Patterson, Kevin 1964-

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Patterson, Kevin 1964-


Born 1964, in Manitoba, Canada; married; children: one daughter. Education: University of British Columbia, M.F.A.; earned M.D.


Home—Saltspring Island, BC, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]


Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, resident in internal medicine. Worked as a doctor in the Arctic, on the coast of British Columbia, and in Afghanistan. Military service: Canadian Army, regimental medical officer of 3RCHA.


Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, Writers' Trust of Canada, 2003, for Country of Cold: Stories of Sex and Death.


The Water in Between: A Journey at Sea (memoir), Random House Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999, Nan A. Talese (New York, NY), 2000.

Country of Cold: Stories of Sex and Death (linked short stories), Vinatage Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.

Consumption: A Novel, Nan A. Talese (New York, NY), 2007.

(Editor, with Jane Warren) Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of Its Participants, Random House Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2007.


Kevin Patterson put himself through medical school by enlisting in the Canadian Army. After serving, he worked as a doctor in the Arctic and on the coast of British Columbia while studying for his master's degree in fine arts at the University of British Columbia. He has worked as a resident in internal medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Water in Between: A Journey at Sea is the story of Patterson's 1994 adventure across the sea from British Columbia to Tahiti and back. Shortly after his duty in the Canadian Army was over, Patterson longed to escape the doldrums in Canada and his depression over a failed love affair. He discovered his escape vehicle at a sailboat brokerage on Vancouver Island—a twenty-year-old, thirty-seven-foot ferro-cement sailboat called the Sea Mouse. Patterson had never been on a boat besides a ferry and knew nothing about sailing. He invited another man, Don Lang, who knew how to sail, to join him. The two men set sail from Victoria, British Columbia, for the island of Tahiti. Patterson describes the places they saw, people they met, and the discussions the two men had, as well as his philosophies on life and his developing sense of self. Patterson made the last section of the return trip from Hawaii, some 3,000 miles, by himself. Reviewing the book for the New York Times Book Review, Christopher Buckley called it "a delightful, finely written, and in the end, wise book."

Published in 2003, Patterson's Country of Cold: Stories of Sex and Death, won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize from the Writers' Trust of Canada. The book is a collection of semiautobiographical, linked short stories. The thirteen stories in the volume follow a group of high-school students in Manitoba, Canada, from their graduation to their class reunion, with all the trappings of life in between, from marriages to careers, and from affairs to death. Although the stories are not arranged in chronological order, each story indicates the year in which it takes place. The book ends with the reunion, followed by an epilogue that addresses the unresolved aspects of the various plotlines. The characters followed throughout the stories are Lester, an overweight bartender, and Robert, who moves away, goes to Paris, gets married (and subsequently divorced), and then moves back home. Three of the original group, Paul, Cora, and Daphne, all become doctors. Although reviewers found the book to be somewhat flawed, they felt its redeeming qualities far outweighed any detractions. For instance, a Publishers Weekly contributor noted the story's "strained, overambitious touches," but also stated that the author "is at his best when bringing out the natural poetry of the landscapes that fascinate him," comparing the writing to that of famed author Annie Proulx. A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that some of the book's "unconventional devices … both do and don't work." Nevertheless, the critic noted "Patterson's talent for disparate narrative voices" and, referencing the book's subtitle, observed that the stories are "less about sex and death than about everything else."

In 2007, Patterson published Consumption: A Novel, based on his experiences as a white doctor working in an Inuit village. The novel's protagonist is Victoria, a ten-year-old Inuit girl with tuberculosis. Victoria is sent to Montreal to recover from her illness, where she becomes accustomed to city life. She spends six years in a sanatorium in Montreal, undergoing treatment and surgeries, and when she returns to her village, Victoria understandably feels out of place. When Victoria becomes pregnant, she marries the white man who is the father, John Robertson. Victoria bears her husband two daughters and a son over the years, and over the same period, the Inuit village is threatened by growing industrialization. Victoria has an affair with an Inuit man, and Robertson betrays the village when he begins working for a diamond mine that will further compromise the Inuit way of life. Critics of the book found much of value in Patterson's writing style, noting that it is highly skilled and evocative. For instance, a New Yorker reviewer felt that the author "is a sure guide through inhospitable terrain," not only of the village in which the Inuit live but also "of the far recesses of the soul." A Publishers Weekly critic called the novel "a searingly visceral message about love, loss and dislocation." And Lisa Schwarzbaum, writing in Entertainment Weekly, stated that the author is "an empathetic observer of wrenching cultural change and so-called progress."

In his debut as an editor, Patterson worked with Jane Warren on the essay collection Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of Its Participants. Like all of Patterson's books, the volume is connected to Patterson's life and work. Patterson once worked as a doctor in Afghanistan, and the collection features first-person accounts written by Canadian soldiers who participated in the war there. Patterson's collection does not shy away from unpleasant aspects; in fact, it was his intention to address such topics, which are often whitewashed in the mainstream media. Notably, before the edition was published, Patterson was investigated and chastised for a magazine article he had written recounting his own experiences as a civilian doctor at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. George A. MacLean, writing in the Winnipeg Free Press, called Outside the Wire an "excellent new book" and stated: "Importantly, none of [the soldiers] write to expressly support or condemn the mission." Walrus magazine critic Ken Alexander observed: "At times haunting and desperate and at other times playful, even lyrical, these unmediated dispatches are flesh and bone, mind and matter, and, above all, soulful to the last."



Patterson, Kevin, The Water in Between: A Journey at Sea, Nan A. Talese (New York, NY), 2000.


Canadian Medical Association Journal, January 30, 2007, "Consumed by Circumstances," p. 352.

Cruising World, October, 2000, review of The Water in Between: A Journey at Sea, p. 80.

Entertainment Weekly, August 10, 2007, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Consumption: A Novel, p. 75.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Country of Cold: Stories of Sex and Death, p. 1561; July 1, 2007, review of Consumption.

Kliatt, July 1, 2004, Nola Theiss, review of Country of Cold, p. 34.

Library Journal, March 1, 2000, review of The Water in Between, p. S14; August, 2000, John Kenny, review of The Water in Between, p. 139; January 1, 2003, Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, review of Country of Cold, p. 162; May 15, 2007, Barbara Love, review of Consumption, p. 81.

New Yorker, September 3, 2007, review of Consumption, p. 133.

New York Times, June 9, 2000, Richard Bernstein, "Call Him Ishmael: The Young (Heartbroken and Lonely) Man and the Sea," p. E39; July 1, 2001, Scott Veale, "New & Noteworthy Paperbacks," p. 20L.

New York Times Book Review, May 28, 2000, Christopher Buckley, review of The Water in Between, p. 7.

Publishers Weekly, May 15, 2000, review of The Water in Between, p. 96; January 6, 2003, review of Country of Cold, p. 39; May 14, 2007, review of Consumption, p. 29.

Quill & Quire, October, 1999, Robert Wiersema, review of The Water in Between, p. 33.

Times Literary Supplement, July 28, 2000, Dea Birkett, "Afloat in Sadness," p. 11.

Walrus, December, 2007, Ken Alexander, review of Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of Its Participants.

Winnipeg Free Press, January 6, 2008, George A. MacLean, review of Outside the Wire.


ABC News, (December 31, 2001), David Morgan, "Clear Sailing: Seeking Someone Else's Paradise, Finding One's Own Inner Peace."

Charlotte Austin Review, (December 31, 2001), Morgan Ann Adams, review of The Water in Between: A Journey at Sea.

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Patterson, Kevin 1964-

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