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Former Penguin publicist lands record-breaking deal for debut novel

Penguin Random House is betting it has found the next big book in Ashley Audrain’s debut novel The Push. The psychological drama about motherhood by the Toronto, Ontario, author was purchased at auction by Penguin U.K.

Penguin Canada, which bought the Canadian rights as part of a two-book deal, didn’t have to look far for Audrain – the 37-year-old worked as the publisher’s in-house publicity director until 2015. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be published by Penguin Random House in so many leading markets across the world,” Audrain said in a release. “My time at Penguin Books Canada was hugely influential in my dream to write a novel.”

In addition to U.K., U.S., and Canadian English rights, the book has closed 23 translation rights deals in less than two weeks – a record for a debut. Publication is expected in early 2021.

“It’s storytelling that sparks discussion, a crucial exploration of motherhood, nature versus nurture, and the depths of loneliness and madness when it doesn’t match up to your own expectations, or people’s expectations of you,” said agent Madeleine Milburn, who represented the manuscript on behalf of the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency. “My heart broke over and over.”

Audrain’s not the only Canadian novelist to score an eye-popping deal for her debut this week. Fiona Foster also sold North American rights to her “feminist noir” The Captive to HarperCollins Canada for six figures.