The Afterlife of Birds

by Elizabeth Philips

September 12, 2015
6 x 9 paper 320 pages
CDN $21.95 | US $21.95

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Shortlisted for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award
Winner of  the Saskatchewan Book Awards’ City of Saskatoon and Public Library Saskatoon Book Award
Shortlisted for the Saskatchewan Book Awards’ Fiction Award


A gorgeous, deeply felt debut novel about obsession, loneliness, and the surprising ways we find to connect with each other.

Henry Jett’s life is slowly going nowhere. His girlfriend recently left, and his job in a local garage is uninspiring, considering that he doesn’t particularly like cars. Henry finds solace in his eccentric passion, rebuilding the skeletons of birds and animals. Meanwhile Henry’s brother, Dan, is disappearing into an obsession of his own.

Without Dan to rely on, Henry begins to engage in new ways with the people around him in his Prairie city: the 80-year-old Russian émigré who delights in telling stories; the very pregnant former employee of his mother’s; the lawyer who may or may not be his brother’s ex-girlfriend. Gradually they demand that Henry become a participant in his own story, and Henry must forge his own way of living in the world.

In The Afterlife of Birds, award-winning poet Elizabeth Philips draws together unforgettable characters who subtly, powerfully demonstrate the beauty of ordinary lives and finding our place in the world.


“Philips’ novel is a gift, her prose flawless, her characters endlessly engaging; the book itself offering us a new voice in fiction, one we should listen to with all our hearts.” — Patrick Lane, author of Red Dog, Red Dog

“Liz Philips has accomplished the most difficult thing in literature. She has written an original love story.” — Fred Stenson, author of Who By Fire

“Like its central character Henry Jett, The Afterlife of Birds is an original: alert to nature, clear-eyed and true. A lovely novel—it returned me to the world refreshed.” — Joan Thomas, author of The Opening Sky



“What I really drew from, and appreciated in, The Afterlife of Birds was the indirect metaphor of anatomy and relationships. The more decorative characters, like the plumage on birds, are attractive in their distractions, but they live as external beings. And their relationships require a strong, stable internal force to keep all the moving parts together. And, in this novel, that unseen skeleton is the rather unobtrusive, run-of-the-mill fellow: Henry. A lovely Canadian read, The Afterlife of Birds is an imaginative character portrait full of linguistic artistry.” — What’s Up Yukon, August 2017.

“The people around us are weird and [The Afterlife of Birds] celebrates the glory of that… the glory and complexity of people.”  — Angie Abdou on CBC’s Daybreak Alberta, September 13, 2015

“[The Afterlife of Birds] is at once a love story and a compelling portrait of the prairie landscape. It has quirky characters, beautiful descriptions of the natural world, mystical stories of far-away places, and impeccable precision of language.” — All Lit Up’s First Fiction Fridays, September 18, 2015

Author webpage

Click here to see a press kit / Q&A with Elizabeth Philips