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  • Location: Toronto, Cape Breton

The Clay Girl

The Clay Girl

Why a Booktrail?

1960s: Toronto in the 1960s was a hotbed of many things. “A chaotic decade of loss and love” for some.

  • ISBN: 978-1770413030
  • Genre: Fiction

What you need to know before your trail

Vincent Appleton raises a gun and aims it at his head. His daughters are left without a father and in utter despair.

Eight-year-old Hariet, or Ari as she likes to be called, is dispatched to Cape Breton and her Aunt Mary, who is purported to eat little girls.

To cope with the trauma, Ari takes with her an imaginary companion, a seahorse by the name of Jasper. They arrive in Pleasant Cove and find refuge with Aunt Mary and her partner Nia.

Meanwhile in Toronto, Ari’s twisted mother and sisters remain. When later she is forced back to the city, her new stepfather Len and his family offer hope, but as Ari grows to adore them, she’s severed violently from them too, when her mother moves in with the brutal Dick Irwin.

This is the 1960s, this is Toronto. This is the story of a revolution in every sense of the word.

Travel Guide

Heather Tucker takes you on a tour:

Cape Breton

The Clay Girl is set between Toronto and Nova Scotia. It begins in Montreal with Ari being sent to live with her aunts in Cape Breton. The train (there are many train rides for Ari) takes her to Sydney, Nova Scotia where her aunt picks her up and takes her to Pleasant Cove. Pleasant Cove is fictitious, but it’s true to the beautiful little fishing towns and villages that dot the Cabot Trail. I can’t begin to describe how stunning this part of Canada is. The aunts own a studio, Skyfish. Again, fictitious, but it’s a blend of the pottery and art galleries found in Cape Breton. Music is the other thread that weaves right around the trail, significant as Ari’s love is a fiddler named Jake.


As the story unfolds, Ari is sent to Toronto. The Yorkville scene of the sixties is a significant setting, especially the wonderful Riverboat Coffeehouse. It closed back in the seventies but there is a historical plaque in the trendy Yorkville of today. The Beaches in Toronto is one of Ari’s haunts. The long boardwalk where Ari’s meets with both joy and sorrow is much unchanged today. The Goof Diner (Garden Gate) is still opened on Queen Street. Her high school, Jarvis Collegiate, the oldest in Toronto, still stands.

Streetview Maps

A) Cape Breton - Cabot Trail
D) Toronto - The Goof Diner

Trail Gallery

Booktrailer Review


A tricky one to review this as the subject matter is so heartbreaking – Ari Appleton must have two of the most awful parents you could ever have the misfortune to meet. The dad is an incestuous pedophile and the mother an addict. Despite this however, the story is one of hope as Ari is a ray of sunshine and manages to write her own story and therefore her own history at the same time.

She also physically moves away from this background – the drug and sex fuelled days in 1960s and Toronto is not where she needs or wants to be. Pleasant Cove, on the other hand is a nice and necessary contrast to where she is from. This is where she can find what she is looking for and it’s where she’s finally allowed to look back and not with such regret.

A difficult subject but a very moving read.


Booktrail Boarding Pass Information: The Clay Girl

Author/ Guide: Heather Tucker  Destination: Toronto, Cape Breton  Departure Time: 1960s

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