SISTER LANGUAGE, Christina & Martha Baillie

Sister Language, nonfiction by Christina Baillie & Martha Baillie (Pedlar Press, 2019)

Publication date 1 September 2019

ISBN 978-1-897141-98-4 ||  $24

Martha and Christina Baillie’s book is so remarkable and, that rarest of things, original.  It seems to be what Virginia Woolf called “a conversation into posterity.”

Sister Language is a collaboration, composed mainly of letters and other writings, between two sisters, one of whom, Christina, diagnosed schizophrenic, took her own life before the book was released in 2019.

As this unusual book unfolds, a “bridge” of prose nonpareil is slowly, lovingly, built, connecting the sisters to each other and their readers, drawing one of them out of her deep isolation.

In Sister Language, Christina Baillie writes, LANGUAGE BELIEVES IN THE PATIENT’S REAL EXISTENCE, but this book makes clear that she and her sister Martha believe that language can also be a place of play, trust, exploration, great tenderness and the profound expression of the strangeness, pain and beauty of having a life.  This intimate and attentive correspondence between these two sisters who are both writers is an ode to relationship, understanding, communication, love, and trust as well as the possibilities and negotiations of disability, sisterhood and a life lived through language.  This is a remarkable and moving epistolary novel that thinks deeply about what writing is and what it means to share both writing and one’s self. —Gary Barwin

“Christina chose to take her own life. What she has left behind is an invaluable document testifying to the creativity and profound poetic sensitivity of her life and work. The last line of the book, repeated from an earlier letter and addressed to her younger sister, takes the form of a question. “Martha, Martha, do you? See?” As a result of the courage and clarity of this startling work, we are privileged to be granted insight, understanding, and appreciation.” —Steven W. Beattie

“There is something in this book that can’t be contained, that can’t be held on a page, even if it is “only” language. Even if it’s only made out of words. There’s something unbound, something wild, and an unexpected tenderness in the midst of that wildness. To be invited to witness, to be allowed to share the experience of these two sisters in the playground of this book, it feels so rare. I want to say thank you to Martha for making the impossible necessary, for taking the risk, for keeping faith, for answering the call.”  —Mike Hoolboom