What The Living Do


After Brett Catlin, a thirty-seven-year-old road worker, is diagnosed with cancer, she must choose between the risks of giving birth or the surgery that will terminate her pregnancy.


Among the duties of thirty-seven-year-old Brett Catlin’s road maintenance job is the burying of roadkill. Her fascination with the dead is linked with a house fire that took her father and baby sister’s lives and for which she feels responsible.

When she discovers she has cervical cancer, Brett refuses a hysterectomy, suspecting that the disease is payback for the deaths she feels she has caused. Her attempts to cure her cancer through alternative therapies do not bring the desired results. After agreeing to the surgery, she is summoned across the country to assist her mother after a stroke. This brings Brett face-to-face with the underlying reason she resists the constructs of a committed relationship, family, and home — an encounter with her cousin who sexually exploited her when she was eleven. When she finally goes for the surgery, pre-op tests reveal that she is pregnant. Certain that she cannot ‘bear’ children, Brett faces a dilemma — will she forgive herself and bring new life into this dangerous world, or do as the doctor suggests and ‘kill two birds with one stone’?

The first two chapters of this novel won Lazuli Literary Group’s writing contest and were published in Azure Magazine both online and in print.

The editors wrote: “…Susan E. Wadds’ novel excerpt, What the Living Do, our latest contest winner, introduces readers to the life of a middle-aged woman at a crossroads. Wadds’ unsatisfied protagonist walks readers into a mysterious plot as she dates a younger man, works a job collecting roadkill on highways, and searches for meaning in the indigenous roots of North America.”

I have been fortunate to have received some generous feedback from wonderful Beta readers, Alissa York, Nick Bantock, and Patrick Taylor.

“Susan Wadds has written a fierce and fearless novel about a woman drawn to self-destruction yet desperate to live – and maybe even love. A deeply moving and memorable debut.”
Alissa York

“Susan Wadds writes from a place of deep compassion. She understands her characters’ hearts and minds and because of that she is able to paint their landscape and allow them to pass through their rights of passage in an utterly convincing way.

What the Living Do unveils a poignant mirror, carefully formed to reassure its readers that the shadow-corners of their lives are both seen and understood.”
Nick Bantock

“Could you deal with survivor guilt and having been molested as a child? Brett Catlin has struggled for twenty-four years. How this strong woman copes and tries to make sense of her world and her relationships with people in it will take the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride so finely are the plot and the central character and her supporting cast drawn. Effortlessly weaving real-time and backstory the author lets Brett show us how events in her past have shaped her today. And it today’s Brett who must face a life and death decision. You will ache for her. Not only is the story compelling in its emotional complexity, it is told in scintillating prose which on occasion verges on the poetic. A must read.”
Patrick Taylor
Best-selling author; NY Times, USA Today
and Globe & Mail.

– – –

One Way Home 


Carrie, a lonely 15-year-old, attempts to reconcile her mother’s suicide by helping a young Indigenous woman. On a 5-day journey to a remote reserve the pair face racism, hunger, fatigue & attempted abduction while navigating the gulf between their respective cultures.


One Way Home begins as Carrie approaches her fifteenth birthday and the second anniversary of her mother’s death. She meets Meadow, a street person whose sorrowful, slightly amused, somewhat distant expression reminds her of her mother. With an urgent desire to help, and conscious of her longing for a friend, Carrie offers money and clothing. Indifferent to these offerings, Meadow states that she just wants to go home. This sparks hope in Carrie that she could actually help someone. Her two years of fending for herself after the death of her mother and her father’s subsequent depression, she feels, however misguidedly, capable of accompanying Meadow to her remote reserve.

On this journey by bus and on foot, the two girls form a tentative and tenuous bond as they navigate the misconceptions and preconceptions of their respective worlds. They encounter subtle and overt racism, a shock to the naïve Carrie. While lost in the forest after fleeing from an attempted abduction, hunger, thirst, and heavy rains threaten their survival.


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