The Proper Order of Things

  Inspired by the true life Connecticut circus fire of 1944 and the popular music of American superstar Neil Diamond, The Proper Order of Things opens with narrator, CAROLINE sitting in her mother's closet, discussing the division of her family.  Unsure why she is the only child (of 9) who gets to choose between moving with her dad to an apartment in the city (Kitchener, ON) and staying with her mother in her remote hometown (Mitchell County, ON), pre-pubescent Caroline receives an answer that she will contemplate throughout her adolescent years:

"You are the lucky one."

  With parents whose secret past haunts every limb of the family tree, and siblings who range from rats to copycats, Caroline is sure to have a difficult journey no matter which household she chooses. While her compulsive mother SHERRY allows the Quartz family to multiply exponentially in hopes of erasing the past, her superstitious father PETER is petrified of history repeating. Misbelieving that her parents are orphaned siblings rather than serendipitous lovers, Caroline's only hope is to move closer to CHESTER—the one person who truly understands the importance of a pinkie swear.

  Failing to reconnect with her confidante, Caroline stands out in her new schools, church, and community, drawing more attention to her family's quirks with every effort she makes to blend in. While Caroline is on the verge of coming-of-age, her younger sister DESIREE seems destined to get there first. And, whether it's nightmares and dreams spilling over into a sister's bunk below, or an older brother lurking in her shadow, Caroline's job of protecting the family’s reputation continues even after lights are out and visitations are over.

  In a family where a birthday is seemingly more sacred than life itself, only a mother's death can reveal the truth about its members. Leaping in for the final act, it is Chester who proves to Sweet Caroline once and for all that the show must go on.


“Finished The Proper Order of Things by Tara Benwell. Great first novel! Very Miriam Toews-ish.”  Graham Strong

“Tara Benwell has created a compellingly weird atmosphere and in Caroline's mother an extraordinary literary figure, an obsessive-compulsive halfway between Miss Haversham and flower-child. The Proper Order of Things is about growing up and trying to make sense of a bizarre and partly disordered world which is, at the same time the only normality the Quartz children have ever known. And the denouement, when we finally understand what was what and why things are as they are is as gripping as it is sweetly optimistic. There's an original voice here, one we will be reading a lot more of.”

Jeremy Harmer

“I loved this book! It is a beautifully written coming-of-age story. This book has it all. Ms. Benwell effortlessly combines drama, intrigue and humor and she throws in a couple of surprising twists. Her characters are unique yet relatable, and she deals with some difficult topics with insight and humor. I couldn't put it down! Highly recommended."

Tanya Trusler

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Why Tara decided to self publish? Too many responses like this...

"Sorry it's taken me forever to answer you about Tara Benwell's novel. I've really been agonizing over it! What a great book! Crazy characters, really fine writing, good narrative. I loved every minute of reading it! But I've been swamped with exceptional manuscripts. And we can publish only four or five novels per year. After struggling my way to several really difficult decisions, I find myself unfortunately having to say no. Please tell Tara how impressed I am with the novel and her writing and congratulate her. And please do keep me in mind for any of her future projects."