Launchpad: Polar Vortex, by Shani Mootoo

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This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're featuring award-winning writer Shani Mootoo whose new release is Polar Vortex, an intense, propulsive read about a love triangle that turns out to be even more complicated than that, a novel that's gorgeously wrought and excruciatingly (in the best way!) unputdownable. 

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Priya has not come clean with her partner Alexandra about her old university friend Prakash, with whom she had a long push-and-pull relationship, and who perhaps now holds grudges and wants answers about that complicated past—and who Priya has now invited in their home.

Describe your ideal reader.

Someone who is willing to go someplace they haven’t been. And who will savour the journey, sentence by sentence.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with:

I believe I share with Elena Ferrante and Rachel Cusk an interest in the shifting and unreliable mind and narration of a protagonist who is, at the same time, entirely believable.

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book? 

In order to create a believable protagonist, my modus operandi is often to "become" that character for much of the duration of the writing of the book—this time I learned that my character’s most devious, even odious, traits are human characteristics that lurk as possibilities in my own deepest and darkest corners. 

If Polar Vortex were to be made as a movie, who do you think would make a good director for it, and who do you imagine playing Priya, Alex and Prakash?

I'd get behind Maria Schrader, Dee Rees or Gurinder Chada as director. I don't know a Ugandan actor who can play Prakash or a Trinidadian for Priya, but I think any of these amazing directors would find the appropriate untrained people and help them to shine. And, of course, Kate Blanchette for Alex!

An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.

“The Gang,” a group of friends—a fluctuating number, but no less than thirteen—who gather together for what we call Friday Night Dinners, even if they happen on, say, a Tuesday, and who provided during the course of the writing of Polar Vortex, much needed distraction, laughter, good food, and all round silliness. They know who they are.

What are you reading right now or next?

The Dishwasher, by Stephane Larue.

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About Polar Vortex:

Some secrets never die...

Priya and Alexandra have moved from the city to a picturesque countryside town. What Alex doesn't know is that in moving, Priya is running from her past—from a fraught relationship with an old friend, Prakash, who pursued her for many years, both online and off. Time has passed, however, and Priya, confident that her ties to Prakash have been successfully severed, decides it's once more safe to establish an online presence. In no time, Prakash discovers Priya online and contacts her. Impulsively, inexplicably, Priya invites him to visit her and Alex in the country, without ever having come clean with Alex about their relationship—or its tumultuous end. Prakash's sudden arrival at their home reveals cracks in Priya and Alex's relationship and brings into question Priya's true intentions.

Are we ever free from our pasts? Can we ever truly know the people we are closest to? Seductive and tension-filled, Polar Vortex is a story of secrets, deceptions, and revenge.

April 9, 2020
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