Merilyn Simonds, Author

EVENT DATE: Thursday, September 14, 2023

TOPIC: The Many Astonishing Lives of Louise de Kiriline Lawrence

In 1935, Louise de Kiriline Lawrence, born into Swedish aristocracy and survivor of the Russian Civil War, escaped the hustle of Quintmania after a year as nurse-in-charge of the world-famous Dionne babies and retreated to her wilderness cabin on the Mattawa River. There, she discovered birds, the life history of many of them a mystery at the time. Training herself in the art of observation and ornithology, she published ground-breaking studies and wrote six books and almost a hundred scientific and popular articles, her “loghouse nest” in the boreal forest becoming a mecca for international bird scientists and avian aficionados alike.

Merilyn Simonds is the award-winning author of 20 books, including the novel The Holding, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and the Canadian classic nonfiction novel, The Convict Lover, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award and inspiration for the Judith Thompson play Hot House. With her husband, Wayne Grady, she wrote the travel memoir Breakfast at the Exit Café, and for nine years, a books column for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her most recent nonfiction is Gutenberg’s Fingerprint (2017), a meditation on reading, writing, and the future of the printed book. Merilyn divides her time between Kingston and Mexico, the setting for her most recent novel Refuge, a story of sanctuary. 

Woman, Watching: Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and the Songbirds of Pimisi Bay, a hybrid memoir/biography of a reclusive Canadian amateur ornithologist, was published in May, 2022 to great acclaim. Margaret Atwood called it a “lyrical, passionate, and deeply researched portrait.” Helen Humphreys wrote, “This is no ordinary biography. Beautiful and powerful.” And Kyo Maclear, author of Birds, Art, Life, exclaimed, “Woman, Watching is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s radical, it’s ravishing.”