The Reconstruction

by Claudia Casper


Sculptor Margaret Fisher slips into a protective cocoon of listless sleep and lurid dreams after her 10-year marriage breaks up. She also plunges into a new project: the full body reconstruction of an Australopithecus afarensis, based on the famous fossil Lucy.

In her richly suggestive and assured debut novel, Canadian writer Casper takes on the daunting task of depicting emotional loss, historicity and anatomical restoration—and she acquits herself with distinction.

Annie Grey, Publishers Weekly
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  • In her richly suggestive and assured debut novel, Canadian writer Casper takes on the daunting task of depicting emotional loss, historicity and anatomical restoration—and she acquits herself with distinction.

    Sculptor Margaret Fisher slips into a protective cocoon of listless sleep and lurid dreams when her marriage of 10 years breaks up. The dangerous depth of her loss, she realizes, arises less from the departure of her husband than from the disturbing realization that the union had been loveless and shored up only by comfort and inertia. Financially and emotionally shaken (and plagued by extensive emergency dental work), Margaret plunges into a new project for a display of primitive humanity at the National Museum, the full-body reconstruction of an Australopithecus afarensis, based on the famous fossil “Lucy.”

    She draws her inspiration from the fossilized footprints of male and female hominids that were embedded in volcanic ash over three million years ago in Africa. A slight twist in the female’s gait suggests that she hesitated in order to look over her shoulder—at what we will never be sure—before being crushed by the volcanic eruption. In a dreamlike, intense state of waking dreams and reveries, isolation and reflection, Margaret begins to feel the stirrings of Lucy’s primordial steps within herself. Her slow reconstruction of the model brings unexpected questions and truths to light. Casper avoids easy answers and writes bravely about our need to place ourselves in history in order to make sense of our existence.

    - Annie Grey, Publishers Weekly

  • The protagonist of Claudia Casper’s first novel is a sculptor named Margaret who’s having trouble with both her marriage and her teeth. Margaret thinks she’s falling apart, but she’s saved when she gets a job building a life-size museum model of Lucy, the Australopithecine ancestral woman. As Margaret assembles casts of Lucy’s bones, the vital core in her own personality begins to emerge from its nest of insecurities. Margaret cuts loose, and all things are new again. “The Reconstruction” is a probing book that avoids many of the clichés of female self-discovery: the dogged, neurotic sculptor is an unusual study, as are the nerdy male paleontologists who help her.

    - Sally Eckhoff, The New York Times


About the author
Claudia Casper

Claudia Casper is the author of the novels The Reconstruction and The Continuation of Love by Other Means, which was short-listed for the Ethel Wilson BC Book Prize (both published by Penguin). Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, Geist, Event, Best Canadian Short Stories (Oberon) and the anthology Dropped Threads: What We Aren’t Told (Vintage), edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson.