An Audience of Chairs


355 pages
ISBN 0-676-97655-7
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by June M. Blurton

June M. Blurton is a retired speech/language pathologist.


As a young woman, Moranna MacKenzie seemed to have it all—beauty,
brains, artistic and musical talent, a supportive family, and ambition.
But she also carried the seeds of manic depression, so that she was
either flying high or mired in the depths of depression. Duncan, her
husband, was also ambitious and set his sights on becoming an
international correspondent. By the time their second daughter was a
toddler, he was sent to report on Russia for six weeks, leaving Moranna
to look after the children in her father’s Cape Breton farmhouse. This
led to a near-tragedy. By the end of the summer, Moranna was in a
psychiatric hospital and Duncan had taken the children and left her.

Thirty-four years later, Moranna is still living in the farmhouse. She
has never again seen or heard from her children (although she thinks of
them constantly), but she has learned to control her life without the
assistance of doctors and drugs. The tourists buy her “wooden
people,” carvings inspired by the Scottish stories she heard as a
child, and she finds solace in her lover Bun, who lives with her when he
is not working on the ferries. But then Moranna learns that her older
daughter is to be married in Halifax, and her comfortable existence is
interrupted when she resolves to attend the ceremony.

The story is a good one. The writing is clumsy at times but the
characters come through as sympathetic human beings, and the author
effectively conveys the pain and frustration experienced by anyone who
has a mental illness.


Clark, Joan., “An Audience of Chairs,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,