Books by Kristen den Hartog

And Me Among Them/The Girl Giant

And Me Among Them, published by Simon & Schuster in the U.S. as The Girl Giant, is a novel about a girl named Ruth who grows and grows before anyone figures out what’s wrong with her. Her strange affliction impacts her own life and the lives of her parents, James, a soldier turned postman, and Elspeth, an English warbride.

For more about the book and its inspirations, visit kristendenhartog.com . Here’s how it begins:

Even after I have reached the pinnacle of my growth, I still find safety in my yellow room, a museum holding the souvenirs of my existence. My collections of pine cones and pressed leaves are here, as are the stacks of tattered comic books I’ve read a hundred times. There are miniature soldiers as well, salvaged from my father’s childhood and passed from him to me. Feet molded to tiny platforms, they wield weapons and bugles, and stand at attention as I rise up, up, pushing right through the roof to look down on the little world below.

I can see out, all the way to far-off lands, and I can see back, to years and years ago; place and time unravel in all directions. My eyes and ears are many times the size they should be. My heart is swollen. My bones are weak. But something good can come from even the most terrifying things. For everything that is taken away, something else is given.

The Occupied Garden

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The Occupied Garden was a first for me in that it is non-fiction and also a collaboration with my sister Tracy Kasaboski. It was a feat to research — we had to immerse ourselves in a time and place that was not our own, the Netherlands during the Second World War. The story revives our family’s experience during the German occupation. For more about the book, and a look at some fabulous old photos, visit The Occupied Garden. Here’s how the book begins:

When the Second World War erupted over the Netherlands, our grandparents were in their early thirties, raising their family in a town outside The Hague. Opa was a market gardener who grew vegetables on two-and-a-half acres of rich black earth, but by the time we visited sixty-five years later, long after their deaths, only a small corner of the garden remained. A horse was pastured beside the fence, and the rest was an expressway full of roaring cars. In a curious twist of fate, someone had spray-painted a dove on the cement embankment, and written, in heavy red letters, Always in our harts.

Water Wings

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Water Wings was first published by Knopf Canada, as part of the New Face of Fiction series, in 2001. It started out many years before that as a short story called “Wave,” in which a girl named Hannah pines for her father, who died in a boating accident. The book moves back and forth in time, and reveals how the family had fractured long before the father’s death. It begins:

The windshield is dirty, smudged with the tiny bodies of spent insects. Early on Hannah had been taught that insects were beautiful, even ordinary flies, though they began as swarming maggots. It was her father who had pointed out the metallic blue and green of them, their huge eyes and their legs that bent at the knee, things she may never have noticed on her own. How long since he’d died? Nine, Hannah was when it happened, so fourteen years without him. Funny to think. After that there was only the three of them: Hannah, Vivian and their long-haired mother Darlene. And yet all this time the ghost of their father had hovered like a transparent umbrella, there but not there, just as he’d been there but not there when he was alive.

The Perpetual Ending

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The Perpetual Ending was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award. Interwoven with fables, it follows Jane as she recalls the death of her twin sister.  The main story focuses on the girls and their estranged parents, but the tales spin off in wild directions, featuring a girl with spiderweb hair, or the Siamese twins that open the book. Each is illustrated by my childhood friend, Janet Hardy.

They were twins born seamless, joined up the sides of their bodies. And yet they were very distinctly two. Four arms and four legs, two heads of yellow hair. One loved the water and Tother did not, and that caused the skin between them to stretch and stretch. One always pulling, longing to swim. But Tother was afraid of water. Both its choppy waves and its calmness. Not knowing what lurked beneath.

Origin of Haloes

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Origin of Haloes follows the lives of two families set against the backdrop of twenty years of summer Olympic Games. I was pregnant with my daughter when I wrote it, and it was a race to finish the first draft before she was born. After, in subsequent drafts, her presence altered the story, since I now had a different perspective on motherhood and family dynamics. The book begins:

As Kay Clancy told it, one day she was jumping on the high-school trampoline, tumbling up and back down, and instead of landing and bouncing again, as she had done since she was four years old, she fell into Joe’s Herculean arms. Happy times followed. There was a child, Estelle, and then another, Louis, but while the third was still inventing herself inside her mother’s body, Joe wandered away — which was the part Kay so rarely mentioned. As the baby grew in the womb, the father faded, so together (but not) they formed the sad cliche of ships passing. From the beginning, the child called Margar was shockingly like him. She developed stiltish legs and dangling arms, flat brown hair and eyes that loomed in her face as though not quite fixed there — too big for the fine bones, too searching.

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2 responses to “Books by Kristen den Hartog

  1. Pingback: LitBits 28

  2. Kristen, I so enjoyed reading The Occupied Garden. I picked up a copy at a Dutch store in the Durham Region soon after a visit to Amsterdam and Breda, in the Netherlands. I value the insight into the experience of that span of time, as it is a sensitive topic with our older family members, and not one easily discussed. Interestingly, I grew up in the area that your grandparents emigrated to and am familiar with the nursery your grandfather worked at. Lots of connections and ahah moments. Thanks again.

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