Scratch - A Novel

Magic Green Door
The Spaniards have a derogatory word for tourist, guiri, which is used mainly to describe the crowds who come surging off the cruise ships in their socks and sandals.

The first time a Spaniard called me a guiri, I was crushed. I’d been in Spain for over a month and was trying my best to fit in.

“How long do you think I’m going to look like a guiri?” I asked.

“Forever,” he said. “You will always be a guiri here.”

This was a depressing thought, and one that I internalized in my writing for quite some time. I was living in Barcelona, my favourite city in the world - a city I found incredibly inspiring - but for some reason, I was still writing about Canada. Outside my window, I could see palm trees and wild parrots, but on the page, I was still stuck on a Toronto streetcar staring out at the dirty snow.

A year passed, which included a moment when I threw my tattered map of the city into the garbage, a day when I knew where to buy a hammer, a month when I could suddenly speak Spanish, and a season when I stopped complaining about the heat.

One night, a local stopped to ask me for directions. When I told him I didn’t know the place he was looking for, he apologized, explaining that he’d thought I was from the neighbourhood. “You have a cara del barrio,” he told me. A neighbourhood face. I started writing a story about Barcelona the very next day and Scratch (formerly titled Yours to Keep) is the novel that resulted.

Scratch takes place on the streets of Barcelona and includes many of the things that intrigued me most about the city as I got to know it: the pick-pockets, the graffiti artists, the squatters, the Catalan separatists. Told through the eyes of a Canadian woman who is recovering from a loss by apprenticing as a thief, Scratch is about two Barcelonas: the beautiful tourist destination, and the less photogenic reality underneath.

Forthcoming in Spring 2019. 


Read a sneak preview here...