Halfway through our preview of books from the first half of 2020 (check out our Fiction Preview and our Nonfiction Preview, and stay tuned for Poetry coming this week...) and here are some of the trends we're noticing.
The Wild Heavens, by Sarah Butler (March)
About the book: It all starts with an impossibly large set of tracks, footprints for a creature that could not possibly exist. The words sasquatch, bigfoot and yeti never occur in this novel, but that is what most people would call the hairy, nine-foot creature that would become a lifelong obsession for Aidan Fitzpatrick, and in turn, his granddaughter Sandy Langley.
The novel spans the course of single winter day, interspersed with memories from Sandy’s life—childhood days spent with her distracted, scholarly grandfather in a remote cabin in British Columbia’s interior mountains; later recollections of new motherhood; and then the tragic disappearance that would irrevocably shape the rest of her life, a day when all signs of the mysterious creature would disappear for thirty years. When the enigmatic tracks finally reappear, Sandy sets out on the trail alone, determined to find out the truth about the mystery that has shaped her life.
The Wild Heavens is an impressive and evocative debut, containing beauty, tragedy and wonder in equal parts.
Roanoke Ridge, by J.J. Dupuis (March)
About the book: There’s been a string of Bigfoot sightings in Roanoke Ridge. Do they have something to do with the body in the woods?
When Bigfoot researcher Professor Berton Sorel goes missing in the temperate rainforest of Roanoke Ridge, Oregon, help is summoned in the form of his former star pupil, Laura Reagan, online science populist and avowed skeptic. But what begins as a simple search and rescue operation takes a drastic turn when a body is discovered — and it isn’t the professor’s.
Caught in the fallout of the suspicious death, perplexed by a sudden wave of Bigfoot sightings, and still desperately searching for Professor Sorel, Reagan reluctantly admits two things: her old mentor was right about there being secrets hidden in Roanoke Ridge, and it’s up to her to uncover them.
Trump, Trudeau, Tweets, Truth, by Bill Fox (May)
About the book: Media has long been considered a primary site for political discourse in Western liberal democracies, but now, with the advent of social media, giant multinational digital platforms such as Google, and online journalism, the way we do politics, talk politics, and cover politics has completely transformed. Trump, Trudeau, Tweets, Truth considers the ways that technology has led to an irreversible transition in power distribution, political journalism, and public discourse. Discussing how the military-industrial complex of the 1950s gave way to today's celebrity-distribution complex, Bill Fox examines the amount of power accorded to people well-known for being well-known, from Donald Trump to Justin Trudeau. Taking on a Canadian perspective, Fox addresses the disturbing cries of "fake" news in the post-truth age and demonstrates how journalism, no longer the domain of a select few political reporters and editors, has become decentralized and disaggregated. In a world that now plays out on mobile devices, Trump, Trudeau, Tweets, Truth seeks a path through the debris left behind by recent seismic shifts in political media and technology.
The Subtweet, by Vivek Shraya (April)
About the book: Everyone talks about falling in love, but falling in friendship can be just as captivating. When Neela Devaki’s song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins.
But as Rukmini’s star rises and Neela’s stagnates, jealousy and self-doubt creep in. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, one career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the center of an internet firestorm.
Celebrated multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya’s second novel is a stirring examination of making art in the modern era, a love letter to brown women, an authentic glimpse into the music industry, and a nuanced exploration of the promise and peril of being seen.
Her Body, Their Rules
The Birth Yard, by Mallory Tatar (March)
About the book: A debut novel for readers of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Girls, The Birth Yard is a gripping story of a young woman’s rebellion against the rules that control her body
Sable Ursu has just turned eighteen, which means she is ready to breed. Within the confines of her world, a patriarchal cult known as the Den, female fertility and sexuality are wholly controlled by Men. In the season they come of age, Sable and her friends Mamie and Dinah are each paired with a Match with the purpose of conceiving a child. Sable is paired with Ambrose, the son of a favoured Man in the Den. Others are not so lucky.
In their second trimester, girls are sent to the Birth Yard, where they are prepared for giving birth and motherhood, but are also regularly drugged and monitored by their midwives. Sable is unable to ignore her unease about the pills they are forced to swallow and the punishments they receive for stepping out of line. Too many of the girls, including Mamie and Dinah, have secrets and it is impossible to know whom to trust. When Sable’s loyalty is questioned and her safety within the Den is threatened, she must rebel against the only life she has ever known—the only life she has been designed for.
Mallory Tater weaves an intricate narrative, equal parts suspense and action, while twisting contemporary social anxieties to dizzying extremes. She meticulously deconstructs the intricate relationships between womanhood, government and the female body.
The Abortion Caravan, by Karin Wells (April)
About the book: In the spring of 1970, seventeen women set out from Vancouver in a big yellow convertible, a Volkswagen bus, and a pickup truck. It was called the Abortion Caravan. Five thousand kilometres later, they led a rally of 500 women on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, “occupied” the Prime Minister’s front lawn, chained themselves to their chairs in the visitors’ galleries, and shut down parliament—the first and only time this was accomplished. The seventeen were a motley crew. They argued, they were loud, and they took no prisoners. In an era when there was no social media and no one could afford long distance phone calls, they pulled off a national campaign. It changed their lives. And at a time when thousands of women in Canada were dying from back street abortions, it pulled women together across the country. May 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Caravan.
Revery: A Year of Bees, by Jenna Butler (June)
About the book: I hope you're okay in there, lovelies. I hope you're warm. After five years of working with bees on her farm in northern Alberta, Jenna Butler shares with the reader the rich experience of keeping hives. Starting with a rare bright day in late November as the bees are settling in for winter she takes us through a year in beekeeping on her small piece of the boreal forest. Weaving together her personal story with the practical aspects of running a farm she takes us into the worlds of honeybees and wild bees. She considers the twinned development of the canola and honey industries in Alberta and the impact of crop sprays, debates the impact of introduced flowers versus native flowers, the effect of colony collapse disorder and the protection of natural environments for wild bees. But this is also the story of women and bees and how beekeeping became Jenna Butler's personal survival story.
Show Me The Honey, by Dave Doroghy (April)
About the book: When Dave Doroghy’s sister gave him 15,000 honey bees as a Christmas gift, his practical knowledge of beekeeping would have fit on the proverbial backend of an Apis mellifera. He spent the next two years learning everything he needed to know to keep that beehive alive and well—he attended a beekeeping conference, joined a bee club, and even went to bee school. But bad things still happened—he sustained multiple stings, wasps attacked his hive, he fought an ongoing battle with killer varroa mites, and even lost his queen—twice!
In Show Me the Honey Doroghy recounts his often tension-filled misadventures in beekeeping with self-deprecating humour and lightheartedness. Whether it’s the impending chaos of transferring tens of thousands of insects to an outyard, the horror of discovering bees on the inside of his beekeeping suit, or just wondering if he will end up with even an ounce of honey for all his efforts, Doroghy shares the joy, the surprises, and the less-acknowledged financial sting of keeping bees. Above all, he relishes in the details of keeping a hive and getting to know the fascinating little creatures that inhabit those mysterious wooden boxes.
Moms With Secrets
Good Mothers Don't, by Laura Best (April)
About the book: It's 1960, and Elizabeth has a good life. A husband who takes care of her, two healthy children, a farm in the Forties Settlement. But Elizabeth is slowly coming apart, her reality splintering. She knows she will harm her children, wants to harm her children, wants to be stopped from harming her children. She doesn't sleep, becomes incoherent. Elizabeth is taken away.
We rejoin her in 1975, "well" once again, living in a group home and desperately trying to fill in the enormous gaps electric shock therapy has left in her memory. She remembers five words from her past and knows they are significant, but their meaning is slippery and she can't grasp more. She knows that Jewel and Jacob are her children, though she can't picture their faces, and more than anything, she longs to find them and explain that she never meant to leave for so long.
Shifting through time and points of view, acclaimed author Laura Best's first novel for adults allows us to see the ripple effects of mental illness and its treatment in the mid-twentieth century. Good Mothers Don't is a moving exploration of illness, memory, and how we fight for who we love.
Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters, by Anita Kashwaha (June)
About the book: Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—because the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly for Asha, a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, who links them together.
After her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness, leaving Asha with only a letter.
Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.
Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.
Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life.
Three mothers—each bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all. Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.
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