Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Spring Fiction Preview

Our Spring Preview begins with the fiction you're going to be falling in love with in 2021.

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Caught between cultures and identities, immigrant families from a Bengali neighbourhood in Toronto strive to navigate their home, relationships, and happiness in Silmy Abdullah’s debut, Home of the Floating Lily (June). Pyromaniacs, vigilantes, mysterious phenomena, prehistoric beasts, cryptid species, grave robbers and ghosts... the stories of Nathan Adler's Ghost Lake (December) feature a cast of interrelated characters and their brushes with the supernatural, creatures of Ojibwe cosmology, the Spirit World, and with monsters, both human and otherwise. Four writers and four different perspectives on the problematic notion of purity in Disintegration in Four Parts (June), a collection of novellas by Jean-Marc Ah-Sen, Emily Anglin, Devon Code, and Lee Henderson. And Sergeant Roxanne Calloway of the RCMP finds herself investigating the death of the Artistic Director of a prairie theatre company about to put on Macbeth (of course!) in And Then is Heart No More (April), by Raye Anderson.

Stranger in Town (February) is the next thriller from Kelley Armstrong, the paranoia increasing—along with the stakes—as the town of Rockton tries to solve the latest mystery at their door. Sergeant Neumann and the inmates of Camp 133 are back in Wayne Arthurson's The Dishonour in Camp 133 (April), set in a Canadian Prisoner of War Camp in World War Two. Inspired by the true story of the notorious Goler clan of Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, Becca Babcock’s One Who Has Been Here Before (April), a work of contemporary Atlantic gothic fiction, troubles the boundaries between myth and truth, villains and victims.

A middle-aged Jewish man who fantasizes about being a cowboy goes on an eccentric quest across Europe after the 1941 Nazi invasion of Lithuania in Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted (March), by Gary Barwin, author of Yiddish for Pirates. The characters in Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli's Pigeon Soup & Other Stories (May) are navigating relationships and grappling with issues of translocation, language and identity, religion and culture, and food. Quirky, intelligent and darkly comic, Meghan Bell’s Erase and Rewind (May) picks at rape culture, sexism in the workplace, uneven romantic and platonic relationships, and the impact of trauma under late-stage capitalism. And for readers who take their contemporary fiction with a tinge of the otherworldly, Rob Benvie’s Bleeding Light (March) is about mystical experiences, the symbolic fabric connecting us all, and desperate people seeking affirmation—through religious, cosmic, chemical and other means—of a world beyond their own.

Book Cover Midland

At a time when women are expected to live in the shadows of great men, one woman chooses to step into the light in Audrey Blake’s The Girl in His Shadow (May). The Lover, the Lake (May), by Virginia Pesemapeo Bordeleau, translated by Susan Ouriou, is a spellbinding novel celebrating Indigenous sensuality, and the first erotic novel written by an Indigenous woman in French. Critically acclaimed in the original French, The Fifth (February)— a contemporary novel about polyamory written by MP Boisvert, translated by Monica Meneghetti—offers a refreshing take on sexuality and desire. Cedar Bowers’ Astra (June) is a beguiling debut novel that reveals the different faces of one enigmatic woman, as seen through the eyes of ten people she encounters over the course of six decades. A traumatized young man steps away from his protective family and embarks on a transformative two-month stint as a tree planter in Northern Ontario in Ross Breithaupt's debut novel Midland (May). And Newcombe is too small to qualify for a rail station, and so begins a campaign against time and government to guarantee the survival of this post-war Northern Ontario community in Connection at Newcombe (April), by Kayt Burgess, who won the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest with her debut, Heidegger Stairwell.

Clint Burnham's White Lie (May) is a series of quick bursts—hilarious, tragic, and thoughtful in turn. Emily Brewes’ The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales (May) is a tale about a dangerous quest in an eerie post–climate collapse world. Christy-Ann Conlin’s latest novel is The Speed of Mercy (March), in which dark family secrets, the lore of the sea, and a tender, protective friendship between women all converge. The first two volumes in Devakanthan's Prison of Dreams quintet, His Sacred Army (May) and A Time of Questions (May), are translated by Nedra Rodrigo, exploring the story of the growth of the armed struggle in Sri Lanka in the '80s. William Deverell’s latest Arthur Beauchamp novel is Stung (March), another propulsive legal thriller. Doug Diaczuk follows up Chalk, which won the 38th Annual 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, with Just Like a Real Person (June), a story about broken cars and broken people. And the year Paul turns forty, his friends Wendy and Eve ask him to help them get pregnant in Christopher DiRaddo's The Family Way (April). 

Daisy Jones & the Six meets Nick Hornby in Bootleg Stardust (April), Glenn Dixon’s debut novel about a young musician who lands an audition catapulting him into the wild world of rock and roll stardom where things are not always what they seem. An autobiographical novel, A Cemetery for Bees (April), by Alina Dumitrescu, translated by Katia Grubisic, traces the journey of a woman from her youth in Socialist Eastern Europe to her transplanted life in Montreal, an elegy for childhood, a declaration of francophile love, and a complicated look at who we are, who we were, and where we might find ourselves. And drawing on both lived experience and cultural memory, Norma Dunning—author of the award-winning Annie Muktuk and Other Stories—brings together six powerful new short stories centred on modern-day Inuk characters in Tainna (February).

From Kim Echlin, the internationally bestselling and Giller-shortlisted author of The Disappeared comes Speak, Silence, an astounding, poetic novel about war and loss, power and shame, and the strength of women through it all. In Book of Wings (March) Tawhida Tanya Evanson traces a global journey from Vancouver to the United States, Caribbean, Paris, and Morocco as a woman's relationship with her lover and travel partner disintegrates and she finds herself on a path toward personal discovery and spiritual fulfillment. Set in 1999 Japan, Genki Ferguson’s Satellite Love is a heartbreaking and beautifully unconventional debut novel about a girl, a boy, and a satellite—and a bittersweet meditation on loneliness, alienation, and what it means to be human. Told with dazzling insight, intelligence, and compassion, Krista Foss’s Half Life (March) is a beautifully rendered story about family truths and the profound human need to be believed. And Barbara Fradkin’s latest Amanda Doucette mystery is The Ancient Dead (January), with her heroine searching desperately for the connection between bones discovered in a remote Alberta coulee and an uncle who went missing 30 years ago.

In Charity (January), a novella by award-winner Keath Fraser, a stepmother navigates the complex relationships between her husband, his ex, and their daughter. The play of light and shadow defines Mark Frutkin's The Artist and the Assassin (May), based on the life of the 17th-century painter known as Caravaggio, whose revolutionary use of the chiaroscuro technique fuelled his dazzling success while his demons led him down the path of exile and, ultimately, assassination. The second novel from Rivka Galchen, the critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances, is Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch (June), drawing on real historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humour, and intellectual fire. Interwoven with themes of Filipino-Canadian and mixed-race identity, fantastical elements from Norse and Filipino mythology, and tarot card symbolism, Samantha Garner’s debut, The Quiet Is Loud (May), is an intergenerational tale of familial love and betrayal. In Tara Gereaux’s novel Saltus (March), a mother takes a drastic step to help her child with their gender transition, their situation forcing people in their small town to look long and hard at themselves, at their own identities at the traumas and experiences that have shaped them. From Camilla Gibb, the renowned author of Sweetness in the Belly and This Is Happy, comes The Relatives (March), a bold, urgent and richly imagined novel about what it means to be a family in our modern world. And The Undertaking of Billy Buffone (April), by David Giuliano, is a story about the trauma—immediate and ongoing, personal and collateral—inflicted by a man who preyed on boys in Twenty-Six Mile House, an isolated town in northern Ontario

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Poet and novelist Hiromi Goto effortlessly blends wry, observational slice-of-life literary fiction with poetic magical realism in the tender and surprising graphic novel Shadow Life (March), with haunting art from debut artist Ann X, the story of a the s76-year-old widow who moves out of her assisted living facility and then discovers she’s being followed by death’s shadow. From award-winning, bestselling author Wayne Grady comes The Good Father (April), his first contemporary novel, which comically and tragically reckons with a father and daughter’s estrangement, the failures brought on by hubris, the limits of perception and the price we pay for second chances. Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history—including Toronto’s race riot at Christie Pits—a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in Letters Across the Sea (April), powerful love story from Genevieve Graham, bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.

R.M. Greenaway’s first novel in the BC Blues Crime Series won the Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award, and the latest is Five Ways to Disappear (April), in which a dangerous undercover assignment nearly puts Dion in his grave. Michelle Grierson’s debut novel is Becoming Leidah (April), a love story set in nineteenth-century Norway, about a woman rescued from the sea, the fisherman who marries her, their tiny and unusually gifted daughter, and the shapeshifter who follows their every move. In Chantel Guertin's Instamom (June), Kit Kidding  gets paid to share curated posts about her fabulous, child-free life, and she passionately believes that women who choose not to become mothers shouldn’t have to face guilt, or judgment...or really hot chefs who turn out to be single dads. And for fans of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light comes Constant Nobody (March), an historical espionage novel with a contemporary edge from Michelle Butler Hallett.

Farah Heron follows up The Chai Factor with Accidentally Engaged (March), a rom-com featuring a Muslim woman who fakes an engagement to the boy next door in the hopes of winning a couples cooking contest. Karen Hofmann’s sequel to What is Going to Happen Next is A Brief View From the Coastal Suite (April), exploring societal attitudes and the instability of personal and public lives in a world that values money above all else. In Light on a Part of the Field (May), set in B.C. and Alberta in the 1960s and 1970s, Kevin Holowack introduces us to a family grappling with artistic ambition, mental illness, and rifts that may not be possible to mend. And Governor General's Award-winning author Glen Huser’s Burning the Night (May) spans generations and distance, traversing from Vancouver to Halifax, as it bears down on the history of Canadian painting and one man’s awakening as a gay man.

Uzma Jalaluddin follows up her smash-hit debut, Ayesha at Last, with Hana Khan Carries On (April), a You've Got Mail-style rom-com set in competing Toronto Suburb halal restaurants. Set in a future all-too-near our own against a backdrop of Northern Ontario’s natural splendor, Savage Gerry (April), by John Jantunen, is a refreshingly Canadian spin on the Mad Max films. A queer psychological thriller from Carrie Jenkins, Victoria Sees It (April) hails a beguiling, fresh new voice. The Winter Sea (January) a haunting tale of love across time, is perfect for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series—from bestselling author Susanna Kearsley. A gritty, comic, emotional charge through Vancouver's Commercial Drive and Downtown Eastside, All That Monk Business (April), by Barry Kennedy, is a story of people coming to grips with the past while nourishing themselves through interconnections on streets ablaze with contrasts and eccentricities. And Thomas King's Sufferance (May) is a sly and satirical look at the fractures in modern existence, about the social and political consequences of the inequality created by privilege and power—and what we might do about it.

Mary Lawson (Crow Lake), acclaimed for digging into the “wilderness of the human heart,” is back after almost a decade with A Town Called Solace (February), a fresh and timely novel as emotional and atmospheric as her beloved earlier work. Amanda Leduc’s The Centaur’s Wife (February), woven with fairy tales of her own devising and replete with both catastrophe and magic, is a vision of what happens when we ignore the natural world and the darker parts of our own natures. Daria (May), by Irene Marques, is a novel about a young immigrant girl trying to find her way in a new (but also very old) world, where patriarchal networks abound. Paul Nicholas Mason's latest book is The Rogue Wave (April), about a man whose fiancee is presumed dead...only to be sighted weeks later in the company of another man in a wedding video shot in Mexico. From Jean McNeil, award-winning author of Ice Diaries, comes Day for Night (May), an unflinching exploration of love and boundaries in Brexit-crazed London. And Business (June), by J.P, Meyboom, is a dark coming-of-age comedy set in a world of scoundrels and misfits at the end of their tether.

Louise Michalos’ debut novel, Marilla Before Anne (May), takes readers on a journey back in time, to the Green Gables where Marilla Cuthbert lived, loved, and learned, long before Anne Shirley arrived in her life. While working on a personal spiritual project, an irreverent artist encourages her religious sister to rethink the marriage that seems to be killing her soul in Jennie Morrow's Bird Shadows (May). Molly Falls to Earth (April) is the debut novel by Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist Maria Mutch, an inventive exploration of time, absence, and desire. Douglas Adams meets David Lynch in Pasha Malla’s Kill the Mall (February), a witty yet horror-tinged fable about one of North America’s scariest inventions—the local mall. Bruce McDougall's skilful short stories in Urban Disturbances (February) sketch a warts-and-all portrait of humanity, illuminating the mysterious forces that drive people to behave in unique—and uniquely human—ways. From award-winner Andrée A. Michaud, Mirror Lake (March) is a brilliant and original tragicomic thriller about one man’s search for peace and sanctuary amid invasive neighbours and a mysterious death. And in Without Blood (January), the next raucous, twisty crime novel from Martin Michaud, a master of the Quebec thriller, rebellious cop Victor Lessard pursues a ruthless hunter who stalks the streets of Montreal.

A new teacher arrives in a tiny fishing village and realizes the most important lessons are the ones she learns outside the classroom in Damhnait Monaghan's debut novel New Girl in Little Cove (March). In Monster Child (May), author Rahela Nayebzadah introduces three unforgettable characters, Beh, Shabnam and Alif, children in a family of Afghan immigrants who—in a world swirling with secrets, racism and a touch of magic—try to find their way in an often uncaring society. Danial Neil’s historical epic Dominion of Mercy (April) combines the gritty feel and attention to detail of HBO’s Deadwood with the Canadian sensibility of Guy Vanderhaeghe’s frontier trilogy. Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a sci-fi thriller blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next (February).

The latest in C.S. O'Cinneide’s Candace Starr series is The Starr Sign (March), with Candance Starr searching for her mother in the Detroit mob—but it turns out infiltrating her own crime family may be her deadliest assignment ever. The lives of two Nigerian women divided by class and social inequality intersect when they're kidnapped, held captive, and forced to await their fate together in Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia’s The Son of the House (May). And Jo Owens’ debut novel is A Funny Kind of Paradise (March), a poignant, uplifting story of one woman’s end-of-life reckoning with her past, her lost daughter and herself.

Radium Girl (May) is a collection full of dark wonder where Sofi Papamarko explores the boundaries of love, death, loneliness and justice. A momentous achievement that situates a new classic in the twenty-first century, Hunter with Harpoon (January) brings readers back to the roots of Markoosie Patsauq's Inuit story to experience it as it was originally written. With Soulstar (February), C. L. Polk concludes her riveting Kingston Cycle, a whirlwind of magic, politics, romance, and intrigue that began with the World Fantasy Award-winning Witchmark. Anna Porter’s Deceptions (April) is a thinking-person’s thriller, is described as "a romp to the last satisfying page." The Sister’s Tale (May), by Beth Powning, a novel of orphans and widows, terror and hope, and the relationships that hold us together when things fall apart. Marion Quednau suggests that the most significant moments in our lives lie in the margins with story collection Sunday Drive to Gun Club Road (March).  From David Adams Richards comes Darkness (May), the final instalment of his epic Miramichi Trilogy. And Jael Richardson, CanLit superstar and founder of The Festival of Literary Diversity, releases her first novel, Gutter Child (January), about a young woman who must find the courage to determine her own future.

Fans of bestseller Jennifer Robson are looking forward to her latest release, Our Darkest Night (January), in which a young Jewish woman from Venice poses as the wife of a Catholic farmer to escape the Nazis in World War Two Italy. Return of the Trickster (March) is the final book of Eden Robinson’s captivating and celebrating trilogy. The stories in Rachel Rose’s fiction debut, The Octopus Has Three Hearts (March), combine vivid characters and original premises with a trademark combination of whimsy and irony to explore universal elements of the human condition, from parenthood to sexuality, identity to fidelity. Detectives dig into the dark side of Toronto when a serial killer targets homeless people camped out near one of the city’s most exclusive enclaves in Downfall (February), the latest crime thriller from Robert Rotenberg. And through narration by human protagonists, a tree, a hummingbird, various beasts, and the landscape itself, Nicholas Ruddock tells a story of colonialism and environment, brutality and privilege, and the best and worst of human nature in Last Hummingbird West of Chile (June).

Patricia Robertson’s new collection of short fiction, Hour of the Crab (February), is a work of insight and mastery, each story demonstrating an original vision, intriguing characters, and sophisticated skill. Away From Her meets Strangers on a Train in And Miles to Go Before I Sleep (June), by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins, a follow-up to cult bestseller And the Birds Rained Down. The Willow Wren (March), by Philipp Schott, is a touching and nuanced portrait of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany through the eyes of a resourceful German boy. Joel Scott’s Arrow’s Rest (May) is a nautical thriller for readers of Clive Cussler and Jack Higgins. In Rebecca Silver Slayter’s The Second History (April) a post-apocalyptic love story, a young couple embarking on a journey to understand, for the first time, what they’ve been hiding from all their lives.

The latest historical novel by Eva Stachniak is The School of Mirrors (March), an engrossing tale of love, deception and scandal in the 18th century French court of King Louis XV. Bestseller Marissa Stapley’s latest novel is Lucky (April), a compelling and thrilling road-trip novel about a talented grifter whose past comes back to haunt her. The Grand Melee (March) 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. From M.G. Vassanji, two-time Giller Prize winner and winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, comes What You Are (May), short fiction exploring the tensions between remembering past homes and belonging in new ones. And fate, circumstance, and the symbolism of sight collide in Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack (February), by Heidi von Palleske, a modern gothic novel spanning the shores of Lake Ontario to post-war Berlin between the 1960s and 1980s.

Writer and translator Aimee Wall’s first novel is We Jane (April), described as “Red Clocks meets Women Talking; a quiet, compelling novel about the magnitude of women’s friendships and connection—individually and across eras.” Andrew Wedderburn’s The Crash Palace (January) is a joy ride set on a crash course with the past. Lane Winslow trades crime solving for substitute teaching in Lethal Lesson (April), the eighth installment of Iona Whishaw’s mystery series, which Kirkus Reviews calls “riveting.” And travelling from small towns in northern BC to the south of France and Fiji, sometimes in the span of a night and sometimes over a lifetime, the men and women in Gillian Wigmore’s Night Watch (February) work with their hands, keep their hearts in check, and strain to define themselves against the backdrop of an unforgiving job that puts them at the mercy of the elements—and each other.

January 7, 2021
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