den Hartog, Kristen 1965-
den HARTOG, Kristen 1965-
Born 1965, in Deep River, Ontario, Canada.
Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Agent—c/o Author Mail, MacAdam/Cage Publishing, 1900 Wazee St., Suite 210, Denver, CO 80202.
Water Wings (novel), Knopf Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
The Perpetual Ending (novel), MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
Work represented in anthologies, including The Journey Prize Anthology and The Turn of the Story: Canadian Short Fiction on the Eve of the Millennium. Contributor to periodicals, including Canadian House and Home.
Canadian author Kristen den Hartog's Water Wings was reviewed by Quill & Quire critic Padma Viswanathan, who wrote that this "dark, tender first novel reveals her as a sort of literary younger sister to Alice Munro, plumbing the landscape of small town southern Ontario to turn up stories of sexual discontent and childhood secrets."
The story begins with the return of adult sisters Vivian and Hannah to the place where they grew up and where their mother, the beautiful and seductive Darlene Oelpke, is marrying her second husband, shoe store man Reg Sinclair. Vivian, who is five years older than Hannah, was a teen when their father, Mick, was killed in a boating accident. She had tried to keep his memory alive for her younger sister, whose own recollections are not nearly as clear. Den Hartog uses flashbacks to recall Darlene and Mick's breakup and a cast of characters that includes Darlene's string of boyfriends. Significant to the story is Darlene's sister, Angie, and her only daughter, Wren, a child born with webbed hands and a love of insects who is also sensitive to the similarities between the relationships of humans and the natural world.
Books in Canada reviewer W. P. Kinsella noted that the childhoods of the three narrators are recalled in "long flashbacks," but as to the present "we know far too little." However, Kinsella added that the writing is "strong, and the plethora of detail makes for interesting characterizations." Booklist critic Ellen Loughran wrote that the end "of this impressive novel artfully refers back to the book's beginnings, provides no easy answers, and closes the story with hope."
Den Hartog's second novel, The Perpetual Ending, is set in present-day Vancouver and is the story of Jane Ingram, whose mirror-image and completely opposite twin, Eugenie, has been long-dead. Jane, the serious twin, now calls herself the "twinless twin," so important was the identity she had shared with her carefree sister. In flashbacks, den Hartog reveals that the twins' parents had a volatile marriage. Their alcoholic father, David, berated their mother, Lucy, and her art, and she finally flees with the girls to Toronto. The girls miss their father, however, and when he comes to take them home with him, the tragedy upon which the story turns occurs: an automobile accident kills Eugenie. Now an adult, Jane, who inherited her mother's gift of storytelling, writes fairy tales that are illustrated by her lover, Simon, who does not realize that the stories hold clues to Jane's past and its unspeakable secrets.
Herizons reviewer Bev Greenberg wrote that not only does The Perpetual Ending "celebrate a young woman's resiliency in overcoming a difficult childhood, but it also attests to the transformational power of the imagination as a means of coping." Globe & Mail reviewer Fiona Foster called the fables that are interspersed throughout the novel "the really good parts … the fables in which Jane exorcises her demons. Her heroines are horned, telepathic, lying, hairless, two-left footed freaks.… Den Hartog reveals a massive imagination in these stories-within-stories."
In reviewing the book for MostlyFiction.com, Cindy Lynn Speer wrote that The Perpetual Heartbreak "might also be a good title for this story. The contrasts between story and confessions, beauty and ugliness, is brilliantly wrought, but there is no joy in this book, only hope that joy may someday come." "Jane's memories accurately reflect the thoughts and fears of a confused and frightened child," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor, who added that "the plangent tone of sadness is sustained with grace."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2004, Ellen Loughran, review of Water Wings, p. 949.
Books in Canada, W. P. Kinsella, review of Water Wings, p. 26.
Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), April 13, 2002, H. J. Kirchhoff, review of Water Wings; January 11, 2003, Fiona Foster, review of The Perpetual Ending.
Herizons, winter, 2004, Bev Greenberg, review of The Perpetual Ending, p. 36.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2003, review of The Perpetual Ending, p. 8; December 15, 2003, review of Water Wings, p. 1411.
Library Journal, February 1, 2003, Robin Nesbitt, review of The Perpetual Ending, p. 114.
Publishers Weekly, February 17, 2003, review of The Perpetual Ending, p. 58; February 2, 2004, review of Water Wings, p. 59.
Quill & Quire, January, 2001, Padma Viswanathan, review of Water Wings, p. 30; December, 2002, Nicholas Dinka, review of The Perpetual Ending, p. 25. Toronto Star, March 25, 2001, review of Water Wings.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (October 27, 2003), Luan Gaines, review of The Perpetual Ending.
Rain Taxi Online,http://www.raintaxi.com/ (summer, 2003), Kris Lawson, review of The Perpetual Ending. *