The nights are cooling down and with the drop in temperature comes a frisson of excitement about a new season of life, and of books. Already Canadian publishers have begun releasing the titles with the potential to make a splash in the fall, during lit fests, during award season, and in bookstores. And more will come in the next few weeks. Here's a round-up of some of the most promising novels and short story collections geared for adults. Poetry, non-fiction, and kids lit will follow in the next couple of weeks.
Of course there will be more remarkable Canadian books that will emerge this fall; we will endeavour to introduce these to you as well through our regular editorial programming.
Long-awaited novels from celebrated authors compose a good portion of what we can look forward to this fall. Governor General's-Award-winning author David Gilmour examines sibling relationships and the incredible condition of being alive while anticipating imminent death in his novel, Extraordinary. Fans of Margaret Atwood will be buoyed to hear Booklist's verdict that the final work in her dystopian trilogy, Maddaddam, is anchored by a "feverishly suspenseful plot."
Another Canadian lit icon, Doug Coupland, offers his first full-length work in four years, Worst. Person. Ever., "a deeply unworthy book about a dreadful human being with absolutely no redeeming social value." In a couple of weeks' time, we will see the release of The Orenda, Joseph Boyden's historical epic that reimagines the embattled lives of the Huron Nation and Iroquois; Steven Galloway (author of The Cellist of Sarajevo) calls it "... not only Boyden's finest work ... [but] one of the most powerful novels I've ever read."
Michael Winter is back with Minister Without Portfolio (his latest since The Death of Donna Whalen) in which the central character escapes his life to war in Afghanistan, comes back more troubled than ever, and attempts to tackle his guilt and regrets through the purchase and restoration of a house. War is the central theme in Robert McGill's Once We Had a Country, which "re-imagines the impact of the Vietnam War by way of the women and children who fled with the draft dodgers."
Questions of right and wrong, independent agency versus family responsibility, and paths taken and not taken occupy Stacey May Fowles in her novel Infidelity, her latest since Fear of Fighting. Dennis Bock follows up his national bestseller The Ash Garden with Going Home Again, a novel that considers the complexities of falling into, and out of, love.
Anthony de Sa, whose debut collection, Barnacle Love, was shortlisted for 2008's Giller Prize, returns with Kicking the Sky, set in 1970s' Toronto and focused on the perspective of a 12-year-old Portuguese boy on a bike face-to-face with the nastier parts of the city at that time. Dark themes also permeate Genie-nominated screenwriter and playwright Matthew Heiti's The City Still Breathing, in which a corpse touches the lives of 11 people in Sudbury, Ontario.
Betrayal and secrets figure large in The Widow Tree by Nicole Lundrigan, an author increasingly known for her deft touch with suspense. Suspense is also a big component in The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (whose debut novel was the much-lauded The Rehearsal): the novel's publisher calls it "a bold neo-Victorian murder mystery." Mary Swan's My Ghosts looks at how history and the stories of our ancestors echo through modern life through a narrative that gives voice to different generations. Mary Lawson also explores families moving through history in her novel Road Ends, including some of the characters from Crow Lake and focusing this time on the time period of the 60s.
Set in 1966, Barry Dempster's The Outside World tackles the travails of growing up through the lens of a Toronto teenager whose mom is an agoraphobic and whose sister is mentally challenged. Cary Fagan's novel A Bird's Eye is also a coming-of-age story; this perspective and its magical themes have seen it compared to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. An air of other-worldliness also pervades Christene A. Browne's Two Women, in which a mother tells her blind twin daughters stories at night that make them question what is real and what is not.
Keith Hollihan (author of the critically acclaimed The Four Stages of Cruelty) offers us Flagged Victor, which looks at the bonds of male friendship—and their testing—through the narrative of two friends who embark on a crime spree. Also occupied with crime: Darryl Whetter's novel Keeping Things Whole, set in Windsor, Ontario; here, the central character has to make a choice between the criminal segment of his income (and psychology) and the love of a woman.
Michael Hingston examines the turbulent post-adolescent years in his "campus novel," The Dilettantes. Norm Sibum's The Traymore Rooms imagines a different demographic: a group of older friends sharing stories, love, and disappointments in various Montreal establishments. ReLit Award-winning author Greg Kearney gives us The Desperates, a blackly comic take on living and dying and loneliness in between. Eucalyptus, originally published in French by Mauricio Segura to great acclaim, has now been translated by Donald Winkler: it is billed as a "captivating story of blood, hatred, vengeance and politics." And Jennifer LoveGrove questions the Jehovah’s Witness practice via fiction in Watch How We Walk, which Publisher's Weekly says contains "blisteringly gorgeous prose."
In short stories, we have a much-heralded debut collection from Vancouver's Shaena Lambert called Oh, My Darling, as well as one from Toronto writer Sara Heinonen: Dear Leaves, I Miss You All.
How to Expect What You're Not Expecting is a collaborative effort from many writers detailing the more painful potential of motherhood: loss. Another collaboration boasts a who's who of Atlantic fiction greatness: Running the Whale's Back: Stories of Faith and Doubt from Atlantic Canada; as the title suggests, its contributors consider religion and spirituality.
Rosemary Nixon's Are You Ready to Be Lucky? looks like great fun; fellow author Lisa Moore says of the collection, "There is so much to admire in a Rosemary Nixon story it's hard to know where to begin." For a challenge (that reviews so far say is well worth it), try Red Girl Rat Boy by Cynthia Flood. Nothing is perfect for the characters in Peter Unwin's stories, Life Without Death, but they struggle nonetheless for some hold on life and meaning in it. Stories in Kelli Deeth's The Other Side of Youth, too, sidle up to life's complexity, ricocheting between longing, desire, and grief.
For wide-ranging territory, check out The Laboratory of Love, by Patrick Roscoe, set in Spain, Africa, California, and British Columbia, and said to be filled with darkness and beauty. And for more from one of Canada's stylistic greats, pick up Douglas Glover's Savage Love, an unconventional, funny, and sometimes unsettling take on love.
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