The Nettle Spinner

by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
326 pages,
ISBN: 0864924224

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First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella

The story of Alma, a 20-something tree planter in far Northern Ontario has many facets. Alma, pregnant and alone, is drawn to an abandoned mining camp where she meets a strange little man who is almost blind (is he a troll? one of Snow White's seven dwarfs in old age?). This remarkable novel shuffles back and forth in time, from the present to various strata of the past, to an ancient folk tale, which Alma relates to Jake to pass the winter away. It is the tale of a nettle spinner, a medieval girl who is refused permission to marry her sweetheart by the cruel landowner. The landowner tells her that if she spins him a nettle shroud, she will only be able to marry when he has put it to use.
At the same time, we learn of Alma's adventures as a tree planter-the horrible work, the worrisome insects, the odd array of people who are drawn to fringes of the horizon, at first believing it to be altruistic work, and later discovering that it is poorly paid drudgery. Alma falls in love with a Belgian tree planter, and after he leaves she is brutally assaulted by a man she had rejected. The baby is born with Jake as midwife. Alma collects and begins to spin a nettle garment. As Jake becomes weaker, Alma and the baby grow stronger. They are being stalked, but they don't know by what-man or beast. Alma finishes telling Jake the final installments of the Nettle Spinner, not realizing that her own courage and determination are about to be tested to the maximum. The cover is beautifully conceived and designed, as is this delightful novel.

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