Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

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Book Cover Big Water

Andrea Curtis: The Weight of Water

By [Kerry Clare]

A fantastic list of books in which water features as a defining force, by the author of new novel Big Water

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The Chat with Claire Tacon

The Chat with Claire Tacon

By [Trevor Corkum]

What happens when a young woman with Williams syndrome, her doting father, and her father’s teenaged co-worker head to …

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Book Cover Gay Heritage Project

16 Books for Pride Month

By [Kerry Clare]

Time to put the spotlight on these books by LGBTQ writers and/or about LGBTQ issues, an eclectic list that includes fict …

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Book Cover the Sign for Migrant Soul

Richard Cumyn: Good Stories in Small Packages

By [Kerry Clare]

"Whenever I can, I try to shine a light on the short form in this country, to give the slim but sinewy book its due."

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Book Cover The Showrunner

All Books Are Beach Books: Get Your Summer Reads Locked In

By [Kerry Clare]

From this eclectic selection, you're sure to find a book that suits you perfectly. 

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Book Cover Pulse Point

Best Dystopian YA

By [Kerry Clare]

"My favourite part of reading dystopian books is learning the many versions of our world that authors create."

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Quick Hits: 5 Books with Awesome Reviews

Quick Hits: 5 Books with Awesome Reviews

By [Kiley Turner]

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction …

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Book Cover Homes

11 Life Stories To Read This Spring

By [Kerry Clare]

This assortment of memoir, biography, and autobiography brings real life to the page, and into the minds of readers. 

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The Chat: 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize Roundtable

The Chat: 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize Roundtable

By [Trevor Corkum]

In honour of all things Griffin, this week’s Chat is a conversation with the three 2018 Canadian Griffin Prize finalis …

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Book Cover The Third Person

Emily Anglin: "I like compartments in my writing"

By [Kerry Clare]

A recommended reading list from the author of The Third Person

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Andrea Curtis: The Weight of Water

Big Water is Andrea Curtis's debut novel, and she marks its release with this fantastic list of books that will make for riveting dockside or beach reading. 

*****

Big Water is a young adult novel inspired by the true story of one of the worst shipwrecks in the history of the Great Lakes. The main characters are the only two survivors, teenagers Christina and Daniel, stuck in a lifeboat, corpses at their feet. But the water—horrible and beautiful all at once—is equally a protagonist. Its fickle moods and outrageous power shape the plot and arc of the other character’s experience. 

My own life has also been defined by this water. Georgian Bay, known as the sixth Great Lake, is the landscape of my heart and imagination. I have grown up there, sung into the wind, swum, paddled and skimmed over its surfaces and explored its depths. I love and fear it in equal measure.

In a country like Canada, so rich in water (inland and coastal), it’s hardly surprising that many other writers have also felt its formidable weight on their psyche. The list below includes both adult and young adult novels that treat water not as incidental colour or backdrop, but as a defining force in their character’s lives.

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The Chat with Claire Tacon

Tacon - PC Julio Lopez Romero
TREVOR CORKUM cropped

What happens when a young woman with Williams syndrome, her doting father, and her father’s teenaged co-worker head to Chicago in search of a piece of amusement park history? That’s the premise of Claire Tacon’s superb new novel, In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo (Poplar Press/Wolsak and Wynn).

Quill and Quire calls the novel “an engaging family saga and road-trip adventure.” Andrew Hood, writing on Bookshelf, says, “In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo is equal parts compassionate and tough, fun and punishing.”

Claire Tacon’s first novel, In the Field, was the winner of the 2010 Metcalf-Rooke Award. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Bronwen Wallace Award, the CBC Literary Prizes and the Playboy College Fiction Contest, and has appeared in journals and anthologies such as The New Quarterly, SubTerrain and Best Canadian Short Stories. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and is a past fiction editor of PRISM international. Claire is a lecturer at St. Jerome’s University and runs the …

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16 Books for Pride Month

tagged : pride, lgbtq

June is Pride Month, which is the best excuse to put the spotlight on these books by LGBTQ writers and/or about LGBTQ issues, an eclectic list that includes fiction, poetry, memoir, nonfiction, and books for young readers—not to mention books by award-winning authors and some of the most buzzed-about titles of the season.  

*****

The Unfinished Dollhouse: A Memoir of Motherhood and Identity, by Michelle Alfano

About the book: No mother is prepared for the moment when a child comes out to her as a person whose physical gender is out-of-keeping with his emotional and psychological gender-identity. In Michelle Alfano's intimate memoir, she recounts her experience as the mother of a transgender child. 

The central metaphor of The Unfinished Dollhouse tells the story: on Frankie's fourth birthday, her parents Michelle and Rob purchased a kit to create a beautiful dollhouse. Michelle imagined building the home, buying the tiny pieces of furniture and accessories to fill it and, more importantly, the times she and her daughter would spend constructing the perfect dollhouse—a fantasy of domestic and familial happiness. Frankie expressed no interest in such typically girlish pursuits because Frankie harboured a secret—a secret about gender.  

In the years to follow, Franki …

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Richard Cumyn: Good Stories in Small Packages

Richard Cumyn's latest book is The Sign for Migrant Soul, and in this list he spotlights other great story collections and novellas. 

*****

Whenever I can, I try to shine a light on the short form in this country, to give the slim but sinewy book its due. Canadians have always written outstanding short and long stories. Women and LGBTQ writers are leading the way, expanding the form stylistically and exploring the literary potential of a structure that demands precision, efficiency, original expression and an uncanny third eye for the way people can be complex, unpredictable beings. You have to pay attention when you’re reading a well-written short-story or novella. The effect can be long lasting and transformative.

This is by no means a best-of list or anything close to comprehensive. It’s an idiosyncratic compilation of ten recent short-story collections and novellas I think deserve attention. It’s guilty of bias, favouritism, myopia, relative illiteracy—you name it. It’s exclusive out of ignorance and serendipity rather than malice. Some of these titles are books I’ve reviewed, liked and hung on to. Some were written by friends.  We tend to find and recognize each other; it’s still a small community. 

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All Books Are Beach Books: Get Your Summer Reads Locked In

Just as all bodies are beach bodies, all books are beach books—it just depends on the reader—and in compiling this list, we're assuming that readers are looking for books that are rich, enveloping, and formula-defying. From this eclectic selection, you're sure to find a book or two (or three) that fits you perfectly. 

*****

Document 1, by Francois Blais, translated by JC Sutcliffe

About the book: Tess and Jude live in small-town Quebec and spend their time travelling all across North America—using Google maps—which provides them the luxury of adventure while remaining in the comfort of their own home. But Tess and Jude are dreamers, and their online adventures eventually give rise to a desire to actually travel somewhere. They settle on Bird in Hand, Pennsylvania, and begin scheming to raise the cash they'll need for the trip. 

After a series of hilarious ideas that never pan out, they turn to a local experimental author (who has a major crush on Tess) and convince him to apply for an arts council grant on their behalf. But when they actually receive the grant money, can the pull it all together for a real adventure?

Funny, smart and wonderfully human, Document 1 is a tragicomic tale of two dreamers and their quest for adventure, as well as a satirical take on t …

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