When Anna Maxymiw accepts a summer job as a housekeeper at a fishing lodge in Northern Ontario, she has little idea what to expect. At twenty-three, she has decided to step away from her master’s degree and city life to board a floatplane bound for the remote boreal forest.
For sixty-seven days, Anna will be working and living alongside twelve strangers. Together this group of young men and women will keep the lodge running. While the fishing guides head out on the water with the fishermen who are the lodge’s guests, the women stay on land to clean and serve. Against the backdrop of a vast lake, wild storms, and hot days and eerily still nights, Anna encounters bears, bugs, and the lore surrounding the lake’s legendary pike. As the summer progresses, complex (and sometimes fraught) bonds form between the men and women who work at the lodge, the ownership of the lodge changes hands, and tensions build. And Anna notices a shift in her outlook, too: she finds herself letting go of fears and insecurities and welcoming surprises and possibilities, both good and bad, with a willingness to be changed by them.
Warm, funny, vulnerable, and wise, DIRTY WORK offers a singular perspective on the age-old impulse to leave familiar surroundings behind. This memoir is for anyone who has ever felt the urge to test themselves and wondered how they’d fare and who they’d be when they come out on the other side.
“Anna Maxymiw’s writing is utterly magnetic and captivating. Her most stunning achievement is the overwhelming generosity she injects into every word. Generosity for the sketchy airplane engines, for the bears, for the temperamental housekeepers and moody guests — generosity even for the f***ing pike. As Maxymiw opens herself up to the boreal forest, to an unforgiving wilderness, she invites us in to spend time laughing with her, crying with her, and maybe even accidentally extending some of that generosity to ourselves.” –Elamin Abdelmahmoud
“Crows, shit, water wolves, and pheromones whirl in Maxymiw’s bush camp tense with rigid gender roles, its wildness framed by surprising portraits of the two cities she left behind.” –Kathleen Winter, author of Lost in September
“Dirty Work is a sparkling gem of a book, showcasing the enduring, complex magic of this country’s unforgiving yet rewarding terrain. Beyond being an exquisite writer, Maxymiw has a real gift for revealing the glory and the cruelty, the beauty and the filth of both the natural and human world. We are lucky to have her perspective and singular voice—one that’s not only refreshing, but necessary.” –Stacey May Fowles, author of Baseball Life Advice
“Anna Maxymiw is a beautiful writer. She weaves her memories into a vibrant and spectacular narrative that makes it impossible to stop reading. I’m in awe of her willingness to be so open and candid and honest and warm, and we’re all very lucky she lets us go with her on such an incredible and transformative adventure. She also achieved the impossible: she made me want to spend time outdoors.”
—Anne T. Donahue, author of Nobody Cares
“What a luminous and surprising book this is. Anna Maxymiw lands in the middle of the wilderness and turns her sharp and compassionate eye on everything she sees, whether it’s a fish, bear, outhouse or fellow housekeeper. She finds them all fascinating, and through the gift of her storytelling so do we.” —Elizabeth Renzetti, author of Shrewed
Anna Maxymiw’s writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Hazlitt, and Maisonneuve, and has won a National Magazine Award. She lives in Toronto.