Michelle Berry's latest book is The Prisoner and the Chaplain, an absolutely gripping story that starts off as philosophy, and twists into a neat thriller you'll be riveted to right to the end in order to discover whodunnit. (Listen to Jael Richardson recommending The Prisoner and the Chaplain on CBC Radio q!) This is Berry's ninth book, and in her spare time (ha ha) she can be found behind the counter in her phenomenal bookstore in Peterborough, ON, Hunter Street Books. With the holidays coming up and people looking for gift ideas, we thought this new book was a very good excuse to ask Berry for her favourite Canadian books to sell in her store, and/or the ones that keep flying off the shelf.
The Last Neanderthal, by Claire Cameron
About the book: 40,000 years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. After a crushingly hard winter, their numbers are low, but Girl, the oldest daughter, is just coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the annual meeting place and find her a mate.
But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling of unknown origin. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter storms, Girl realizes she has one final chance to save her people, even if it means sacrificing part of herself.
In the modern day, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby comes. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of early motherhood, both stories examine the often taboo corners of women's lives. Haunting, suspenseful, and profoundly moving, The Last Neanderthal asks us to reconsider all we think we know about what it means to be human.
This Is Not My Life, by Diane Schoemperlen
About the book: “Never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer.”
For almost six turbulent years, award-winning writer Diane Schoemperlen was involved with a prison inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. The relationship surprised no one more than her. How do you fall in love with a man with a violent past? How do you date someone who is in prison? This Is Not My Life is the story of the romance between Diane and Shane—how they met and fell in love, how they navigated passes and parole and the obstacles facing a long-term prisoner attempting to return to society, and how, eventually, things fell apart. While no relationship takes place in a vacuum, this is never more true than when that relationship is with a federal inmate. In this candid, often wry, sometimes disturbing memoir, Schoemperlen takes us inside this complex and difficult relationship as she journeys through the prison system with Shane. Not only did this relationship enlarge her capacity for both empathy and compassion, but it also forced her to more deeply examine herself.
Little Sister, by Barbara Gowdy
About the book: Rose is a sensible woman, thirty-four years old. Together with her widowed mother, Fiona, she runs a small repertory cinema in a big city. Fiona is in the early stages of dementia and is beginning to make painful references to Rose’s sister, Ava, who died young in an accident.
It is high summer, and a band of storms, unusual for their frequency and heavy downpour, is rolling across the city. Something unusual is also happening to Rose. As the storms break overhead, she loses consciousness and has vivid, realistic dreams—not only about being someplace else, but also of living someone else’s life.
Is Rose merely dreaming? Or is she, in fact, inside the body of another woman? Disturbed and entranced, she tries to find out what is happening to her.
Like The White Bone, Gowdy’s international bestseller, Little Sister is a fictional tour de force. As the author explores the limits of the human mind, the result is an impassioned tale of one woman’s determination to help a woman she has never met, and to come to terms with a death for which she has always felt responsible.
American War, by Omar El Akkad
About the book: Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war as one of the Miraculous Generation and now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past—his family's role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.
Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
About the book: When Marilla Cuthbert and her brother, Matthew, decide to adopt a child from a distant orphanage, they don't get quite what they bargained for. The child who awaits them at the tiny Bright River train station is not the strapping young boy they'd imagined—someone to help Matthew work the fields of their small farm--but rather a freckle-faced, redheaded girl named Anne (with an e, if you please).
Matthew and Marilla may not be sure about Anne, but Anne takes one look at Prince Edward Island's red clay roads and the Cuthberts' snug white farmhouse with its distinctive green gables and decides that she's home at last. But will she be able to convince Marilla and Matthew to let her stay?
Armed with only a battered carpetbag and a boundless imagination, Anne charms her way into the Cuthberts' hearts—and into the hearts of readers as well. She truly is, in the words of Mark Twain, "the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice."
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood Alias Grace
About the book: In this astonishing tour de force, Margaret Atwood takes the reader back in time and into the life and mind of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century. In 1843, at the age of sixteen, servant girl Grace Marks was convicted for her part in the vicious murders of her employer and his mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Grace herself claims to have no memory of the murders. As Dr. Simon Jordan—an expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness—tries to unlock her memory, what will he find? Was Grace a femme fatale—or a weak and unwilling victim of circumstances? Taut and compelling, penetrating and wise, Alias Grace is a beautifully crafted work of the imagination that vividly evokes time and place. The novel and its characters will continue to haunt the reader long after the final page.
This Accident of Being Lost, by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
About the book: This Accident of Being Lost is the knife-sharp new collection of stories and songs from award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. These visionary pieces build upon Simpson's powerful use of the fragment as a tool for intervention in her critically acclaimed collection Islands of Decolonial Love. Provocateur and poet, she continually rebirths a decolonized reality, one that circles in and out of time and resists dominant narratives or comfortable categorization. A crow watches over a deer addicted to road salt; Lake Ontario floods Toronto to remake the world while texting "ARE THEY GETTING IT?"; lovers visit the last remaining corner of the boreal forest; three comrades guerrilla-tap maples in an upper middle-class neighbourhood; and Kwe gets her firearms license in rural Ontario. Blending elements of Nishnaabeg storytelling, science fiction, contemporary realism, and the lyric voice, This Accident of Being Lost burns with a quiet intensity, like a campfire in your backyard, challenging you to reconsider the world you thought you knew.
Who Broke the Teapot?, by Bill Slavin
About the book: Mom is very angry. Her very favorite teapot is broken, and no one is 'fessing up. Was it Dad, sitting in his underwear reading the paper? Was it Cat, who was all tangled up in a ball of yarn? Was it Baby perched in his highchair? Or is there a surprising twist to this mystery that teaches Mom a little lesson in anger management? Bill Slavin takes a sly poke at parents in their less-than-finer moments in this funny and energetic story.
The Inconvenient Indian Illustrated, by Thomas King
About the book: Since its publication in 2012, The Inconvenient Indian has become an award-winning bestseller and a modern classic. In its pages, Thomas King tells the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Native and Indigenous people in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. This new, provocatively illustrated edition matches essential visuals to the book's urgent words, and in so doing deepens and expands King's message. With more than 150 images—from artwork, photographs, advertisements and archival documents to contemporary representations of Native peoples by Native peoples, including some by King himself—this unforgettable volume vividly shows how "Indians" have been seen, understood, propagandized, represented and reinvented in North America.
Here is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger and tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope—an inconvenient but necessary account for all of us seeking to tell a new story, in both words and images, for the future.
Embers, by Richard Wagamese
About the book: In this carefully curated selection of everyday reflections, Richard Wagamese finds lessons in both the mundane and sublime as he muses on the universe, drawing inspiration from working in the bush—sawing and cutting and stacking wood for winter as well as the smudge ceremony to bring him closer to the Creator. Embers is perhaps Richard Wagamese's most personal volume to date. Honest, evocative and articulate, he explores the various manifestations of grief, joy, recovery, beauty, gratitude, physicality and spirituality—concepts many find hard to express. But for Wagamese, spirituality is multifaceted. Within these pages, readers will find hard-won and concrete wisdom on how to feel the joy in the everyday things. Wagamese does not seek to be a teacher or guru, but these observations made along his own journey to become, as he says, "a spiritual bad-ass," make inspiring reading.
The Big Book of Nature Activities, by Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg
About the book: The average child can identify over 300 corporate logos, but only 10 native plants or animals—a telling indictment of our modern disconnection from nature. Soaring levels of obesity, high rates of ADHD, feelings of stress and social awkwardness and "Nature Deficit Disorder" are further unintended consequences of a childhood spent primarily indoors.
The Big Book of Nature Activities is a comprehensive guide for parents and educators to help youth of all ages explore, appreciate and connect with the natural world. This rich, fully illustrated compendium features:
- Nature-based skills and activities such as species identification, photography, journaling and the judicious use of digital technology
- Ideas, games and activities grounded in what's happening in nature each season
- Core concepts that promote environmental literacy, such as climate change and the mechanisms and wonder of evolution, explained using a child-friendly, engaging approach
- Lists of key species and happenings to observe throughout the year across most of North America.
- Perfect for families, educators, and youth leaders, The Big Book of Nature Activities is packed with crafts, stories, information and inspiration to make outdoor learning fun!
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