Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2019 Fiction Preview

New year, new books! The first half of 2019 promises glorious literary delights, and we begin our Spring Preview with a spotlight on fiction. 

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André Alexis's latest is Days By Moonlight (February), "a journey through an underworld that looks like southern Ontario, a journey taken during the 'hour of the wolf,' that time of day when the sun is setting and the traveller can't tell the difference between dog and wolf, a time when the world and the imagination won't stay in their own lanes." Watcher in the Woods (February) is the latest thriller in Kelley Armstong’s City of the Lost series. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale gets adapted again, this time into a graphic novel (March) with illustrations by Renée Nault. A spellbinding, down-the-rabbit-hole tale about loneliness and belonging, creativity and agency, female friendship and desire, Bunny (June) is Mona Awad's second book after her acclaimed 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. Bestselling and award-winning author Todd Babiak returns with The Empress of Idaho (April), an immersive and affecting story about a teenager’s fascination with an enigmatic new woman in town whose past is catching up with her.

Kris Bertin follows up his award-winning debut Bad Things Happen with Use Your Imagination (June), stories about stories, about the way we define and give shape to ourselves through all kinds of narratives, true or not. David Bezmozgis’s first story collection in a decade is Immigrant City (March), and it presents immigrant characters with all their contradictions and complexities, their earnest and divided hearts. From acclaimed Québecoise writer Sophie Bienvenu, and translated by JC Sutcliffe, comes Worst Case, We Get Married (May), a powerful and moving coming-of-age novel. Within the dreamlike atmosphere of Marie-Claire Blais’ A Twilight Celebration (March), a novelist falls prey to nightmares in which his children and other artists are threatened by the violence of our world.

The debut novel by Becky Blake, two-time winner of the CBC Literary Prize, is Proof I Was Here (May), a picaresque coming-of-age story of a young thief and aspiring artist who attempts to reboot her life on the streets of Barcelona. The latest by Michael Blouin (who has won the ReLit Award for Best Novel and been shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award, the bp Nichol Award, the CBC Literary Award, and others) is Skin House (February). Alan Bradley’s new Flavia de Luce novel is The Golden Tresses of the Dead (January), in which Flavia and her father’s valet, Dogger, have founded a detective agency and unexpectedly cut into their first case during the revelry at her sister Ophelia’s wedding reception. And Daniel Bryant’s debut is Rerouted (April), a collection of linked short stories in which myth, mirth, and mayhem are never far away. 

Steve Burrows’ sixth Birder Murder Mystery is A Dance of Cranes (June), in which Inspector Domenic Jejeune, newly estranged from his girlfriend, returns to Canada, where he soon receives news that his brother has gone missing. Balancing satire with compassion, Bruce Cinnamon’s debut novel The Melting Queen (April) combines history and magic to weave a splendid future-looking tale. Racing to find a killer before he strikes again, an unlikely investigator is haunted by an even more unlikely source in Michael J. Clark’s Mahoney’s Camaro (May). And who better to devise a half-baked plan to rob a crack house with a shotgun and cleaver than the character in Trevor Clark's latest novel, Damaged at Daybreak (April)?

Megan Gail Coles’ first book was the brilliant story collection Eating Habits for the Chronically Lonesome, and her debut novel is Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club (February), billed as blistering Newfoundland Gothic for the twenty-first century. Sally Cooper's With My Back to the World (May) is set in Taos, New Mexico and Hamilton, Ontario, and it explores unexpected motherhood, creativity, race, love and faith. And Denis Coupal's debut novel is Blindshot (March); Will Ferguson calls it "a high-calibre bullet of a book: smart, fast and full of twists."

Book Cover The Western Alienation Merit Badge

Set in Calgary in 1982 during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada's National Energy Program, award-winner Nancy Jo Cullen’s The Western Alienation Merit Badge (May) follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. A poignant picture of love and loyalty, and based on historical events, The Envy of Paradise (May), by Jocelyn Cullity, is a fictional account of four people who played key roles during the 1857 uprising in Lucknow, one of the most significant resistances to English rule in India. Explosions large and small—a world away, in the Middle East, in the land of opportunity in western Canada, and in his own home in Falkirk Cove—threaten to turn upside down everything a Cape Bretoner has ever known in Alison DeLory's Making It Home (June). 

Anthony De Sa’s latest is Children of the Moon (April), a compelling story of love, war and the differences that both divide and unite us. Radicalized (March), by Cory Doctorow, is a timely novel comprising four SF novellas connected by social, technological, and economic visions of today and what America could be in the near future. Elizabeth of Bohemia (June) is David Elias’s sweeping, cinematic novel about the life of the Winter Queen, Elizabeth Stuart. Cary Fagan's latest is The Student (May), a compassionate and compelling work of fiction that brings together two pivotal times in history. A collection of 60-plus miniature fictions riffing on the theme of happiness, M.A.C. Farrant’s The Great Happiness (March) is written as an antidote to the all-pervasive climate of doom that we are living through. Four women—friends, family, rivals—turn to online dating for companionship, only to run afoul of a tech-savvy killer in Joy Fielding’s latest, All the Wrong Places (March). And Andrew Forbes’ second collection is Lands and Forests (May), which rifles through the domestic and wild moments that make us human. 

An American super-fan and an A-list British actor struggle with the consequences of obsession and celebrity in Dream Sequence (April), by award-winning writer Adam Foulds. In the process of sorting through the grandmother's belongings, Alice unlocks a family secret in Ariela Freedman's second novel, A Joy to be Hidden (March), set in a vividly recreated late-90s New York City. Mama’s Boy Behind Bars (June) is the second book in David Goudreault’s wildly successful and darkly funny Mama’s Boy trilogy, translated into English by J.C. Sutcliffe. Bestseller Genevieve Graham’s new book is At the Mountain’s Edge (April), a sweeping novel of love, tragedy, and redemption set during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. And the birth, life, and death of Canada’s first gay-liberation newspaper are examined in the play Body Politic (April), by Nick Green. It's an historical drama that tracks the massive shifts of queer identity and politics over generations.

Christian Guay-Poliquin’s second novel, a post-apocalyptic tale of survival, is The Weight of Snow (March), translated from French by David Homel. Amira Khan has no plans to break her no-dating rule but plans go awry in Farah Heron’s The Chai Factor (June). Mooncalves (April), by Victoria Hetherington, follows the bloody implosion of a cult in Sainte-Pétronille, Quebec, understood through the urgent voices of the living and a ring of ghostly, shape-shifting watchers. Novelist Karen Hofmann releases her first short story collection, Echolocation (May), in which stories catch protagonists at pivotal moments in their lives. And David Homel's eighth novel is The Teardown (March), about a man in a middle-age slump who dares to reinvent himself. 

Niall Howell’s Only Pretty Damned (April) revolves around performers in a travelling circus from the vantage point of Toby, who used to be a headline trapeze artist but has been relegated to clown. When his ex-lover and trapeze partner moves on with another partner, Toby cannot contain his darkness. Forbidden Purple City (March) is the debut story collection from Philip Huynh, whose work appears in last year’s Journey Prize Anthology. Heidi L.M. Jacobs’ novel Molly of the Mall, Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear (May) is a 90s look at retail, university life, and romance. And Maureen Jennings, of Murdoch Mysteries fame, releases Heat Wave (March), set in Toronto in 1936; it begins with an anti-Semitic letter received at a PI firm by its junior associate, Charlotte Frayne. 

From Amy Jones, the bestselling author of We’re All in This Together, comes Every Little Piece of Me, a novel about family, friendship, fame, and the cost of living in the public eye—because when everyone suddenly knows your name, it’s easy to forget who you really are. The plague has hit Italy, and Dr. Alana Vaughn must find the source in time to save the world in Daniel Kalla’s We All Fall Down (March). The stories of Irena Karafilly's Walking the Dog vividly dissect the infidelities committed wittingly and unwittingly by men and women as they try to make sense of their place in the world. From bestseller Guy Gavriel Kay comes A Brightness Long Ago (May), set in a vivid world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offering an extraordinary cast of characters whose lives come together through destiny, love, and ambition. And Thomas King’s new DreadfulWater mystery is A Matter of Malice (January), in which Thumps becomes involved with a cold-case reality-TV series when its producer dies in the same way as victims in the case the show is covering. 

From Ausma Zehanat Khan, A Deadly Divide (February) is the devastatingly powerful new thriller featuring beloved series detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty. Katherine Koller, the author of Art Lessons, a finalist for the Robert Kroetch City of Edmonton Book Prize and the Alberta Readers' Choice Awards, releases Winning Chance (May), stories exploring second chances, how we find them, and how we find the courage to take them. Marie-Sissi Labrèche's auto-fictional novel, Borderline (June), describes a young girl's experience growing up in Montreal's working-class neighbourhood of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Alex Laidlaw’s Dead Flowers (April) is a collection of stories about youth, love, isolation, drugs, friendship, and the changing of the seasons. And history will not stay buried in The Birds That Stay (February), by Ann Lambert, a mystery novel set in the Laurentians north of Montreal. 

Book Cover Autopsy of a Boring Wife

Winner of the Quebec Bookseller's Prize and shortlisted for the Governor General's Award, Stéphane Larue's The Dishwasher (May), translated into English by Pablo Strauss, is about life as a dishwasher at a high-end restaurant. Marie-Renée Lavoie’s Autopsy of a Boring Wife (March) tells the funny and ultimately touching tale of 48-year-old Diane, a woman whose husband is having an affair because, he says, she bores him. Elise Levine's first short story collection in a quarter century is This Wicked Tongue (May), tough and tender, filled with complicated people longing for independence from the scripts of the past. In Vita (April), by Susan E. Lloy, the stories are about angst, seduction, escape and extinction—a whisper in the ear convinces a lady to take the plunge, another to take up surfing, a young man to jump in front of a moving train, and there is joy in settling a score with despised neighbours and a conspiracy under the California sun i

While their lives swirl with the challenges of mental health, addiction, and grief, three motel dwellers manage to forge a friendship over a litter of stray cats in The Nap-Away Motel (May), by Nadja Maria Lubiw-Hazard. As Orbit’s life passes, he doggedly pursues a simple dream—a little place in the country where a family might thrive—while wondering if he can ever shake free of the tragedies that seem to define him in Rabindranath Maharaj’s latest novel, Fatboy Fall Down (April). The Strange September of Levi Pepperfield (April), by Matthew Manera, is the story of a man who tries to navigate his future as a retired English professor while indulging in the sorrow of lost possibilities that define his past. And Honouring the Strength of Indian Women: Plays, Stories, Poetry is a collection of the works of Ktunaxa-Secwepemc writer and educator Vera Manuel, daughter of prominent Indigenous leaders Marceline Paul and George Manuel. It represents a collaboration by Deanna Reder, Emalene Manuel, Joanne Arnott, and Michelle Coupal, four Indigenous writers and scholars steeped in values of Indigenous ethics and editing practices. Manuel's "Strength of Indian Women" play was first performed in 1992 and is one of the most important literary works to deal with the trauma of residential schools.

Creepy and atmospheric, evocative of Stephen King’s classic Pet SemataryThe Migration (March) is a story of sisterhood, transformation, and the limitations of love, from award-winner Helen Marshall. Missy Marston follows up her award-winning debut, The Love Monster, with Bad Ideas (April), loosely inspired by Ken “the Crazy Canuck” Carter’s attempt to jump the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car, and set in a 1970s hollowed-out town in eastern Ontario. Derek Mascarenhas’s debut, Coconut Dreams (April), explores the lives of the Pinto family through seventeen linked short stories. When tragedy erupts on a stifling summer night, three ordinary people, with the extraordinary jobs of rescuing strangers, are connected to one another in ways both explicit and invisible in The Waiting Hours (April), by Shandi Mitchell, award-winning author of This Unbroken Sky. 

In What a Young Wife Ought to Know (April)—an unflinching look at love, sex, and fertility, and inspired by real stories of mothers during the Canadian birth-control movement of the early twentieth century—one of Canada's most celebrated playwrights, Hannah Moscovitch, vividly recreates a couple's struggles with reproduction. In Birds of a Kind (May), a sweeping new drama from the prolific Wajdi Mouawad, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hits close to home as a straight-laced family is forced to confront everything they know about their identities. The debut story collection by Téa Mutonj, who was celebrated by the Ontario Book Publishers Organization as a Scarborough Emerging Writer in the 2017 “What’s Your Story?” contest, is Shut Up You’re Pretty (March), the first book to be published under VS. Books.

Capturing the emblematic ennui of a brooding Montréalaise, Aphelia (April) is a millennial novel by one of Quebec's brightest young feminists, Mikella Nicol, translated by Lesley Trites. Based on a true unsolved crime from 1877, Laurie Glenn Norris's debut novel, Found Drowned (June), tells the story of two small towns linked by the disappearance of a teenage girl. Dual Citizens (June) is the latest from Scotiabank Giller finalist Alix Ohlin, a novel about motherhood, love and the search for belonging, and what it means to be a sister. A 2017 finalist for the Playwright Guild of Canada’s prestigious Carol Bolt Award for Playwrights, Redpatch (April), by Sean Harris Oliver and Raes Calvert, focuses on how First Nations soldiers and communities contributed to Canada’s involvement in the First World War.

Acclaimed writer Julie Paul’s latest collection of stories is Meteorites (June), exploring family dynamics and frailty, loss and atonement, faith and redemption. In her play The Other Side of the Game (May), Amanda Parris turns the spotlight on the Black women who organize communities, support their incarcerated loved ones, and battle institutions, living each day by a ride-or-die philosophy, strengthening their voices and demanding to be heard. The Homecoming (February) is Andrew Pyper's gripping new psychological thriller about how the people you’ve known your whole life can suddenly become strangers. And Linda Quennec's debut novel is Fishing For Birds (May), set against the tropical beauty of 1920s Cuba and the Northwest Coast of contemporary time. 

Zalika Reid-Benta’s debut is Frying Plantain (June), interconnected stories set in Toronto’s Little Jamaica neighbourhood. Crisscrossing Ottawa, Toronto, and Lebanon, The Allspice Bath (May), by Sonia Saikaley, is a bold story about the cultural gap and the immigrant experience. Dora Award-winning playwright Kat Sandler’s latest is Bang Bang (April), a comedy that traces the responsibility we have as artists in storytelling and the impact of what it means to be inspired by true events. For fans of Stephen King’s Misery and Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman comes Seven Days (January), a thriller about a monster who becomes a victim and a victim who becomes a monster, from Quebec author Patrick Senécal, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott.

“My name is Bina and I’m a very busy woman. That’s Bye-na, not Beena. I don’t know who Beena is but I expect she’s having a happy life. And I don’t know who you are, or the state of your life. But if you’ve come this way to listen to me, your life will undoubtedly get worse. I’m here to warn you…” And so begins the latest book by award-winning author Anakana Schofield: Bina (May). Joel Scott’s follow-up to Arrow’s Flight is Arrow’s Fall (April), in which a tale of an 18th-century sunken ship and a fortune in gold sends Arrow and her crew on a venture that seems harmless enough—until it’s not. In her debut collection, Divided Loyalties (February), acclaimed poet Nilofar Shidmehr depicts the lives of Iranian women in post-revolutionary Iran and the contemporary diaspora in Canada. Political corruption forces a former White Army counterintelligence officer to choose between love and the emerging Lithuanian state in Provisionally Yours (March), by Antanas Sileika. And overlaying rich historic detail and an intricate plot, espionage novel Doublespeak is an entrancing sequel to Alisa Smith’s first novel Speakeasy, a Walter Scott Prize Academy recommended book of 2018. 

Amy Spurway’s Crow (March) is witty, energetic, and crackling with sharp Cape Breton humour. Marissa Stapley’s The Last Resort (June) is set at a couples’ therapy retreat at a luxurious island getaway where things have just taken a turn for the darker—and it’s not just the impending hurricane. Bindu Suresh’s debut novel is 26 Knots (May), a series of interlocking love stories. Promising to earn back his son’s previously gambled inheritance, Dale Paul dreams up an illegal lottery for his fellow prison inmates based on the death of old and frail celebrities in Susan Swan’s new novel, The Dead Celebrity Club (April). And Drew Hayden Taylor’s play, Cottagers and Indians (April) is a dramatization of contemporary confrontations taking place between environmentalism and consumerism, Indigenous and non-Indigenous sensibilities.

Susie Taylor is the previous winner of the NLCU Fresh Fish Award for emerging writers, and her debut novel is Even Weirder Than Before (April), which explores the nature of family, friendships, and sexual awakenings. Master storyteller and bestselling author Richard Van Camp captures the shifting and magical nature of the North in his new collection of short stories, Moccasin Square Gardens (April). A Palace in Paradise (May), by Mehri Yalfani, is a novel about the complex Iranian refugee and immigrant community in Toronto and the way in which one woman's death changes the lives of many others. The stories in Tracey Waddleton’s Send More Tourists...the Last Ones Were Delicious (June) cross boundaries of geography, gender, and generation with an eye to the transient nature of human life

From Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning Jo Walton comes Lent, a magical re-imagining of the man who remade fifteenth-century Florence—in all its astonishing strangeness. Three misfits cycle the Camino de Santiago backwards in Patrick Warner's My Camino (June), a book about identity, art, and spirituality. Wedding bells, a grisly murder, and a defecting Russian spy bring new drama to King’s Cove in A Deceptive Devotion (April), the latest in Iona Whishaw’s popular Lane Winslow mystery series. Audrey J. Whitson’s latest book is the novel The Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning (April), about an Alberta town that is as haunted as it is haunting. Ian Williams has been celebrated for his poetry and short fiction, and his debut novel is Reproduction (January), a surprising and poignant love story about the way families are invented. And Penelope Williams’ fiction debut is Lies that Bind (April), about a woman whose unravelling life leads her back to the hometown full of nasty secrets and simmering resentments. 

January 7, 2019
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