Surfacing is a captivating novel written by Margaret Atwood, a renowned Canadian author, poet, and literary critic. Published in 1972, it tells the story of an unnamed narrator who embarks on a quest to find her missing father and confront her own identity.

The Plot

The novel unfolds as the narrator and her three friends, Anna, David, and Joe, venture into the remote wilderness of northern Quebec, seeking solace and a respite from their urban lives. As they immerse themselves in the serene landscapes, their seemingly ordinary journey turns into a transformative experience.

While in the wilderness, the narrator becomes increasingly consumed by the mystery surrounding her father’s disappearance. As she unearths fragments of his life through old photos and letters, she begins to question her own existence and the constructs of her past. The search for her father takes on a symbolic meaning, representing her quest for self-discovery and the need to confront repressed memories.

Awards, Criticisms, and Acclaim

Surfacing has received widespread acclaim for its evocative prose and exploration of themes such as identity, feminism, and environmentalism. Although it did not win any major literary awards, it was shortlisted for the esteemed Governor General’s Award for Fiction in Canada.

Critics have praised Margaret Atwood’s skillful storytelling and the novel’s atmospheric depiction of the Canadian wilderness. Some have interpreted the protagonist’s journey as a metaphorical descent into madness, while others have highlighted the novel’s commentary on societal expectations and the erasure of women’s voices.

Memorable Characters

The central character, the unnamed narrator, serves as a conduit for the reader’s own introspection. Her complex inner world and turbulent emotions make her relatable and engaging. Through her eyes, Atwood explores themes of female agency, mental instability, and the search for autonomy.

Anna, one of the narrator’s friends, embodies a free-spirited and independent woman. Her presence challenges societal norms and provides a contrasting perspective to the narrator’s introspection. David, a college professor, grapples with his own insecurities and reflects the tensions between intellectual pursuits and primal instincts. Joe, Anna’s boyfriend, represents a more traditional masculine figure, often imposing his opinions and desires on others.


Surfacing is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that delves into the complexities of identity, memory, and self-discovery. Margaret Atwood’s exquisite writing elevates the narrative, capturing the reader’s attention and imagination. Through its exploration of personal and societal confines, Surfacing invites readers to question their own assumptions and embark on their own journeys of self-reflection.

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