New books by Camilla Gibb, Marissa Stapley, Wayne Grady, Uzma Jalaluddin, and more! These are some of the novels and short fiction collections we're excited about reading this spring
Bleeding Light, by Rob Benvie
About the book: A howl into the void, a ghost story, and a bit of a metaphysical hellride.
A misanthropic ghostwriter roams an island off the Kenyan coast. An Arizona teenager awaits the next stage in a secretive covenant. A renowned poet retraces her past amid a baffling netherworld. An international arms dealer’s son drifts through time, atoning for the death of the man he loved.
For readers who take their contemporary fiction with a tinge of the otherworldly, Bleeding Light 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. It’s a grimly funny and often trippy take on transcendence in a hypercommodified age.
Constant Nobody, by Michelle Butler Hallett
About the book: The time is 1937. The place: the Basque Country, embroiled in the Spanish Civil War. Polyglot and British intelligence agent Temerity West encounters Kostya Nikto, a Soviet secret police agent. Kostya has been dispatched to assassinate a doctor as part of the suppression of a rogue communist faction. When Kostya finds his victim in the company of Temerity, she expects Kostya to execute her—instead, he spares her.
Several weeks later, Temerity is reassigned to Moscow. When she is arrested by the secret police, she once again encounters Kostya. His judgement impaired by pain, morphine, and alcohol, he extricates her from a dangerous situation and takes her to his flat. In the morning, they both awaken to the realities of what Kostya has done. Although Kostya wants to keep Temerity safe, the cost will be high. And Temerity must decide where her loyalties lie.
Writing about violence with an unusual grace, Michelle Butler Hallett tells a story of complicity, love, tyranny, and identity. Constant Nobody is a thrilling novel that asks how far an individual will go to protect another—whether out of love or fear.
Connected at Newcombe, by Kayt Burgess
About the book: It's 1920. The Great War is over and the troops are on their way home to reclaim their old lives. But before he can return to his job as a lawyer, Major Callum Bannatyne has one more mission: to ensure The Canadian National Railway builds its newest expansion through his hometown of Newcombe. The only problem? Newcombe's population is too small for it to qualify for a station. And so begins a small town's campaign against time and government to recruit their ringers and guarantee the survival of their community in post-war Northern Ontario.
But not everyone is on board with duping the government and Cal’s plan is undermined at every turn, whether due to the machinations of the local Reverend’s zealous son, or the bullying of belligerent furrier Evershed, the father of Cal’s childhood sweetheart. Even Fergus, Cal’s own father, who suffers from dementia, inadvertently jeopardizes the plan when he attacks the leader of Newcombe’s Ojibway conspirators during one of his fogs. But if living in the Canadian wilderness has taught the people of Newcombe anything, it’s how to be resourceful in the face of adversity.
Connection at Newcombe is a literary historical novel that interprets the fictional hamlet of Newcombe through the eyes of its myriad colourful characters, and explores the lenses through which these characters view each other and the community as a whole. Themes of homecoming, mental illness, gender parity, religion, sexuality, and family bonds are prevalent throughout the book, but the core of the novel deals with the concept of making delusions, lies—fiction—into a communal reality.
The Speed of Mercy, by Christy Ann Conlin
About the book: The Speed of Mercy captures the unbearable cost of childhood betrayal and what happens when history is suppressed, our past is forgotten—yet finding the truth can change the future. Christy Ann Conlin rips into the myths and stereotypes about older women and those on the edge of conventional society to reveal the timeless gift of mercy in this feminist tour de force.
“Christy Ann Conlin is a conjurer: of place, people, and the haunting past. I was instantly caught up in the darkly mysterious world and indelible characters she has brought to life. Gripping, suspenseful, and lyrically written, The Speed of Mercy caught me by the throat and didn’t let go.” —Alix Ohlin, Scotiabank Giller Prize–shortlisted author of Dual Citizens
Bootleg Stardust, by Glenn Dixon
About the book: Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom on your way to the top.
It’s 1974. The music world is rocking with bellbottoms, platform shoes, and lots and lots of drugs. This year’s sensation is an American band called Downtown Exit and their latest album has just gone gold.
For high school dropout Levi Jaxon, things aren’t so great. After bouncing around foster homes for years, he’s living in his best friend’s basement. His dream is to someday be a rock star, but he has a problem—his own band has just broken up.
In an uncanny stroke of luck, Levi lands an audition for Downtown Exit, who are now recording their second album at Abbey Road Studios. He arrives in London and aces his audition, only to learn he’s not really in the band. No, Levi’s job is to sit in the wings and cover for the band’s real guitarist when he inevitably starts tripping on stage.
Levi sticks with it, hoping to step into the role he’s always dreamed of. But he must first navigate egos, jealousies, and deceptions. Frankie, the band’s front man, has it out for him. And Levi has fallen for Ariadne, the band’s photographer. All of them have their secrets, Levi included. And as the band tours through Europe and struggles to finish their new album, Levi comes face to face with unanswered questions from his past and the impossible price that fame demands.
Utterly magical and transporting, Bootleg Stardust is a one-of-a-kind joyride about the power of music to bring people together—and break them apart—and the courage it takes to find your own voice.
Tainna, by Norma Dunning
About the book: Drawing on both lived experience and cultural memory, Norma Dunning brings together six powerful new short stories centred on modern-day Inuk characters in Tainna. Ranging from homeless to extravagantly wealthy, from spiritual to jaded, young to elderly, and even from alive to deceased, Dunning’s characters are united by shared feelings of alienation, displacement and loneliness resulting from their experiences in southern Canada.
In Tainna—meaning “the unseen ones” and pronounced Da-e-nn-a—a fraught reunion between sisters Sila and Amak ends in an uneasy understanding. From the spirit realm, Chevy Bass watches over his imperilled grandson, Kunak. And in the title story, the broken-hearted Bunny wanders onto a golf course on a freezing night, when a flock of geese stand vigil until her body is discovered by a kind stranger.
Norma Dunning’s masterful storytelling uses humour and incisive detail to create compelling characters who discover themselves in a hostile land where prejudice, misogyny and inequity are most often found hidden in plain sight. There, they must rely on their wits, artistic talent, senses of humour and spirituality for survival; and there, too, they find solace in shining moments of reconnection with their families and communities.
Book of Wings, by Tawhida Tanya Evanson
About the book: In this sweeping, allusive novel, the celebrated poet, dervish, and oral storyteller Tawhida Tanya Evanson comes to terms with what it means to stand on one's own two feet in an uncertain world. The acclaimed Antiguan-Canadian artist traces a global journey from Vancouver to the United States, Caribbean, Paris, and Morocco as a relationship with her lover and travel partner disintegrates and she finds herself on a path toward personal discovery and spiritual fulfillment that leads her deep into the North African landscape.
Satellite Love, by Genki Ferguson
About the book: On the eve of the new millennium, in a city in southern Japan that progress has forgotten, sixteen-year-old Anna Obata looks to the stars for solace. An outcast at school, and left to fend for herself and care for her increasingly senile grandfather at home, Anna copes with her loneliness by searching the night sky for answers. But everything changes the evening the Low Earth Orbit satellite (LEO for short) returns her gaze and sees her as no one else has before.
After Leo is called down to Earth, he embarks on an extraordinary journey to understand his own humanity as well as the fragile mind of the young woman who called him into being. As Anna withdraws further into her own mysterious plans, he will be forced to question the limits of his devotion and the lengths he will go to protect her.
Full of surprising imaginative leaps and yet grounded by a profound understanding of the human heart, Satellite Love is a brilliant and deeply moving meditation on loneliness, faith, and the yearning for meaning and connection. It is an unforgettable story about the indomitable power of the imagination and the mind's ability to heal itself, no matter the cost, no matter the odds.
Half Life, by Krista Foss
About the book: A raw, absorbing, tender, and witty novel about a woman's long-overdue reckoning with memory, truth, and the multiverse of familial love.
Elin Henriksen is a middle-aged single parent under pressure. Her formidable mother's health is declining, her fearless teenage daughter wants to leave but won't say where, and the new high school principal has problems with her unorthodox teaching of physics.
And then there is the upcoming ceremony at the Art Museum. In ten days, a gallery will be named after her late father, Tig Henriksen, a modernist furniture designer whose sought-after cult pieces hide a troubled narrative. With a mixture of anticipation and dread, Elin prepares to reunite with her once-estranged siblings--Mette, a free-spirited singer-songwriter, and the serious, emotionally distant architect Casper--hoping they'll finally grapple with hard truths they've so far refused to accept.
In the countdown to the event, as her daughter's risk-taking mounts, her mother's fragility intensifies and strange packages land on her doorstep (including a yellow-eyed dog), Elin's only relief is confiding to a dead physicist.
Struggling with the paradoxes of truth and clarity, love and witness, genius and ambition, and her own ambivalent connection to her confessor, she inches toward confronting not just the explosive potential of memory but the costly fallout of silence.
Told with dazzling insight, intelligence, and compassion, Half Life is a beautifully rendered story about family truths and the profound human need to be believed.
The Relatives, by Camilla Gibb
About the book: From the renowned author of Sweetness in the Belly, The Beauty of Humanity Movement and This Is Happy, comes a bold, urgent and richly imagined novel about what it means to be a family in our modern world.
Lila is on a long, painful journey toward motherhood. Tess and Emily are reeling after their ugly separation and fighting over ownership of the embryos that were supposed to grow their family together. And thousands of miles away, the unknown man who served as anonymous donor to them all is being held in captivity in Somalia. While his life remains in precarious balance, his genetic material is a source of both creation and conflict.
What does it mean to be a family in our rapidly shifting world? What are our responsibilities to each other with increasing options for how to create a family?
As these characters grapple with life-altering changes, they will find themselves interconnected in ways they cannot have imagined, and forced to redefine what family means to them.
Shadow Life, by Hiromi Goto
About the book: 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, with haunting art from debut artist Ann Xu.
When Kumiko’s well-meaning adult daughters place her in an assisted living home, the seventy-six-year-old widow gives it a try, but it’s not where she wants to be. She goes on the lam and finds a cozy bachelor apartment, keeping the location secret even while communicating online with her eldest daughter. Kumiko revels in the small, daily pleasures: decorating as she pleases, eating what she wants, and swimming in the community pool. But something has followed her from her former residence—Death’s shadow.
Kumiko’s sweet life is shattered when Death’s shadow swoops in to collect her. With her quick mind and sense of humour, Kumiko, with the help of friends new and old, is prepared for the fight of her life. But how long can an old woman thwart fate?
The Good Father, by Wayne Grady
About the book: Every story has two sides, two perspectives. And when it comes to a relationship between a daughter and her father, separated first by divorce and then by both generational gaps and physical and emotional distance, those perspectives can colossally diverge.
Such is the case with Harry Bowes and his only daughter, Daphne. Harry is a mild mannered journalist turned teacher turned wine merchant who is content to putter around his home in Toronto eating things straight out of the fridge that both his doctor and his second wife, Elinor, would disapprove of, and procrastinate calling his daughter even though he senses something is amiss.
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Daphne seems intent on a course of nihilism, having gone from being a loving girl to a top student to a hostile young woman who is determined to destroy her life and relationships by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. When a catastrophic event wrenches them out of their states, one of stasis and one of chaos, Harry and Daphne are forced to examine the ways in which their self-absorption has eroded their connection and discover whether a family's bond is truly ironclad or if their damage is irreparable.
Told in alternating perspectives, The Good Father delivers a deeply satisfying and layered novel of love, perception, family and domesticity. Propelled by regret, compassion, frustration and comfort, this novel gives us Wayne Grady at the height of his powers.
A Brief View From the Coastal Suite, by Karen Hofmann
About the book: The reunited Lund siblings, separated as children by Social Services, find that family, whether held together by blood or by choice, can be both a curse and a blessing, an obstacle and a point of connection.
Set in Vancouver during the economically turbulent year of 2008, A Brief View from the Coastal Suite explores the Lunds' differing values in respect to relationships, money, and environment—all markers for a materialistic society that is becoming increasingly inhospitable. Cleo struggles to find time for her challenging job as an architectural designer and for the demands of her family; Mandalay, an artist and single parent, tries to raise her twin sons uncontaminated by the materialistic values of their lawyer father; and Cliff attempts to run a landscape company with his spoiled younger brother, Ben, and to accommodate the ever-increasing demands of his Estonian mail-order bride.
Karen Hofmann’s brilliant sequel to her novel What is Going to Happen Next skillfully explores societal attitudes and the instability of personal and public lives in a world that values money above all else.
Hana Khan Carries On, by Uzma Jalaluddin
About the book: Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.
When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant—who might not be a complete stranger after all.
As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.
Mirror Lake, by Andrée A. Michaud
About the book: From internationally acclaimed crime writer Andrée A. Michaud, a brilliant and original tragicomic thriller about one man’s search for peace and sanctuary amid invasive neighbours and a mysterious death.
Retired fifty-something Robert Moreau flees a society he can no longer bear for Mirror Lake, Maine. Little does he suspect that an intrusive neighbour and a mysterious death will quickly dispel any illusions he may have had about finding sanctuary in isolation. The misanthropic Moreau quickly learns that his Thoreau-like vision is a fiction. And as in all fiction, nothing, not even Moreau’s own identity, is certain—except, perhaps, the friendship of his loyal dog, Jeff.
In this tragicomic novel of the confusion between the fabular and the real, brilliantly rooted in the forested Quebec-Maine landscape, Moreau is compelled to look deep in Mirror Lake’s shimmering waters and into the eyes of the man he is, was, and could be. Winner of the Prix Ringuet and adapted into a feature film, Mirror Lake is a masterpiece of Michaud’s canon, a playfully genre-mixing psycho-thriller that explores our mysterious existence and the bottomless self.
Deceptions, by Anna Porter
About the book: A savvy art world thriller with a strong, independent heroine and the follow-up to The Appraisal, finalist for the 2018 Staunch Prize.
Former Budapest cop Attila Feher would really like to see art expert Helena Marsh again, so he arranges a contract for her to determine whether a painting is a copy of a famous Artemisia Gentileschi canvas or the real thing. A simple appraisal becomes a dangerous assignment when usual eastern European gangsters show up and people start dying and the seething corruption that underlies the lost promise of post-Soviet Hungary swirls to the surface. In a race to get to the truth and to outwit her adversaries, Helena and Attila must solve the mystery of the painting’s origins.
Richly atmospheric, set in Strasbourg, Budapest, and Paris, this witty, sophisticated novel will satisfy readers of political thrillers by Alan Furst and Philip Kerr. Deceptions is a thinking-person’s thriller, a romp to the last satisfying page.
The Octopus Has Three Hearts, by Rachel Rose
About the book: To the outside world, Roxanne seems terribly lonely: her husband Earl has passed away, and her daughter Linda was murdered. What people don’t understand is that Earl and Linda are still keeping Roxanne company, reincarnated in the forms of a wiener dog and standard poodle. But this relationship—not idyllic, it’s true, but at least relatively harmonious—is disrupted when Roxanne accidentally hits a pit bull with her car. On the precipice of having the dog put down, she recognizes the eyes of her daughter’s killer, Helmut. Should she choose retribution, or forgiveness?
This is the highly original set-up of “You’re Home Now,” the opening story in Rachel Rose’s debut work of fiction. These are clever, engaging stories with a compelling link: the characters, generally living on the fringes of society for some reason or another, all have better relationships with animals than with other humans. There’s a diverse range of creatures, with stories featuring a parrot, an octopus, rats, a chameleon, a pig (Francis Bacon), deer and bats, as well as the more traditional dogs and a pair of kittens named Yin and Yang.
The stories in The Octopus Has Three Hearts combine vivid characters and original premises with Rose’s trademark combination of whimsy and irony to explore universal elements of the human condition, from parenthood to sexuality, identity to fidelity. It is a collection that will appeal to animal lovers, readers of literary fiction and anyone looking for their place to belong.
The Last Exiles, by Ann Shin
About the book: Jin and Suja met and fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She was a young journalist from a prominent family, while he was from a small village of little means. Outside the school, North Korea has fallen under great political upheaval, plunged into chaos and famine. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, their food rations all but gone, he makes a rash decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, miles away, Suja has begun to feel the tenuousness of her privilege when she learns that Jin has disappeared. Risking everything, and defying her family, Suja sets out to find him, embarking on a dangerous journey that leads her into a dark criminal underbelly and will test their love and will to survive.
Lucky, by Marissa Stapley
About the book: What if you had the winning ticket that would change your life forever, but you couldn’t cash it in?
Lucky Armstrong is a tough, talented grifter who has just pulled off a million-dollar heist with her boyfriend, Cary. She’s ready to start a brand-new life, with a new identity—when things go sideways. Lucky finds herself alone for the first time, navigating the world without the help of either her father or her boyfriend, the two figures from whom she’s learned the art of the scam.
When she discovers that a lottery ticket she bought on a whim is worth millions, her elation is tempered by one big problem: cashing in the winning ticket means the police will arrest her for her crimes. She’ll go to prison, with no chance to redeem her fortune.
As Lucky tries to avoid arrest and make a future for herself, she must confront her past by reconciling with her father; finding her mother, who abandoned her when she just a baby; and coming to terms with the man she thought she loved—whose complicated past is catching up to her, too.
This is a novel about truth, personal redemption, and the complexity of being good. It introduces a singularly gifted, complicated character who must learn what it means to be independent and honest…before her luck runs out.
We, Jane, by Aimee Wall
About the book: A remarkable debut about intergenerational female relationships and resistance found in the unlikeliest of places, We, Jane explores the precarity of rural existence and the essential nature of abortion.
Searching for meaning in her Montreal life, Marthe begins an intense friendship with an older woman, also from Newfoundland, who tells her a story about purpose, about a duty to fulfill. It's back home, and it goes by the name of Jane.
Marthe travels back to a small community on the island with the older woman to continue the work of an underground movement in 60s Chicago: abortion services performed by women, always referred to as Jane. She commits to learning how to continue this legacy and protect such essential knowledge. But the nobility of her task and the reality of small-town life compete, and personal fractures within their group begin to grow.
We, Jane probes the importance of care work by women for women, underscores the complexity of relationships in close circles, and beautifully captures the inevitable heartache of understanding home.
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