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MA grad Sabrina Reeves releases her debut novel, Little Crosses

Semi-autobiographical work examines addiction, family dysfunction and a complicated mother-daughter relationship
July 3, 2024
By David Silverberg

Woman wearing a dark sweater, gazes thoughtfully into the distance. Sabrina Reeves, MA 19 | Photo credit: Tony Chong

When actor and author Sabrina Reeves, MA 19, was a graduate student at Concordia, she started to write what would become her recently published debut novel, Little Crosses (House of Anansi Press).

The story, about a woman who reflects on her fraught relationship with her mother — a force of nature who suffers from alcohol-related dementia — was deeply personal. 

“I had another idea in mind, but this book was so much a part of my life that my partner urged me to focus on it,” says Reeves. “He knew how much I was living the story in real time.”

As she completed her master’s in creative writing, Reeves travelled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to assist her mother — who, like the mother in Little Crosses, suffered from dementia and alcoholism — as she transitioned to an assisted-living facility. Reeves’s mother passed away in 2020.

“I realized how angry I was, but anger is really just grief,” she says. “I just wanted her to be present. I wanted to talk to her, but she wasn’t there anymore.”

Released on March 19, Little Crosses has earned positive reviews.

“If a narrative about a mother descending into alcoholic dementia sounds too downbeat a read (or just too close to the bone), Reeves’s tale proves just the opposite,” wrote the Toronto Star. “By turns uplifting, profound, angry, she is never disengaged, never boring.”

Stage presence

Raised in Boston and New York, Reeves first graduated from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama with her BFA. She then moved back to New York, where she acted on stage and screen.

It was while in the Big Apple where Reeves met her husband, David Usher, the lead singer of the Canadian rock band Moist who has his own connection to Concordia. The Montreal-based couple have been married for 27 years and have two daughters. 

Soon after Reeves moved to the city in 1997, she co-founded bluemouth inc., a not-for-profit performance collective that puts on immersive events for audiences in alternative spaces.

Sabrina Reeves's novel "Little Crosses" with a dark blue and orange background. Reeve’s semi-autobiographical work examines addiction, family dysfunction and a complicated mother-daughter relationship.

One of the company’s original creations, Dance Marathon, is described as “a genuine endurance contest” that invites amateurs to move with bluemouth’s performers. 

“The audience can sit and just watch the show, but very few do,” says Reeves. “A lot of them take pride in competing!”

Between her commitments to bluemouth and her family, Reeves made the decision to go back to school in the mid-2010s — and took pride herself when she was named recipient of the Dean of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Creative Writing.

“It was wonderful to be in a program with such terrific writers, and to be getting regular and detailed feedback which challenged me to keep learning and growing as a writer.”

Up next for bluemouth is Lucy AI, which will explore the life of a collective member diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. Usher’s company, Reimagine AI, is also involved in creating the interactive installation which will debut at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre in November.

“Interdisciplinary performances sometimes have the reputation of being too dry or clever by half,” observes Reeves. “We try to infuse our work with emotion.”

Now that Little Crosses is out in the world, Reeves is overjoyed with the emotional impact it has had on readers. 

“I think many of them relate to the main character, Cassie, and how she’s stuck in her so-called sandwich years raising small children and caring for an aging parent. It’s that feeling of being pulled in two directions — and that’s a situation a lot of people find themselves in.”

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