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Sanctuary Line

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  907 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
Told through delicate and masterful narration, Jane Urquhart's new novel, Sanctuary Line, seamlessly weaves together fragments of present day farm life on the shores of Lake Erie with harrowing snapshots of deep family turmoil marred by stains of death and regret.
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by MacAdam/Cage Publishing (first published August 31st 2010)
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Sharon Just finished it while on Vacation. Loved it. Love the connection between the boy she loved and the almost penance she does raising and releasing the…moreJust finished it while on Vacation. Loved it. Love the connection between the boy she loved and the almost penance she does raising and releasing the butterflies that go back and forth to Mexico. (less)

Community Reviews

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Jan 04, 2014 Cynthia rated it really liked it
The nature of memories

“Sanctuary Line” is about family tradition and how those family legends impact the current generation. It’s also a coming of age novel though the main character is probably in her 40’s. The story is told in childhood flashbacks by Liz Crane who’s currently working as an etymologist and living in her now government owned childhood family seat which used to be a working orchard. She reconsiders the stories her uncle loved to tell her and her cousin Amanda who was like a siste
May 29, 2012 Kristine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this book very hard to get through. Urquart no doubt is very talented with the written word but unfortunately the story got lost in her words. It takes the entire book to get to the story which occurs in the last couple of chapters. There are a few moments of brilliance in these last chapters but not enough to compensate for the overly wordy story that is all over the map in the beginning and middle of the book. The fact that there was no resolve of any sort left me more than frustrated ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 22, 2011 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
The Butlers, a once prosperous Irish-American family, ran a progressive farm and orchards on the shore of Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario. The road that ran from the shore to inland was called Sanctuary Line. The orchards have now decayed, the farm has gone to seed, and the family has been gone since a crucial night in the 1980's, a night of crisis which is the dramatic center of this novel. The enigmatic patriarch, Stan Butler, was uncle to the fatherless Liz Crane, the novel's melancholic na ...more
Eric Wright
Sep 26, 2010 Eric Wright rated it really liked it
Initially I didn't know whether to give Urquhart's new book two stars or 4+. The story is told from the perspective of Liz Crane, an entomologist moved into the now deserted farmhouse of her relatives. She was hired to study the migratory patterns of the Monarch butterfly. But in her story she muses over the deterioration of her family's fortunes starting from the 19th century to the present. What started as a promising family with a thriving orchard business on the short of Lake Erie in Ontario ...more
Jan 15, 2012 Iris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Urquhart’s Sanctuary Line weaves together many elements in the story of one family living in Ontario. The narrator, Liz Crane, has moved back to her family’s farmhouse to study the migratory pattern of monarch butterflies. But events, among which is the dead of her cousin, military strategist Amanda Butler, who was killed in Afghanistan, lead her to spend much of her time reflecting on the past of her family.

There is much to be said about Urquhart’s novel. For one, her prose is stunningly b
Nov 04, 2012 Erin rated it it was ok
I’m writing about Jane Urquhart’s A Map of Glass for the big T right now, and so I should begin this post with the caveat that my interpretation of Sanctuary Line may be skewed by my frustration with writing about A Map of Glass. That said, even though I am writing endless pages about it, I like A Map of Glass. I do not, however, like Sanctuary Line.

The top lists of 2010 like Sanctuary Line. They like it, I suspect, because it comes heavily laden with symbolism and with the promise that this. is
Mar 06, 2014 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit this book caught my eye on a library shelf because of the cover. I love butterflies, nature, so I picked it up and started reading the jacket copy and only read "Solitary, nostalgic Liz Crane returns to her family's now-deserted farmhouse . . . to study the migratory habits of the Monarch butterfly" and I was "caught."

I have heard about this writer, but never read her, and am so glad I found this book. It's not perfect--the plot seems forced in some places, the big secret that is reveale
Sep 20, 2016 Ann rated it really liked it
Wonderful story populated by many stories.

The main tale is about the Butler family farm and who it was a childhood sanctuary every summer when Liz was a child. She narrates the novel often looking back to her girlhood surrounded by Butler cousins and a Mexican boy who was part of a work crew. I think everyone would welcome a lakefront farm like this to belong to. Time and place are important components of Liz's life -- the dismantling of the farm and the relationships that drifted away.

There is
Oct 30, 2013 Mmars rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Readers who are patient and like to linger in reflective family sagas will find much to like in "Sanctuary Line." Because the first-person narrator often referred to an uncle as "uncle" and an aunt as "aunt", I needed to go back, skim the first 50 pages and make a family tree to keep all the uncles, aunts, cousins, and great-greats straight. But it was worth it.

You know from the beginning that the denoument referred to throughout Liz's walk down memory lane will be unhappy and disturbing, and s
Jun 13, 2012 Allyson rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am not really sure what to say about this book. Up until page 178, I found it unmoving and had little interest in any of her characters. She finally established some connection between Liz and Mandy which felt legitimate but even after calamitous events, I felt it was too little too late to salvage my feelings about her story. I really disliked Stanley, the uncle and found his stories and character off putting and uninteresting. It was a fast read with a pretty cover and she clearly is an exce ...more
Jan 06, 2011 Alexis rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Three stars because of the beauty of the language. There were a lot of really gorgeous themes in this book including monarch butterflies, orchardists and farm history. The book was full of rich description.

However, I must admit that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I would have liked to. THe majority of the book is remembered as a long flashback, which I couldn't get into. Since the character was remembering, it seemed rather languid to me, and it didn't have the urgency that the plot deserve
Carrie Marcotte
Beautiful, haunting novel. Jane Urquhart did not disappoint with this one. It is the story of a woman who comes back to live at the family farm after everyone has gone away. The family has broken apart - died, moved away and she seems to be the final keeper of the family memory. Throughout the novel, the author recollects stories from times the family was happier, while subconsciously hinting to the causes of the family demise. I loved the subtlety of the symbolism - the author values the intell ...more
Lori Bamber
Nov 19, 2012 Lori Bamber rated it it was amazing
Jane Urquhart is such a fine writer, and this book is so imaginatively constructed. The primary characters are compelling and true, even as the details are filled in and we (the reader) learn how mistaken our first impressions of them might have been.

A fine story of cultural, sexual and family boundaries, Sanctuary Line is also a love letter to the Great Lake region of Ontario, and will be appreciated by anyone who has fallen in love with a place.
Jan 15, 2011 Lue rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this more than I did. Normally I fall in love with Urquhart's writing from the first few pages. However, it felt like the first 40 or so pages were meandering, like she was struggling to find the beginning of the book (not the story). Instead of being able to relax into the Urquhart's gentle voice, I was too busy trying to find my footing as a reader. And this lessened any impact the could have had on me.
Sep 15, 2011 Craig rated it it was ok
Shelves: can-lit
Beautiful writing but the story was very boring. An entomologist studying monarch butterflies reflects back on her family life on the farm. There are the usual topics like love, crisis, coming of age, and symbolism. Sanctuary Line was a very subtle book, too subtle for me.
Roger Brunyate
May 09, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it really liked it
Of Monarchs and Memory

This is a novel about memory, nostalgic, partial, sometimes painful, but always intriguing. At any time, a person's mind potentially holds the sum total of all her experience, though she may not be able to access all of it. She may have forgotten details, until reminded by revisiting a place or picking up a keepsake. There may be memories too hurtful to recall, until the recounting of simpler things clears a pathway to them. There may be things that she cannot understand un
Oct 26, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
Liz Crane, an entomologist researching the migration of monarch butterflies, is the narrator of this elegant and reflective novel by Jane Urquhart and indeed, butterflies are the metaphor that ties the story together. The prose – dense, descriptive, and beautifully-wrought—flutters like a butterfly, taking flight (as memory itself does) in the past, then alighting back in the present, making its way back and forth to answer the question: what happened on a pivotal evening man years back, at her ...more
Miz Moffatt
Jane Urquhart constructs a beautiful, heartbreaking tale spanning more than one hundred years of the Butler family's livelihood. In Sanctuary Line, the entomologist Liz Crane returns to the now-deserted Butler farm where she spent her summers as a child. As she studies the migratory patterns of the Monarch butterflies native to the Lake Erie region, Liz must renegotiate her place among the tragedies still haunting the abandoned home. Old wounds are scoured open in the wake of her cousin's death ...more
Dale Harcombe
Aug 26, 2013 Dale Harcombe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes you get a book that just makes you pause over the sentences because the writing is so beautiful. That is the case with Sanctuary Line. I enjoyed the prose and the story of Liz Crane as she looks back at her family and in particular her uncle, seeing him in a different light to how she did when younger. She also reflects on her cousin Amanda, (Mandy) their times together as children and the relationship between them. Mandy died during a military tour in Afghanistan. This is a novel abou ...more
Ayesha U
Feb 09, 2017 Ayesha U rated it liked it
I read this book for the love of reading. It is hard to get through. Yes, it took me a while to finish this book.

There's no plot per se. In the last few pages the author reveals certain mysteries regarding Mandy's lover and Liz's disappeared uncle.

Jane Urquhart writes beautifully though.
Oct 04, 2011 Marcella rated it really liked it
Everything about this book is wonderful but for the narrative voice

Which read/sounded somewhat formal private school wealthy family circa 1930's yet was not any of those things

And so it distracted me
Sometimes it sounded a bit like Jane Alexander channeling Eleanor Roosevelt

But that is a small quibble for a very beautifully written book
Feb 06, 2011 Vionna rated it it was ok
Liz Crane returns to the old homestead on Lake Erie and start reminiscing about its history and life on the farm. The story unfolded like a map of a road going every which way. The plot was hard to follow with little dialogue.
Lynn Kearney
Oct 17, 2010 Lynn Kearney rated it liked it
3.5 This writer is usually reliably good. I foundered a bit in this one at the beginning - too many exquisitely polished scenes but not adding up to a coherent (for me at least) narrative. However, all came together satisfactorily in the last third.
Niratisaya Niratisaya
Pertama kalinya membaca Canadian Literature. Dan pertama kalinya juga merasa tersesat di dalam kebingungan ^^;
On one hand, Urquhart had a great talent on playing and bending the words to her story. But as she bent and played the words, the story become blurred between the MC memory lane, which by the last page left me in empty mind. In a good and bad ways.
Jun 18, 2017 Maxine rated it liked it
Love Urquhart's writing style. The first half of the book moved at a slow pace.
Dec 14, 2013 Megan rated it liked it
Liz Crane grew up departing the city for idyllic summers at her Uncle Stanley's orchard on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie. Summers for Liz are times for endless games with her cousins, young love, and worshiping at the feet of the charismatic Stanley Butler. Uncle Stanley was a forward-looking farmer, the first to try a new crop or a new method of growing, and most definitely the first to "import" workers from Mexico to help with the summer fruit harvest. However, his deep connection to the pa ...more
Bonnie Brody
Oct 21, 2013 Bonnie Brody rated it really liked it
This is the first book by Jane Urquhart that I have read. It is a beautifully rendered story of love, loss and memory. The story is narrated by Liz Crane, an entomologist, who lives on Butler Farm, her family's farmhouse that is now deserted. "There is no one, no one left. I live in a landscape where absence confronts me daily. " The farmhouse is in Canada on Lake Ontario and is very close to the American border. Liz studies monarch butterflies and their migration. They often serve as a metaphor ...more
May 20, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it
“Seldom unkind, he was nonetheless seized by bouts of vague withdrawal, sometimes by downright absenteeism in our midst, as if a grey veil had been woven between him and us. I now see that as we tried harder, he withdrew further.” (p.22)

“I miss the children we all used to be before everything broke apart, and I miss the children who should have replaced us but haven’t.” (p.31)

“I am a solitary, I thought. I cannot attend fringe festivals, protest marches, council meetings, or engage in any kind o
Helen Barlow
Jun 26, 2013 Helen Barlow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog My Novel Opinion.

Sanctuary Line is a beautifully written story in which Liz Crane returns to her Uncle Stan's farmhouse, once a thriving farm and orchard that had been in the Butler family since their migration from Ireland to Canada hundreds of years before. Her return to the farmhouse where she spent summers as a child prompts memories to come flooding back and Sanctuary Line is an emotional journey as she tries to make sense of one night that changed the Butler
Rebecca H.
Aug 29, 2013 Rebecca H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Jane Urquhart’s new novel, Sanctuary Line, tells the story of an extended family living, among other places, on the north shore of Lake Erie. The family came from Ireland and is full of lighthouse keepers, farmers, and orchardists, or at least it was until the most recent generation, which has moved on to other things. Now the farm on Lake Erie is falling into disrepair. The story is told in the first person by Liz Crane who is living alone in the old farmhouse, mourning the loss of her cousin, ...more
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She is the author of seven internationally acclaimed novels entitled, The Whirlpool, Changing Heaven, Away, The Underpainter, The Stone Carvers, A Map of Glass, and Sanctuary Line.

The Whirlpool received the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book Award). Away was winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The Un
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