Rising Stories: A Novel

Advance Comments, and a Brief Description

“The recurring pleasure of Rising Stories lies in the subtle interaction between people and buildings, the skyscrapers of Chicago revealing their various personalities as sites for intimate, sometimes harrowing, human stories. An elegant and affecting novel.”
—Mark Kingwell, author of Nearest Thing to Heaven: The Empire State Building and American Dreams, and of Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City 

Rising Stories manages to surprise, satisfy and delight all at the same time. . . . The narrative is gentle in tone but magisterial in scope, and shies away at nothing, including the death of hope in various forms. ‘There is never a good reason for not trying to do good,’ a dead grandmother cautions, ‘but nor should we assume we will succeed.’ An original and compelling page turner.”
Elizabeth Abbott, author of Sugar: A Bittersweet HistoryA History of Marriage and Dogs and Underdogs: Finding Happiness at Both Ends of the Leash

Rising Stories fuses an ode to the romance of Chicago’s towering skyline with a gripping exploration of the mix of tentative affirmation, quiet desperation, and sometimes, vertiginous loss that characterizes the lives of its inhabitants. Its depiction of a child’s uncertainties and stubborn hopefulness conjures an evocative sense of the enduring humanity that animates this cityscape. Running through all of this is a powerful meditation on the continuing role of art in the face of a seemingly indifferent modernity.”
   Paul Keen, author of Literature, Commerce, and the Spectacle of Modernity 

“An exquisitely thoughtful, metaphysical novel about maturation, space, and identity. LePan’s prose is delicate and deceptively simple, but powerful in its ability to expose the gravity of childhood and old-age. . . . An illuminating and deeply felt book.”
Melissa Asher Daniels, University of Alabama Birmingham

“A beautiful novel what will tell you as much about the history of urban architecture as about the resilience of art, children, and ghosts. LePan gently but firmly touches on the big issues of the twenty-first century . . . to probe the human impact of them all. . . . Rising Stories might make you turn away from the clock, and maybe even lose sleep, to keep reading. . . . It is worth it as you inhabit lives that emerge from tragedy and you share the possibilities of quiet redemption that can come from painting, community, time travel, and, most of all, storytelling.”
Laura Moss, co-author of Canadian Literature in English


a brief description of the novel:

On impulse, a child stops on the way home from school to pay a relative a visit; Robin’s great-grandmother lives on the 68th floor of a Chicago high-rise. Lives? Or lived? And is it 68? Or 86? Out of a child’s confusion come a remarkable series of encounters between youth and age.
    K.P. Sandwell, now in her nineties, remembers something of her years in Rio—and relives a time in the late 1930s when she had moved from Winnipeg (“the Chicago of the north”) to Chicago itself, had tried to make a name for herself as an artist, and had found the world seeming to conspire against her. Robin relives again and again a tragic twist of fortune that cannot be changed. In the end, the story converges on the Art Institute of Chicago, where the child makes an extraordinary attempt to reverse another twist of fortune—one that befell K.P. more than sixty years earlier.
    Rising Stories is a sometimes wrenching, sometimes amusing, always thought-provoking novel about growing up and growing old; about hope and ambition; about cities and skyscrapers; about the world of the imagination and the world as it is; about love and desire; about what God or good may be; and about death and what we hope or fear may follow. 


​ab0ut the author 

​Don LePan has spent most of his adult life working as a book publisher; he is the founder of the academic publishing house Broadview Press. He has also worked as a taxi driver in Toronto, a hospital cleaner in Lewes, England, and a teacher in rural Zimbabwe. He holds a BA from Carleton University, an MA from Sussex University and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Trent University in 2004 for his contribution to academic publishing. His non-fiction books include a study of Shakespeare’s plots, a writing handbook, and a glossary of literary terms. In recent years he has presented papers at many academic conferences, primarily in the areas in Animal Studies and Victorian Studies. Rising Stories is his second book of fiction.
    Born in Washington, DC and raised in Ontario, LePan spent many years as a resident of Calgary, and has lived for briefer periods in New Orleans, Louisiana. Since 2009 his home has been Nanaimo, British Columbia.