Get Out Of Town: 11 Literary Getaways

Last summer we brought you The 13 Worst Holidays in Canadian Literature, and let me tell you, they were pretty traumatic—children drowned, parents were eaten by bears, another kid threw up in a box of comic books. This year, however, we're going for a more feel-good vibe, or at least aiming for none of our literary journeys to be compared with Lord of the Flies—which we totally failed at by the way, see Kim Fu's novel below for a case in point.

*****

Atomic Road, by Grant Buday

Where to? An artists' colony in Emma Lake, Saskatchewan. 

About the book: Art critic Clement Greenberg, champion of abstract expressionism, is more interested in silencing his rival Harold Rosenberg than with the threat of nuclear destruction.

Greenberg is driving from New York to the Emma Lake artist colony in Saskatchewan, where he intends to silence Rosenberg once and for all. With him is infamous Marxist Louis Althusser, who escaped prosecution for strangling his wife in France on an insanity plea. Althusser is heading to a Saskatchewan hospital for LSD therapy.

Pursuing them is Jean Claude Piche, a veteran of the conflicts in Indochina and Algeria, contracted to execute Althusser for the unpunished murder.

The 1950s were Greenberg's decade. Yet by 1962, everywhere Greenberg looks he is bedevilled by Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup cans, just as everywhere Althusser looks he sees capitalist decay.

Jean Claude catches Greenberg and Althusser at Niagara Falls. The enigmatic arch patriot Swen catches all three in North Dakota. Convinced that they are communist subversives, Swen imprisons and interrogates them even as, hour by hour, minute by minute, Khrushchev and Kennedy threaten to launch World War III.

An absurdist romp, Atomic Road charts its own course between historical veracity, fictional invention, and the unfettered egotism of two mad intellectuals.

*

Document 1, by Francois Blais, translated by JC Sutcliffe

Where to? Nowhere. This is the most epic staycation ever.

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 the world of letters.

*

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, by Kim Fu

Where to? A canoe trip to a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. 

About the book: A group of young girls descends on Camp Forevermore, a sleepaway camp in the Pacific Northwest, where their days are filled with swimming lessons, friendship bracelets and camp songs by the fire. Bursting with excitement and nervous energy, they set off on an overnight kayaking trip to a nearby island. But before the night is over, they find themselves stranded, with no adults to help them survive or guide them home.

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore follows these five girls—Nita, Kayla, Isabel, Dina and Siobhan—through and beyond this fateful trip. We see the survivors through the successes and failures, loves and heartbreaks of their teen and adult years, and we come to understand how a tragedy can alter the lives it touches in innumerable ways. In diamond-sharp prose, Kim Fu gives us a portrait of friendship and of the families we build for ourselves—and the pasts we can’t escape.

*

A Place You'll Never Be, by Rick Hillis

Where to? Another canoe trip, this time through Northern Saskatchewan. 

About the book: Six Days. Five Inmates. One Guard.

Traversing the vast, serene wilderness in Northern Saskatchewan, a group of prisoners sets out on a six day canoe trip. Quinn, an inmate trustee, has been recruited for the pilot project meant to physically and emotionally challenge a small set of inmates about to be released after long terms inside for violent crimes. Their leader, Leggett, only thinks he's in charge. Inviting along a new parole officer, Martha, and her teenage son, Brian, is just the first of his mistakes. An insect plague of biblical proportions has taken over the north country, and the inmates have always had a secret plan.

The river quickly becomes a place of reckoning. Except for Quinn, the prisoners reject any hope for rehabilitation. By the end of day six, the men find themselves grappling with violence, mutiny, and a plot to harvest and sell drugs down the river, all of which echoes off the incessant buzzing that surrounds them as millions of mysterious insects follow along in the forest, destroying anything they come across - plants, animals, even humans... 

A Place You'll Never Be is a story of external action and internal redemption. The injured Quinn is forced to evolve, facing his past, and along with Martha and Brian, they all must find the strength to survive as they race to the end of the river.

*

Where's Bob?, by Ann Ireland

Where to? A Mexican tourist resort

About the book: Newly divorced, Lydia’s life is in a downward spiral. Looking for respite, she takes off on a vacation to Mexico with her formerly estranged mother. But instead of sun and sand, what she finds beyond the hotel’s miniature jungles and Mayan statuary and folk dancing is a country where the people, many of whom serve her and her mother at the resort, live in fear, their lives dominated by cartels and corruption, and where journalists and politicians are made to disappear for even poking around the truth. But it’s also where she finds Bob, a mysterious man from Detroit who works all the angles.

Peeling away the fantasy veneer of the tourists’ Mexico to reveal a real life underworld of money laundering, political intimidation, and murder, Where’s Bob? offers up a fast-paced tragicomic page-turner about mothers and daughters and the callous blindness of tourists, and how easy it is to slip from one world into the other.

*

An Ocean of Minutes, by Thea Lim

Where to? Galveston, Texas—in the middle of a pandemic. 

About the book: America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan. Time travel has been invented; if she signs up for a one-way trip into the future to work as a bonded labourer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a terrifying new world to find Frank, to discover if he is alive, and to see if their love has endured.

An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous, devastating novel about courage, yearning, the cost of holding onto the past--and the price of letting it go.

*

The Honey Farm, by Harriet Alida Lye

Where to? An artists' retreat in remote Northern Ontario—or so they claim... 

About the book: Vintage Margaret Atwood meets Patricia Highsmith in this slyly seductive debut set on an eerily beautiful farm teeming with secrets.

The drought has discontented the bees. Soil dries into sand; honeycomb stiffens into wax. But Cynthia knows how to breathe life back into her farm: offer it as an artists' colony with free room, board, and "life experience" in exchange for backbreaking labour. Silvia, a wide-eyed graduate and would-be poet, and Ibrahim, a painter distracted by constant inspiration, are drawn to Cynthia's offer, and soon, to each other.

But something lies beneath the surface. The edenic farm is plagued by events that strike Silvia as ominous: taps run red, scalps itch with lice, frogs swarm the pond. One by one, the other residents leave. As summer tenses into autumn, Cynthia's shadowed past is revealed and Silvia becomes increasingly paralyzed by doubt. Building to a shocking conclusion, The Honey Farm announces the arrival of a bold new voice and offers a thrilling portrait of creation and possession in the natural world.

The Philistine, by Leila Marshy

Where to? Egypt. 

About the book: Nadia Eid doesn't know it yet, but she's about to change her life. It's the end of the '80s and she hasn't seen her Palestinian father since he left Montreal years ago to take a job in Egypt, promising to bring her with him. But now she's twenty-five and he's missing in action, so she takes matters into her own hands. Booking a short vacation from her boring job and Québecois boyfriend, she calls her father from the Nile Hilton in downtown Cairo. But nothing goes as planned and, stumbling around, Nadia wanders into an art gallery where she meets Manal, a young Egyptian artist who becomes first her guide and then her lover. Through this unexpected relationship, Nadia rediscovers her roots, her language, and her ambitions, as her father demonstrates the unavoidable destiny of becoming a Philistine—the Arabic word for Palestinian. With Manal's career poised to take off and her father's secret life revealed, the First Intifada erupts across the border. Nadia needs to decide what all this has to do with her.

*

Sailing in Circles Goin' Somewhere, by Finley Martin

Where to? Peoria, Illinois, but indirectly. 

About the book: Not all dreams have happy endings. Sailing in Circles, Goin’ Somewhere is the funny, bittersweet memoir of a Prince Edward Island man who, over seven years, builds a classic 1930s wooden sailboat and, in 2004, attempts to circumnavigate eastern North America. The author leaves a small fishing port on the Island and tracks along the rugged coast, up the St. Lawrence River, and through the Great Lakes. Alone, he encounters heavy fog, near-collisions with freighters, mechanical breakdowns, enormous seas, several brushes with disaster, and even a hostile reception at one French-speaking port. He meets odd and curious people. It all comes to an inglorious and mundane end when the author and his boat, the Arja D., are stuck in, of all places, Peoria, Illinois. Was it worth it? Maybe.

Written by Finley Martin, a respected Island fiction writer, this finely crafted and humorous book will appeal to adventurers, sailors, and lovers of a good yarn.

In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo, by Claire Tacon

Where to? Chicago Comic Com

About the book: When Henry Robinson's first daughter, Starr, is born with Williams Syndrome, he swears to devote his life to making her happy. More than twenty years later, we find Henry working at Frankie's Funhouse, where he repairs the animatronic band that Starr loves, wrestling with her attempts at living outside the family home. His wife, Kathy, wishes he would allow Starr more independence, hoping that Henry will turn his attention a little more to their own relationship and to their other daughter, who is pregnant. As tensions mount Henry's young co-worker, Darren, reveals he needs to get to Chicago Comic Con to win back his ex-girlfriend, so Henry packs Starr (and her pet turtles) and Darren (still dressed as Frankie the mascot) into the van for a road trip no one was prepared for.

Told in multiple points of view, we hear from Henry, Darren and Starr as they all try to find their place in the world. In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo is a charming, tender and often funny story of a father struggling to let his daughters grow up and of a family struggling against hard odds, taking care of each other when the world lets them down.

*

It Begins in Betrayal, by Iona Wishaw

Where to? London, England—to save a good man from being tried for treason! 

About the book: Summer descends over the picturesque King’s Cove as Darling and Lane’s mutual affection blossoms. But their respite from solving crime is cut short when a British government official arrives in Nelson to compel Darling to return to England for questioning about the death of a rear gunner under his command in 1943.

In Darling’s absence, Ames oversees the investigation into the suspicious death of a local elderly woman and uncovers a painful betrayal inflicted forty years earlier. Meanwhile, Lane follows Darling to London, where he is charged with murder and faces hanging. While desperately seeking answers, Lane is presented with a proposal that could save the man she loves, but only if she returns to the very life she sought to leave behind.

August 13, 2018
Books mentioned in this post
Atomic Road

Atomic Road

by Grant Buday
introduction by John O'Brian
edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
More Info
Document 1

Document 1

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info

edition:
also available: Hardcover Book Book
tagged :
More Info
Sailing in Circles, Goin' Somewhere

Sailing in Circles, Goin' Somewhere

Not Your Typical Boat Story
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
It Begins In Betrayal

It Begins In Betrayal

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
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