An Idea About My Dead Uncle

An Idea About My Dead Uncle

"Guernica Prize" series #1

by K.R. Wilson
  • adventure
  • debut
  • diversity
  • literary

A young, mixed-race composer, raised without meaningful connections to his Chinese heritage and struggling with identity issues, travels to China in search of his long-missing uncle, an uncle who vanished in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square.

An Idea About My Dead Uncle--winner of the inaugural Guernica Prize for the best unpublished novel manuscript--is about the identities we choose and the ones that are imposed on us. It is about being on the outside looking in. It is about dealing with pain through the artistic process. It is about delusion and healing. It is about the power of narrative.

According to Gabriella Goliger, winner of the 2011 City of Ottawa Literary Award for Fiction for her novel Girl Unwrapped and a juror for the Guernica Literary Prize: "A witty, sharp-edged, finely-crafted story about a young man struggling with identity issues, which causes relationship disasters and a quest for his long lost uncle in China. The introspective but straightforward narrative eventually plunges into the surreal, mirroring the madness that can result from an uncompromising search for self."


K.R. Wilson, author

K.R. Wilson was born in Calgary and lives in Toronto. An Idea About My Dead Uncle, the winner of the 2018 Guernica Prize for Literary Fiction, grew out of the journey he and his wife made to China to adopt their daughter, and the research into Chinese history and culture that it inspired.


  • A story of identity, family, perception, and, of course, music, Wilson's novel is a tale of healing through the creative process itself, set against a rich political and historical backdrop. - Open Book, Open Book
  • I quite liked this novel. It blended some subtle character-driven and plot-driven techniques to step outside the box and deliver an enjoyable reading experience. The protagonist, Jason Lavoie, is a mixed-race young composer, who comes over at first as a level-headed, albeit passive individual. Jason is doubly assimilated - half-Franco-Albertan, he cannot speak French; half-Chinese, he knows nothing about China or its language. In a quest to understand at least his Asian side, he embarks on a journey to find an uncle lost decades before in China. But this journey only begins at the mid-point of the novel. Before then, Jason is a floater -- having no sense of clear direction or purpose, and parentless, he is easily drawn to two women who show affection and interest in him. When these relationships cross and implode, he is pretty much left with nothing. So, he strikes out on an adventure promising some meaning to his life. The two-part story may be somewhat off-putting for readers who look for better structure and coherence in a narrative. Admittedly, the first half of the novel does drag on compared to the faster pace of the second where Jason's journey offers some finely crafted encounters with the people and landscapes of little known regions in China. Bathing in the exoticism of the new milieu and the unfolding of the mysterious disappearance of his uncle, Jason gradually strengthens his persona as a "seeker." In a classically aesthetic quest for the truth, Jason leaves by the wayside his material possessions and braves the elements to find his metaphorical uncle. A relaxing and memorable story, this novel is a solid 4.5 star read. - Ian Thomas Shaw, Ottawa Review of Books


  • Winner, Guernica Prize for Literary Fiction

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Guernica Editions



rights available: World

Additional Information

age range: General

number of pages: 214

publication date: 09/01/2019

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book