About Frances Itani

Frances Itani is a Member of the Order of Canada and best-selling author who has published 18 books (novels, stories, poetry and children’s work), as well as reviews for the Washington Post, numerous articles and essays. She has won many awards for her work, including a Commonwealth Prize for best book, Library & Archives Canada Scholars Award (2019), shortlistings for the IMPAC Dublin Award and the Giller Prize, and she’s a 3-time winner of the CBC Literary Award. She has travelled widely and has lived, worked and studied in 7 Canadian provinces, as well as England, U.S.A., Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus. She is well known as a teacher and guest speaker, and her work —translated and published in 18 countries — is frequently discussed by book clubs. Her new novel is The Company We Keep (2020). Frances lives in Ottawa.

Visit Frances Itani’s website.

From the publisher:

Hazzley is at loose ends, even three years after the death of her husband. When her longtime friend Cassandra, café owner and occasional dance-class partner, suggests that she start up a conversation group, Hazzley posts a notice on the community board at the local grocery store. Four people turn up for the first meeting: Gwen, a recently widowed retiree in her early sixties, who finds herself pet-sitting a cantankerous parrot; Chiyo, a forty-year-old fitness instructor who cared for her unyielding but gossip-loving mother through the final days of her life; Addie, a woman pre-emptively grieving a close friend who is seriously ill; and Tom, an antiques dealer and amateur poet who, deprived of home baking since becoming a widower, comes to the first meeting hoping cake will be served. Before long, they are joined by Allam, a Syrian refugee with his own story to tell.

These six strangers are learning that beginnings can be possible at any stage of life. But as they tell their stories, they must navigate what is shared and what is withheld. Which version of the truth will be revealed? Who is prepared to step up when help is needed? This moving, funny and deeply empathic new novel from acclaimed author Frances Itani reminds us that life, with all its twists and turns, never loses its capacity to surprise.


The Company We Keep is a multifaceted meditation on the living world of grief, starting with the irony of its title. With her characteristic compassion and gentle humour, Frances Itani brings us to Hazzley’s Grief Discussion Group, where we learn that grief assumes many guises – and isn’t always for the departed.” 

Wayne Grady

“Itani’s company is Always Worth Keeping but this new set of characters is grieving in surprising and diverse and sometimes embarrassing ways, and doing it so wholeheartedly and experimentally, that I jumped into the group of them for good and keeps. This is a book that brings comfort and joy.” 

Linda Spalding

“Frances Itani leads us away from a raucous world of politics and plagues in this insightful examination of lives left ragged by the surprising complexity of grief.”

Linden MacIntyre