Heather, you're truly the best!

Do yourselves a favour, my friends, and read this book!

Full disclosure: I am Heather's husband.
Profile Image for Tudor Vlad.
327 reviews73 followers
May 23, 2017
I don’t think I have ever read anything remotely similar to The Clay Girl. It was more lyrical than most poems and it had a dreamlike quality to it that had me enthralled. It was also at times confusing but I take the full blame for that. This is a book that required absolute attention as the prose is dense and every word counts, but for some reason my stupid brain liked to wonder when nothing of worth seemed to happen, I still had to reread some pages just to be sure I didn’t miss anything.

The story of Ari and her imaginary companion, Jasper, is one filled with tragedy but also hope. A story of families and of friendship. It will make you angry, it will make you cry, but it will also make you laugh. A roller coaster of emotion with one of the most compelling protagonist of the year for me. A book to remember.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,169 reviews1,645 followers
September 8, 2016
The first thing you notice about Heather Tucker’s The Clay Girl is the language. It is luminous. If this author is not a poet, she should be. There is sheer beauty in the choice of words and how they illuminate Ari Appleton’s story. Ari is eight years old – the youngest of six sisters – and her child-struggle with words that are beyond her ken adds to the whimsical feel of this novel.

Ari is a lioneagle who finds solace with her imaginary seahorse, Jasper, her trusted companion who never leaves her, and illustrations of Jasper adorn some of the pages. Her real name is Hariet (one r) but her aunts, Mary and Nia – a gay couple – rename her and in doing so, give her a sense of safety. She is also a clay girl: “…Clay absorbs water, same as you soaking up everything in your path. And with a little added grit, but not too much the clay becomes stronger.”

The beginning 50 pages can be confusing. There are a number of characters on the Appleton tree and there’s a jumble of names and relationships to keep straight. But once the story begins to settle in, it becomes truly haunting: a child who only wants shelter, safety and love who is torn between a well-meaning stepdad and teachers and her mother’s selfishness, homophobia and inherent meanness. As Ari moves between broken houses and broken people, she struggles to escape the fates of her damaged sisters through the redemptive power of love.

Reviewing a book about the child of an incestuous pedophile and an addicted, cruel mother can set any reader on an emotional rollercoaster. Yet the rewards abound. It is testimony to how a little girl can survive – even thrive – through the creative power of imagination and an inner compass that continually points her towards those who are kind and good. It is about the triumph of hope, discovery and self-creation over the murkiness of legacy, loss and despair. And in today’s dark times, messages like these shine through.

Profile Image for Katherine.
286 reviews9 followers
November 29, 2016
Amazing! I am in awe of Heather Tucker's writing and storytelling. The Clay Girl is one of the best books I've read and definitely in my top five for the year. This book is powerful, beautifully written, and nearly impossible to put down. Difficult and horrifying subjects flow through the narrative, but this story transcends those topics and ultimately leaves the reader feeling hopeful and so happy for the good people that come into Ari's, the main character's, life.

One bit of advice, do not give up reading this book until you've read at least 50 pages. It takes a while to understand who the characters are and even longer to understand what has happened to Ari, the main character, when she was a young child. Part of the beauty of this book is getting Ari's perspective on life and what is happening in her family as she gets older. There is a beautifully rendered family tree in the front of the book which does help you keep track of the characters. I eagerly await future books written by Heather Tucker!
Profile Image for Petra.
1,123 reviews12 followers
January 24, 2019
This is a wonderful story. Ari's life situation is a roller coaster with more deep dips than any person should ever encounter. A child shouldn't encounter the dips of Ari's life. Yet Ari, with the help of Jasper and some wonderfully good people, keeps her head afloat.
I listened to the audio version of this book. The story lends itself perfectly to this format. The prose is lyrical and rolling. The narrator, Morgan Hallett, captured the flow of the words perfectly.
This is a powerful story of the spirit, being true to oneself and choice. It's also about one's responsibility to others. Ari is put through Hell. She struggles constantly to keep afloat and find her way.
Ari is an amazing character.
I look forward to more books by this author. This one was terrific.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
892 reviews
September 20, 2021
The beginning of The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker was confusing, but I continued to read. Then Hariet (Ari) crept into my heart and compelled me to keep on reading.
This fictional story takes place in Cape Breton, Montreal and Toronto, Canada.

It is heartbreaking to know that there are actual families in the world like Ari Appleton's family. The author tells a moving story and has three-dimensional characters, some you want to hug and rescue, some you want to cheer, others you wish would die or be thrown in jail.

This is a book I expect to remember for quite a while. Looking forward to reading more books by this talented author. 4 stars
Profile Image for Amanda.
840 reviews344 followers
May 20, 2017
I really, really liked this. It is written so whimsically and poetically that mundane or even horrible situations seem a little bit brighter. Ari is a spectacular character I loved getting to know. For a book so dark, there was always hope that never surrendered. I'm going to so enjoy rereading this!
Profile Image for ❀ Susan G.
690 reviews51 followers
August 11, 2021
Update: After a second read of The Clay Girl, this is a book that is beautiful crafted with hope and resilience despite horrendous abuse and sorrow. this is a book that needs to be read and pondered as we try and find the goodness in others!!


Every once and a while, a book that is unknown and that comes with no pre-conceived expectations blows me away. The Clay Girl is an amazing story, sadly disturbing yet hopeful. It is a book that I will continue to ponder and marvel at Hariet’s strength and resilience. The point of view is unique and it is beautifully written (not to mention the sea horses that mark the pages).

The novel was introduced to our book club by our friend Shannon who had not read it but heard a glowing review from a friend. We are thrilled that Heather Tucker has accepted an invitation to join our book club for dinner tonight!

We had been warned that the first part of the book might be a bit confusing. I admit that I read the first 30 pages before bed and needed to reread those same 30 pages the next day. Whether I had just been too tired for my first reading or needed to repeat the text to get acclimated to Hariet’s (also known as Ari) voice, it was worth a second read and once I got in the groove of the narrative, I could not put the book down!

The cover shares that Hariet and her sisters were impacted by their father who had “blown his head off” although the reader must try and understand the death through Hariet’s eight year old eyes. The trauma lead to the redeployment of the six girls to stay with various friends and family. Hariet (and Jasper, her imaginary seahorse) travel to Cape Breton to stay with Aunt Mary and her partner Nia who are known to “eat little girls” yet who share love, kindness and a sense of stability that Hariet had never known.

Hariet is forced to the return to the drama and dysfunction under her mother’s care. The reader is gutted by the descriptions of abuse and neglect yet feels hopeful for Hariet who is resilient and bright. She meets heroes along the way who encourage, love and support and encourage her to thrive despite her horrible home life.

The Clay Girl is not an easy read but I am shocked that it has not been promoted widely.

It is a story that anyone working with children and families should read. Health professionals and teachers need to think of this story as they help children through their struggles and encourage their potential.

Prior to meeting the author, I reviewed her website and was not surprised to learn that she has worked as a teacher, a nurse in both public health and psychiatry as well as a bereavement counsellor. Tonight will be a fun evening and the discussion should be lively as our book club is well-represented by teachers and health care professionals.

Still not sold? Check out the trailer for Clay Girl.
Profile Image for Cindy.
398 reviews16 followers
June 16, 2017
This book was an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. It made my heart swell with love and happiness, it made it break from sadness, and it made me want to explode with anger, and it is easily one of the best books I have read this year! It is so hard to believe that this is Heather Tucker's first book. Her writing is truly musical - all the words just rolled through my mind like a song and I could easily go back and read it again just to write down my favourite quotes. And such amazing characters. I turned the last page and I didn't want to let them go. I need more Heather, more of Ari's incredible story :).
Profile Image for Jennifer.
193 reviews2 followers
January 16, 2017
I loved everything about this book. The main girl is so strong and perservers through so much hardship. The magical realism of her sea horse alter ego bring charm and validity to her strength of character. It truly takes a village to care for all of the children in this world who can be lost (even in the care of a parent).
If you read the book how do you see the future for Ari?
Profile Image for Sarah Swann.
731 reviews989 followers
May 17, 2018
Wow! This surprised me. A heartbreaking story of a family that is beyond messed up. How the children of this family aren’t complete crazies is beyond me. Lots of hard topics are covered in here such as rape and child molestation. I loved Ari as a character and just wanted nothing but the best for her. And my favorite character was Jasper...the seahorse...
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,823 reviews107 followers
May 25, 2017
I haven't felt this way about a book in a long time. I loved everything about it and will re-read it, and I say that as someone who isn't a re-reader. I'm not sure I can put all my emotions into any coherent words, so this is the best I can do at this time.

Let me first start by saying that the Goodreads blurb and some reviews of this book give too much away. The slow reveal is part of what makes this such an amazing read.

This is the story of Ari, an eight year old girl who lives in Canada. She is the youngest of six sisters, and her home life is horrible. When we meet her, she is being shipped off to stay with an Aunt because of a devastating family event, and it is not the first time she has been farmed out. The story is told from Ari's POV (1st person), and we follow her from age 8 to about about 16.

The voice in this book is fantastic. Ari's life is dark, very dark, so she spends much time in her imagination, and we get to see the world through her eyes as she learns more about herself and the people around her. I loved the writing, especially the first third of the book, which was magically poetic. The writing in the later sections while still luminous sounds different, and that makes sense as Ari gets older. There are many characters in this story and they all felt real and well fleshed out. There are people I wanted to hug close, and others I wanted to hit with a saucepan. Horrible things happen both off page and on, and yet the author infused so much light and joy into this dark tale that I never felt suffocated. The juxtaposition of the hurt and love that family inflict and the kindness of teachers had me reaching for my box of Kleenex oh so many times. I loved and really cared about the people in this story, and I kept putting the book down so as to not get to the end too fast. I smiled and cried, my heart was broken and then mended. This one will stay with me for a long time.

That this is a debut novel is astonishing, and I've found a new author and publishing house to keep my eye on. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,356 reviews455 followers
October 21, 2016
Ari's name is the only thing she can call her own. The youngest in a family with five other sisters, all with names beginning with J, she is officially called Hariet by her substance abusing mother. When their father kills himself in front of them, the six are scattered, Ari being sent to her loving Aunt Mary, living on the seaside with her partner. As this is the late 60's, gay marriage is far from being an institution, and her days on the coast do not last long. There is a lot of shifting of locations, a great many characters, a lot of confusion about identity and love. But this is one of the most beautifully written books of the year, an astounding debut. ("She sounds like an old barmaid full of other people's smoke and trouble.") And Ari's character, bolstered by Jasper, a seahorse who acts as her imaginary spirit animal, prevails. How she and her sisters managed to carve out such distinct personalities given their heritage of violence, selfishness and neglect is a wonder. It's surprising to me that more books don't make it down here from Canada given the high quality of prose I've seen from there.
Profile Image for Mandy O'Brien.
37 reviews12 followers
September 5, 2016
Thank you so much for the advanced reader copy of The Clay Girl. I have no words to express the emotional roller coaster that Heather Tucker took me on with her novel. Simply put...it was beautiful. Thank you.
Profile Image for Jill.
198 reviews70 followers
December 3, 2016
In the beginning it's hard to follow what is happening, but once I started to get into the story, I couldn't put it down. It's beautifully written, and I believe it's one of those books that I won't quickly forget!
Profile Image for Nina.
5 reviews6 followers
February 21, 2018
I really wanted to enjoy this book since so many people whose book recommendations I admire raved about it, especially the main character, Ari. I, however, found Ari the most unbelievable character I've ever come across. Her boundless kindness, generosity and optimism (regardless of the trauma or difficulties she faces) was insufferable and so alienating. To me, she was not a "real" figure. Ari was a heroine with no chink in her armour, no fatal flaw, and actually no unsavoury characteristic to speak of! She was beautiful, very intelligent, witty (that quippy dialog...sheesh!) and a wealth of infinite selflessness. Such a perfect and untouchable character as a result of all the abuse and hardships she endured? No one could possess that kind of perseverance without an endless revolving door of people showering them with praise, love and compliments literally all the time - oh wait! That IS what happened through the whole novel. As a reader, it was exceedingly simple to distinguish "good" from "evil" characters based on whether they loved Ari or not. It was pretty black and white. Ari was, to most of the characters in this book, a pillar of strength, a paragon of tenacity and a well of unwavering love. I understand (it was made very obvious...time and time again) that the idea of her character is the product of many hands moulding her throughout her life, but then, to me, it begs the question why none of the "evil" hands ever made a lasting impression on Ari's clay?
Profile Image for Lisa Roberts.
1,477 reviews
June 12, 2017
Wow! This is one beautifully written novel that is full of the most dysfunctional group of people I have read. Hariet, AKA Ari, is our narrator and main character and her head is full of poetry in the most interesting and unique sense of the word poetry. It's beautiful and I don't like poetry. She has the worst mom and dad and then a wonderful step father but everything falls apart around her and things are done to her that are terrible, but she also runs into the most "spectacular" people who help her get through her difficult times. Ari begins telling us her story at age 8 and then we stay with her for more of her story as she grows up. The horrific things that happen in this family would be difficult to read about in any other book, but her attitude and her language and outlook are most unique and heartwarming. Ari is someone to get behind and love and you'll want to take her into your own home. The writing is so extraordinary that I feel like I missed so much because I listened and therefore moved forward. If I had read this I think it would have taken twice as long because I would have reread and reread and underlined sentences left and right. This feels like a book that, if my TBR wasn't so long and waiting for me, I would start this book over again right away because I know I missed a lot of good stuff.
Profile Image for Megan Dittrich-Reed.
438 reviews3 followers
May 18, 2017
Holy crap, but this book knocked my socks off! I devoured it. I polished half of it off in one sitting yesterday evening and the other half this morning.

The language is what really hooked me. It was goddamn beautiful. It was some of the most lyrical writing I've read in a modern work of fiction in ages. I also friggin' loved the slight element of magical realism, as that's my jam.

The plot was great, too. I mean, it was heartbreaking and loads of horrible things happen over and over to these characters we care about, but our narrator, Ari, always finds a way to spin them into something beautiful, not schmaltzy sentimental beautiful, just here-it-is-with-all-the-cracks beautiful.

If I could be allowed one tiny gripe it would be that I got a bit tired of the whole "Ari is specialer than all the other special people that have ever specialed" bit by the end of the book. Still, that's a very minor irritant in a completely lovely novel.
Profile Image for Thebooktrail.
1,582 reviews284 followers
August 28, 2016
A tricky one to review this as the subject matter is so heartbreaking – Ari Appleton must have two of the most awful parents you could ever have the misfortune to meet. The dad is an incestuous pedophile and the mother an addict. Despite this however, the story is one of hope as Ari is a ray of sunshine and manages to write her own story and therefore her own history at the same time.

She also physically moves away from this background – the drug and sex fuelled days in 1960s and Toronto is not where she needs or wants to be. Pleasant Cove, on the other hand is a nice and necessary contrast to where she is from. This is where she can find what she is looking for and it’s where she’s finally allowed to look back and not with such regret.

A difficult subject but a very moving read.
Profile Image for Dawn.
512 reviews
August 29, 2016
In "The Clay Girl," by Heather Tucker, Hariet, at 8 years old, discovers many things over an 8-year span, including a better name for herself: Ari. At the beginning of the story of the Appleton sisters, the girls have been scattered to different temporary homes because of a major, violent event - this event was not the beginning of the horror or the tragedy for the Appleton girls, but it wraps up one particular chapter which leaves lingering damage for each sister for many years after.

This beautifully written, deep-as-the-ocean story takes situations where temptation is so great to get buried under depression and despair, and shines a light into how one brilliant child and her seahorse, Jasper, the only one who never leaves her, soak in the love, support and encouragement from battle-ready friends, teachers and family who stand behind her and help her to survive in what often feels like impossible conditions.

This is a story about not just surviving, despite the odds, but about thriving, helping others when you're down and struggling yourself, and both drawing the best out of others (even the mean-on-the-surface ones) while allowing them to bring out good in you that maybe you didn't realize you had. There's strategy in this story, valuable lessons (not to give anything away, but one or a few of them explains the title) and there are wonderful words of wisdom (from the quotes Uncle Iggy leaves on Ari's lunch bags to the often lyrical, unique, sometimes humorous and often hopeful way of looking at a scene as it unfolds that Ari has as she writes and creates various pieces of art - writing, sketches, necklaces, T-shirts) that make the reader dig a little deeper into thoughts and questions about life, love, loss, parents, responsibility, the power of evil cycles and of breaking such a cycle.

I loved this book, mainly because it made me think and feel deeply. I wish I were more like Ari - a star shining in the darkest night. I wish I had a Jasper, too. The other little bit of magic I enjoyed from this book was how the author managed to believably weave hope and light into the inky black, slimy, stinky, muddy, bloody, bullying, betraying parts. What a gem this book is.
Profile Image for Karen Cole.
3 reviews
September 16, 2016

Train journeys bookend the moving story of Ari Appleton, leading her to paradise or to hell on earth, or at least purgatory. But Ari is made of clay, and characters, good and bad, help mold her into a remarkable young woman. In Cape Breton where Ari’s heart lies, her Aunt Mary says, “Clay absorbs water, same as you soaking up everything in your path.”

Tucker’s extraordinary debut novel traces the journey of an eight-year-old girl who survived the trauma of watching her father kill himself, as she becomes a courageous young woman of sixteen. Her negligent mother and devilish stepfather use her for their own ends. But friends, teachers, lovers, and other family members help sculpt her lovable and ever-surprising personality. Her language and art are priceless; the book teems with memorable lines. Always helping to guide her is her spirit creature, Jasper, the seahorse.

Set in the 60’s partly in Toronto, Ari experiments with drugs, as events threaten to drag her down. But those train rides to the East help keep her balanced. As William the conductor says, ”The glory of a train is, for every trip away, there’s always a train home.”
Heather Tucker’s The Clay Girl is being published by ECW Press on October 1, and is already creating a lot of pre-publication buzz. Not to be missed.
1 review
September 7, 2016
It’s hard to believe that Heather Tucker’s novel the Clay Girl was a debut novel and her first published. It was creatively written and Ari’s character well-crafted. Heather takes the reader on an emotional journey of discovery for a young girl over a period of 8 years and in Ari we are gifted with survival and personal evolution, in the face of the most obscene trauma and family dysfunction.

Ari’s unique take on life allows the reader to not only read about, but to feel her experiences in a balanced way. Ari personifies what it means to be resilient and she never fully loses hope, when many would.

Heather expertly highlighted the very real lived experiences of many (with some overlap between then and now) and told the tale in an edgy and truly open way. She exposed us to the underbelly of childhood sexual and physical abuse and a host of other personal and systemic issues related to poverty, drug addiction, domestic violence and the many faces of child abuse in the 1960’s.

This artfully written tale takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through many Dark places, but is balanced at times with Light. It is well worth the read and most deserving of a sequel!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 474 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.