Ambassador of What, The by Adrian Michael Kelly, ECW Press

The Ambassador of What

Kelly, Adrian Michael

  • Slogging through the miles of a city marathon, an 11-year-old boy encounters small miracles; about to marry one of her patients in a home for the elderly, a nurse asks her estranged son to come to the wedding and give her away; home from university, a young man has Christmas dinner with his hard-up dad in a bistro behind a rural gas bar. Men and boys and maleness, money and its lack, the long haunt of childhood, marriage and divorce — these lie at the heart of The Ambassador of What. Driven by an ear for how we talk, how we feel, how we fail, and how we love, these are tough and tender stories that take hold, and linger.


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  • Adrian Michael Kelly is the author of the novel Down Sterling Road. His short fiction has appeared three times in Best Canadian Stories and in the Journey Prize Anthology. He grew up with his father in Campbellford, ON, and currently lives in Kingston.

  • Published: October 2018

    ISBN: 9781770414174

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 184


“Kelly is an adroit writer capable of rendering the trials of his brooding male protagonists fresh and meaningful … Scottish roots, working-class life, poetic heartbreak, keen observation, rich dialogue, and a gentle, ribbing humour run through these stories and the father-son banter is one of the most rewarding aspects of the collection.” — Quill & Quire

The Ambassador of What is full of powerful stories not only of father and son but son and mother and brother and sister. All are well-written in a sparse prose that reflects well on how estranged family members speak to one another as they try to bridge the years and the opportunities lost by not maintaining closer connections. There is something for everyone in The Ambassador of What, but particularly for fathers and sons, whether they are close or separated by other events beyond their control.” — Miramichi Reader

“Taut as a flexed muscle, deft as a sideways glance, Adrian Kelly’s stories pull us into the tender, brittle world of fathers and sons. An illuminating addition to Canada’s new rural noir.” — Merilyn Simonds, bestselling author of Refuge

“While each story has a complete story arc of its own, there is a very satisfying larger trajectory that spans fifteen years or more in the larger first section. The stories are small windows in time and yet, we’re taken convincingly, devastatingly, from coming-of-age to early middle age . . . The early characters wheedle themselves into our consciousness, like family, their identities forever fossilized in lines of relation, nameless though they remain.” — PRISM international

“There is much to appreciate in Kelly’s collection.” — University of Toronto Quarterly

“The way Kelly wields (and welds together) words is astounding … When your brain finally clicks into Kelly’s rhythm, Ambassador accomplishes something rare: it feels fresh, a brand-new mode of storytelling; it rearticulates your way of seeing the world, reprograms your brain, gets your feet tapping to a different beat. And this is what makes it a book worth slowing down for.” — Canadian Notes & Queries

“Adrian’s characters are torn between the almost sense-less intellectual life promised them by literature and their education, and their sweaty, violent, and violated origins in the world of hopeless work and father-and-son struggles to keep failure at bay.” — Richard Harrison, winner, Governor General’s Award for Poetry

“What remarkable stories: tender and fierce, acutely observed and achingly felt, guided by an intelligence that will neither judge nor look away. Prose can’t get more transparent by craft or insights more clarified by experience — to powerful, lasting effect.” — Charles Foran, author of bestselling Mordecai and Planet Lolita

“On the surface, The Ambassador of What . . . tours us through the familiar terrain of wounded masculinity and blue-collar despair. Underneath, however, quiet emotions and character revelations steer us into new territory . . . His understated, sensitive prose avoids exploitative, cynical, or showy extremes. Instead, he creates a dignified and relatable snapshot of men caught up in their very human striving.” — Malahat Review