Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Fiction Preview

New books by old favourites, sparkling debuts, and more than a few timely books about pandemics are among the titles that are going to be some of your favourite reads of 2020.

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Caroline Adderson’s A Russian Sister (August) gives a glimpse behind the curtain to reavel the fascinating real-life people who inspired Chekhov’s The Seagull and the tragedy that followed its premiere. Award-winner Edem Awumey's Mina Among the Shadows (October), translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, is a hymn to immutable desire, the power of beauty, and the courage of women. The Night Piece (October) is a career-spanning collection of stories from Andre Alexis, award-winning author of Fifteen DogsEvery Step She Takes is a gripping new thriller by bestselling author K.L. Armstrong. And Ashley Audrain’s much anticipated debut is The Push (January), a tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family, told through the eyes of a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for—and everything she feared.

Jonathan Ball’s first collection of short fiction, The Lightning of Possible Storms (October), blends humour and horror, doom and daylight, offering myriad possible storms. With characteristic poetic flair and generosity, Anais Barbeau-Lavalette (author 2019 Canada Reads pick Suzanne) has painted a moving portrait of a fictional apartment block in Montreal in Neighbourhood Watch (October), translated by Rhonda Mullins. The latest book in J.E. Barnard’s The Falls series is Why the Rock Falls (November), a wilderness thriller set in the shadows of Alberta's Rocky Mountains when an oil baron and his son go missing. The characters in Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli's Pigeon Soup & Other Stories (October) are navigating relationships and grappling with issues of translocation, language and identity, religion and culture, and food. And Memory's Shadow (September), by Gail Benick, is the story of a family that survived the Holocaust and their ongoing engagement with that legacy long after World War II has ended.

Chris Benjamin’s story collection Boy With a Problem (September) taps into the heart of our deeply human fear of failing to truly connect with others, the fissures that erupt between us, and how quickly they widen from cracks to chasms. Cozy mystery fans rejoice, The Reverend Tom "Father" Christmas is at it again in C.C. Benison's The Unpleasantness at the Battle of Thornford (November). Nina Berkhout’s Why Birds Sing (October) is a charming, deeply felt novel about human connection and finding music between the notes. Set in the cities, reserves, and rural reaches of Alberta, Katie Bickell’s debut novel Always Brave, Sometimes Kind (September) spans the years from 1990 to 2016, through cycles of boom and bust in the oil fields, government budget cuts and workers rights policies, the rising opioid crisis, and the intersecting lives of people whose communities sometimes stretch farther than they know.

A wry, savvy novel of untidy modern relationships, A Family Affair (August), translated by Russell Smith, confirms award-winning author Nadine Bismuth’s place as a chronicler of contemporary middle-class mores in the manner of Jonathan Franzen, John Irving, and Lorrie Moore. Fake It So Real (October), by Susan Sanford Blades, takes on the fallout from a Punk-rock lifestyle—the future of “no future”—and its effect on the subsequent generations of one family. Inhabiting the lives of the artists who find themselves in the port city taking refuge from the Depression, Lay Figures (September), by Mark Blagrave, explores relationships between art and lived experience, artist and subject, artist and audience, and between margins and centre, and traces the development of a young female writer against the backdrop of the Depression and early war years in Saint John.

Dennis Bock imagines an alternate history beginning with the 1939 assassination of Adolf Hitler in The Good German (September). Arthur Ellis Award-winning author and the “queen of Canadian crime fiction” Gail Bowen returns with The Unlocking Season (September), a new installment in the Joanne Kilbourn series. For readers of John Grisham comes lawyer and environmental activist David R. Boyd’s Thirst for Justice (October), a political thriller ripped from today’s headlines about the psychological toll of a humanitarian crisis. In Frances Boyle's short story collection Seeking Shade (July), nuanced characters endure trauma, evolution and epiphany as they face challenges, make decisions, and suffer the inevitable consequences.

Book Cover Brighten the Corner Where You ARe

Award-winner Carol Bruneau’s Brighten the Corner Where You Are (September) is inspired by the life and work of Maud Lewis, a story of the artist speaking her mind from beyond the grave, freed of the stigmas of gender, poverty, and disability that marked her life and shaped her art. Bestseller Cathy Marie Buchanan is back with The Daughter of Black Lake (October), set in first century AD, a transporting story of love, family, survival and the sublime power of the natural world. And Grant Buday infuses history with rare, evocative energy in Orphans of Empire (September), a deftly crafted trio of narratives that span half a century and converges in a hotel in historic New Brighton, BC.

Ivy’s Tree (September), by Wendy Burton, is the story of a 78-year-old woman learning to navigate one of the largest cities in the world: Tokyo. For those who loved Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior comes a new climate-themed, Shakespeare-inspired novel, Blaze Island (September), from bestselling author Catherine Bush. The follow-up to the 2013 Debut Dagger Award-nominated The Killer Trail, D.B. Carew’s The Weight of Blood (November) is a story of brothers, blood, trauma, and murder. And comedy and tragedy are mainstays in the worst directing gig for an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet with an eccentric producer in Ontario farm country in Rod Carley’s Kinmount (September).

The latest book in Louise Carson's Maples Mysteries series is The Cat Possessed (October). Based on a true incident of mass hysteria in Le Roy, New York in 2002, Songs from a Small Town (in a Minor Key) (October), by Penny Chamberlain, is a novel written as a series of stories from different points of view. Dusk in the Frog Pond (October), by Rummana Chowdhury, is a collection of eight short stories that explore the lives of immigrants as they deal with the challenges of migration, displacement, identity, nostalgia, loneliness, socio-economic disparity, and cultural assimilation. Back in print after over four decades, When He Was Free and Young and He Used to Wear Silks (October), the first collection of short fiction from bestselling author and Barbadian-born Canadian luminary Austin Clarke, is a vital, lyrical, and provocative exploration of the Black immigrant experience in Canada. And equal parts gonzo bromance and melancholy longing, Cam & Beau (October), by Maria Cichosz, is a novel about unspoken knowledge between people, the parameters of seeing and not seeing, and what happens when familiar things are made strange.

Notice (October), by Dustin Cole, is a funhouse mirror held up to Vancouver, a Kafkaesque tale about a man caught in the gears of a bureaucracy, a spiral-down, bad-to-worse kind of story. In The Hush Sisters (September), Gerard Collins weaves psychological suspense with elements of the fantastic to craft a contemporary urban gothic about two estranged sisters who must make sense of the secrets of the house they inherited. In One Madder Woman (September), Dede Crane vividly recreates the life of Berthe Morisot, the sole female member of the renowned group of artists known as the Impressionists. The Spoon Stealer (September) is a classic Lesley Crewe book: full of humour, family secrets, women's friendship, lovable animals, and immense heart. Seeing Martin (September) is Su Croll's debut novel, a work that investigates the predatory gaze, the tidal pull between artist and model, between the seeker and the sought. And from Craig Davidson, bestselling author of The Saturday Night Ghost Club, comes Cascade (August), a collection reminiscent of Stephen King's brilliantly cinematic short stories.

 Silence (October), a play by Trina Davies, is the story of Mabel, wife of Alexander Graham Bell, offering the unique perspective of a woman whose remarkable life was forever connected to her famous, distracted husband. Charles Demers’ latest is Primary Obsessions (September), an engrossing page-turner and a refreshing reboot of the sleuth genre. With The Rage Room (September), Lisa deNikolits pens a grab-you-by-the-throat, feminist speculative-fiction thriller in the style of Groundhog Day meets The Matrix. Farzana Doctor’s latest novel is Seven (September), about a woman who accompanies her husband on a marriage-saving trip to India where she thinks that she's going to research her great-great-grandfather, and ends up excavating much more than she had imagined. Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars (August) is set in 1918 Dublin over three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu.

In Candas Jane Dorsey’s The Adventures of Isabel (October), a downsized-social-worker protagonist and her cat, Bunnywit, are jolted into a harsh, street-wise world of sex, lies, and betrayal, to which they respond with irony, wit, intelligence (except for the cat), and tenacity. Raft Baby (September), by Bonnie Dunlop, is set in Saskatchewan’s Peace River country in the early 1900s, a period and a place that tested the mettle of all who came there. A sea witch, a bossy Virgin Mary, and a lesbian widow’s wife—in ghost form—walk into a short story collection in Kristyn Dunnion’s Stoop City (September). And an intergenerational saga about three Nigerian women, Butter Honey Pig Bread (October), by Francesca Ekwuyasi, is a story of choices and their consequences, of motherhood, of the malleable line between the spirit and the mind, of finding new homes and mending old ones, of voracious appetites, of queer love, of friendship, faith, and above all, family.

An innovative and bold novel, I Am Ariel Sharon (November), by Yara El-Ghadban, translated by Wayne Grady, dives into the mind of the controversial Israeli prime minister during his eight-year coma as he faces the spirits of the women closest to him. Affect (October), by Charlene Elsby, is the surreal love story of a graduate student who, hyperaware of the absurdity of love in a universe where all is finite and death is inevitable, interprets a developing relationship through philosophy. When a man discovers that his prized golf memorabilia from some of Canada's best golf courses has been destroyed, he journeys back through memories of being on the fairway, his struggles with gnawing ineptitude, and a troubled relationship with his wife and son in It's Still Me (September), by Jeffrey John Eyamie. And The Haweaters (August), by Vanessa Farnsworth, brings to life the violent, real-life double-murder of Charles and William Bryan by two members of the Amer family on Manitoulin Island in 1877.

From Will Ferguson, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novelist of 419, comes The Finder (September), a literary adventure novel about precious objects lost and found. Bernice Friesen's first novel, The Book of Beasts, was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and her latest Universal Disorder (September), is a novel about Charlie, neurodivergent, preoccupied with numbers, and desperately trying to solve for love. Weaving together tales of errant mothers, vengeful plants, canine wisdom, and murder, Zsuzsi Gartner’s The Beguiling (September) lays bare the flesh and blood sacrifices people are willing to make to get what they think they desire.

As she sifts through her international whirlwind romance, her larger-than-life love for her daughter, and her own childhood behind the Iron Curtain, Dolores's narrative shifts from Williamsburg, to Tokyo, to Bucharest before and after the fall, and to Cairo at the first spark of the Arab Spring, in Daughter of Here (September), by Ioana Georgescu, translated by Katia Grubisic. Mama’s Boy: Game Over (November) is the third and final book in David Goudreault’s bleakly comic bestselling Mama’s Boy trilogy, translated by JC Sutcliffe. The latest by Carol Rose Goldenagle is The Narrows of Fear (Wapawikoscikanik) (September). Where do you go after you die? Detroit. Randal Graham’s Afterlife Crisis (September) is for fans of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and P.G. Wodehouse. And Marlowe Granados's much buzzed-about debut novel is Happy Hour (September), which Zoe Whittall calls, "so propulsive you'll feel like you've been hypnotized.”

Book Cover Forgotten Work

The third and final installment in Brit Griffin's cli-fi action series is The Wintermen III (September). The stories in Permanent Tourists (October), by Genni Gunn, feature displaced characters loosely connected through a support group, all of them dealing with loss. Jason Guriel’s Forgotten Work (September) is a love story about fandom, an ode to music snobs, and a time-tripping work of speculative fiction—in verse. The stories in Lori Hahnel’s Vermin (November) are linked by themes of loss, longing and music. And following a before and after structure that pivots around a mysterious and devastating fire at a local winery, Throw Down Your Shadows (July), by Deborah Hemming, is a compelling exploration of the contours of young friendship and the development of powerful new appetites.

In Crosshairs (September), Catherine Hernandez—author of the acclaimed novel Scarborough—weaves an unforgettable and timely dystopian account of a near-future when a queer Black performer and his allies join forces against an oppressive regime that is rounding up those deemed “Other” in concentration camps. It isn’t easy being related to a feminist icon—just ask the daughters of Lydia Hennessey, who could have it all if only they’d stop self-destructing in Kate Hilton’s third novel, Better Luck Next Time (November). A story of travail and triumph, Mark Huebner's wordless novel Let Go (December) follows a laid-off ad man struggling to carry the deadweight of his past as he labours through a blizzard toward an unknown future. 

Based on a true story, Helen Humphreys’ latest novel is Rabbit Foot Bill (August), about a lonely boy in a prairie town who befriends a tramp in 1947 and then witnesses a shocking murder. The Certainties (August), by Aislinn Hunter, is a moving and transformative blend of historical and speculative fiction—a novel that shows us what it means to bear witness, and to attend to those who seek refuge, past and present. Luke Inglis's debut novel is Something Drastic (October), about a man whose damaged mind begins to heal as the outside world pulverizes around him. On Tuesday nights in the backroom of Cassie’s café, six strangers seek solace and find themselves part of a “Company of Good Cheer” in Frances Itani’s new novel, The Company We Keep (August). And from Clifford Jackman, the acclaimed author of The Winter Family, comes The Braver Thing (August) a swash-buckling adventure from piracy’s Golden Age and a deft political allegory for our troubled times, billed as Treasure Island meets Lord of the Flies.

From Mark Anthony Jarman, author of 19 Knives and My White Planet, comes Czech Techno and Other Stories (July), a suite of stories built around music and travel. Maureen Jennings' latest in the Paradise Cafe Mystery series is November Rain (October)—and now we know what song is in your head! This year’s Journey Prize Stories (September) arrives with selections from jurors Amy Jones, Téa Mutonji and Doretta Lau. Dietrich Kalteis’s latest crime novel is Cradle of the Deep (November), about one’s misguided plan to free herself from her gangster boyfriend. A resolutely single, fifty-something newspaper copy editor gets a chance at love on a vacation in Cuba—or does he?—in Stephen Kimber’s The Sweetness in the Lime (October). Inspired by a handful of old postcards sent by Uncle Leroy nearly a hundred years earlier, Bird and Mimi attempt to trace Mimi’s long-lost uncle and the family medicine bundle he took with him to Europe in Thomas King’s new novel, Indians on Vacation (August).

A murderer with a twisted mission targets the most vulnerable on the cold streets of Montreal in Ann Lambert’s second Russell and Leduc Mystery, The Dogs of Winter (October). In Petra (September), inspired by Petra Kelly, the original Green Party leader and political activist who fought for the planet in 1980s Germany, Shaena Lambert brings us a captivating new novel about a woman who changed history and transformed environmental politics—and who, like many history-changing women, has been largely erased. Shari Lapena’s latest thriller is The End of Her (July), about a woman whose whole life is rocked by the arrival of a woman from her husband’s past. And Annette Lapointe’s new novel is And This is the Cure (August), which follows Allison Winter, public radio pop-culture journalist and former riot grrl as she regains custody of her adolescent daughter following the murder of her ex-husband.

Daniil and Vanya (October), by Marie-Hélène Larochelle, translated by Giller finalist Michelle Winters, is the story of the bond between parent and child gone horribly awry, every parents' worst nightmare come true, boiled down into a slim, can't-put-it-down read. Mark Lisac’s Image Decay (November) returns to the pugnacious world of backroom politics laid out in his award-nominated Where the Bodies Lie. In D.A. Lockhart's Breaking Right (November), ordinary Hoosiers experience extraordinary moments that reveal the complicated correlations between their beliefs, their relationships and the land beneath their feet. To Refrain From Embracing (October), by Jeffrey Luscombe, is an immersive, naturalistic, and at times darkly comedic exploration of a family pushed up against personal and societal precepts of class, race, and sexuality. Gerald Lynch's latest book featuring Detective Kevin Beldon is The Dying Detective (October), with the detective happily gone into retirement, but then the international police force comes looking for his help on a serial killer investigation that has them stymied.

Ghosts, doppelgangers, and a man who turns into a tree: Aborescent (October), by Marc Herman Lynch, is a startling fiction debut that strives to articulate the Asian immigrant body. Annabel Lyon’s Consent (September) is a smart, mysterious and heartbreaking novel centred on two sets of sisters whose lives are braided together when tragedy changes them forever. For fans of Alice Munro and Carol Shields comes The Crooked Thing (October), by Mary MacDonald. an emotional and hopeful collection of short stories that delve into the tragedies that befall each of us in the search for goodness and meaning.

Life as a tour guide in Gros Morne National Park has its twists and turns—but now Sabastian is crossing a more dangerous landscape, coming face-to-face with a killer in Two for the Tablelands (September), Kevin Major’s follow-up to One for the Rock. In Urban Disturbances (September), Bruce McDougall's skilful short stories sketch a warts-and-all portrait of humanity, illuminates the mysterious forces that drive people to behave in unique-and uniquely human-ways. Here Goes Nothing (September), Eamon McGrath’s follow-up to 2017’s widely acclaimed Berlin-Warszawa Express, once again explores the world of touring musicians—but this time McGrath expands his scope and perspective from the inner dialogue of a traveling songwriter into the wider range of a multi-member touring band.

Bruce McLean’s debut novel, The Manãna Treehouse (September), is about a couple awash in Alzheimer’s, trying to stay afloat and looking after each other in a mirroring of love back and forth between them. You Can’t Catch Me (August), about a disgraced young journalist caught up in a grifter’s game, and the trail of identically named victims she uncovers, is the latest from Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of I’ll Never Tell and The Good Liar. Carolyn Huizinga Mills' debut novel is The Good Son (September), about a woman haunted by crucial information she kept to herself for decades to hide her brother's suspected involvement in a murder case. Based on the WWII advocacy work of Dr. Janusz Korczak, Hannah Moscowitz's play The Children’s Republic (October) is a reminder of the hope that can still be found in a world devoid of freedom and the necessities of life. And written and revised between 2013 and 2019, Saleema Nawaz’s  Songs for the End of the World (August) is a moving and hopeful meditation on what we owe to ourselves and to each other, reminding us that disaster can bring out the best in people—and that coming together may be what saves us in the end.

From Roz Nay, bestselling author of Our Little Secret, comes Hurry Home (July), a suspenseful new thriller featuring two estranged sisters desperate to keep their deepest and darkest secret where it belongs—in the past. In Goth Girl Girls of Banff (November), John O’Neill’s gothic short stories—set in the Canadian Rockies—are haunted by the violence inherent in nature and humans. What if you found out that there was a ghost haunting your home, and what if you were the ghost? Such is the premise for Sara O’Leary’s debut novel, The Ghost in the House (July). Martha Ostenso, best known for the novel Wild Geese, has her novel Prologue to Love (November) back in print, a romance set in the Okanagan Valley, this new edition with a prologue by Hannah McGregor. And Susan Perly follows up her acclaimed Death Valley with Stella Atlantis (November).

For readers of Elizabeth Strout and Anne Tyler, Forest Green (August) is a powerful, heartrending novel about a man on the run from himself, by Governor General’s Award-winning author Kate Pullinger. In Andrew Pyper’s latest The Residence (September), a terrifying ghost story based on true events, the US President Franklin Pierce’s late son haunts the White House, threatening all who live in it—and the divided America beyond its walls. And in My Claustrophobic Happiness (September), a satirical work of meta-fiction, psychoanalyst, cultural critic, and performance artist Jeanne Randolph uses (and discards) a series of artworks as tools in the creation of the fictional character La Betty: a flesh-denying creation of pure consumerist identity.

Book Cover All the Animals on Earth

 Tatouine (September), by Jean-Christophe Réhel, translated by Katherine Hastings & Peter McCambridge, is described as "a book to scribble hearts and stars all over." Erin Ruddy’s Tell Me My Name (October) is a roller-coaster domestic thriller featuring a rustic cottage retreat, a suspicious new neighbour, a violent kidnapping, and a wife who learns her husband isn't telling her the whole truth. Buttoned-down insurance manager Hector Thompson hates two things: change and science fiction, but finding himself in the middle of both, he must embark on a road trip across North America to reckon with what responsibilities he has to the rapidly changing society in which he lives in Mark Sampson's latest novel, All the Animals on Earth (September).

Emily Schultz’s new novel is Little Threats (November), the story of a woman who served 15 years in prison for murder…and now it’s time to find out if she’s guilty. A young homeless man finds solace in friendship, falls prey to the machinations of a malevolent gang of thugs, and ultimately is swallowed up by the inevitability of consequences on the dangerous and deceptively sunny streets of Los Angeles in Fair (July), by Ed Seaward. Who steals a dog from a shelter after receiving a dream message from their grandmother? Hazel Lesage never expected it to be her. Then again, she didn't plan on becoming an unlicensed PI, helping the "throwaway people," as Anna Sewall writes in Humane (November).

The genre-bending comedic fairy tale meets thrilling whodunit, Yaga (November), by Kat Sandler, gives voice to an antihero of epic proportions while interrogating how her story has historically been told by men. Embracing the playful surrealism of Haruki Murakami and the atmospheric narratives of filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, Sheung-King’s debut, You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. (October), is at once lyrical and punctuated, and marks the arrival of a bold new voice in Asian-Canadian literature. From the acclaimed Canadian playwright, comedian, and radio broadcaster Tetsuro Shigematsu, author of the award-winning plays Empire of the Son and 1 Hour Photo, comes a powerful display of theatrical and literary emotion: Kuroko (August). Award-winning Nishnaabeg storyteller and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson returns with Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies (September), a bold reimagination of the novel, the title a response to English Canadian settler and author Susanna Moodie’s 1852 memoir.

A precocious ten-year-old knows lots of secrets, and in 1949 when she and her family are forced to move into two rooms on the second floor of a genteel but somewhat rundown rooming house owned by a reclusive pianist, she learns a lot more in Dancing With Chairs in the Music House (September), by Caro Soles. Rich Evans tries to prove his innocence in a small town where the term "outsider" can be applied to anyone who wasn't born there in D.K. Stone's Fall of Night (November). Elegant and thoughtful, Anne Stone's Girl Minus X (October) is a novel in which a young girl navigates her trauma in a world that can't help but forget. And the third instalment in Amy Stuart’s bestselling series thrillers is Still Here (September).

Eddy Boudel Tan's first novel is After Elias (September), about the secrets we keep from those we love and how those secrets can tear us apart. Shared trauma has driven a mother and daughter a world apart; they will need to find each other again to begin to heal in Alison Taylor’s debut novel Aftershock (August). In airy prose imbued with humour, Leona Theis’s novel-in-stories If Sylvie Had Nine Lives (September) asks the big questions: is there a right path and a wrong path, or does each possibility hold its share of pleasure and pain? And The Grand Melee (October) extends Michel Tremblay’s beloved familial and historical saga, and bridges the Desrosiers Diaspora series and the now-classic Chronicles of the Plateau Mont-Royal

A frustrated ghostwriter struggling to make ends meet in a small Mennonite community bulldozing its way towards modernity finds himself in an awkward position as a member of the Preservation Society but desperate to keep his job with the mayor's Parks and "Wreck" department in Once Removed (September), by Andrew Unger. Written in Stone (September), by Peter Unwin, goes beyond the surface acknowledgments of settler impacts, and exists on the border of two solitudes, where the known and unknown cannot be separated, where mythology and reality are one, and where an old and inaccessible knowledge holds the means to a possible reconciliation. And a lot of time has passed but the Trickster has returned and the world that he left is in desperate need of some levity, the truth and most importantly, reconciliation in Joseph Urie's Coyote Takes a Walk (October).

All the Night Gone (November), by Sabrina Uswak, is the story of two boys  left to cope after the death of their parents, until a saviour slips into their lives—but then she disappears. Maame (November), by Elizabeth Vaah, is a collection of linked stories about women in a small community in Ghana. In a near-future world ravaged by climate change, who will win in the struggle between humanity and nature? The answer lies in Fauna (September), Christiane Vadnais’s first work of fiction, which won the Horizons Imaginaires speculative fiction award, the City of Quebec book award, was named one of 2018’s best books by Radio-Canada, and appears now in English translation by Pablo Strauss. Set against the 2013 Bow River floods in Calgary, Robin van Eck's debut novel is Rough (November). Norman Yeung's play Theory is exploration of the intersections and divisions within liberalism, with a young tenure-track professor in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse that has her questioning her beliefs and fighting back for her life. And Love After the End (September) is a bold and breathtaking anthology of queer Indigenous speculative fiction, edited by Joshua Whitehead, author of Jonny Appleseed.

July 9, 2020
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