Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that my first novel, The List of Last Chances, features a road trip across Canada. My childhood was filled with such travels—some out of necessity, as we moved from province to province—and some for low-cost holidays, exploring the country in a station wagon filled to the brim with tents, sleeping bags, and coolers full of egg-salad sandwiches. We traversed the country more than once with four kids, two adults, sometimes a dog – and had our share of breakdowns, ripped maps, roadside meltdowns and more.
Along the way we saw the beaches of PEI, the long empty prairies which are not really so empty at all, the heights of the Rocky Mountains, and the coastal inlets of BC. As an adult, I’m still fascinated by the possibilities that road trips present (and I take them, either solo or with my own children, as often as I can) and perpetually curious about the unique and diverse personalities of the different regions in Canada.
I’m not the only one: road trips and national identity have always been a popular theme for Canadian writers. Here’s a few titles, both fiction and nonfiction that go exploring:
Cadillac Couches, by Sophie B. Watson
Cadillac Couches—like The List of Last Chances—features a pair of friends and a road trip in Canada but, in this case, the duo are in their 20s and heading east from Edmonton to Montreal. Annie and Isobel head out in ancient Volkswagen Beetle in search of love and meaning. Based around the iconic Edmonton Folk Music Festival, the book is “as much an ode to Canada as to music” according to Quill & Quire.
Great Canadian Bucket List, by Robyn Esrock
Author Robyn Esrock knows a thing or two about travel: he’s visited more than 100 countries on seven continents. In his series of “bucket list” books, he helps fellow travelers find some of the best of the best across Canada—the unique, the strange, the fun, and best-kept secrets of every region. With books that focus on the West Coast, the Maritimes, and everywhere in between, this particular title covers the top choices for the entire country. A great book to ponder future travel plans or simply to enjoy some unique Canadiana from home.
The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Towes
This #1 national bestselling novel from celebrated Canadian author Miriam Toews features a unique travel story. Hattie and Min are sisters and when Min gets sick, Hattie must return from Paris to help take care of Min’s children. The task is overwhelming and the trio sets out on an impromptu road trip from Manitoba to find the children’s father, heading south through the United States, through a series of misadventures. The Flying Troutmans won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.
Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada, by Will Ferguson
Curious about Canada? Will Ferguson is your man. He’s the author of several books set in, and about, Canada that explore its history and unique character, including Bastards and Boneheads: Canada's Glorious Leaders Past and Present, Canadian History for Dummies and the tongue-in-cheek Why I Hate Canadians. In Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada, Ferguson writes about his three years traveling back and forth across Canada, the stories covering adventures in canoes, helicopters, and on foot from Newfoundland to Victoria, BC. The book explores the stereotypes and myths (and realities) of the Canadian identity.
Niagara Motel, by Ashley Little
Tucker Malone gets sent to live in a youth group home after his mother—with whom he’s been living in one motel after another in Niagara Falls—is hit by a car. At the group home, he bonds with Meredith; the pair set off in a “borrowed” car to find Tucker’s father, who his mother believes is Sam Malone, the fictional bartender from the TV show Cheers. This road trip story covers tough ground, as the pair of unlikely friends travel towards an impossible goal, in mid-90s Canada and America. Niagara Motel was a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.
Road Signs That Say West, by Sylvia Gunnery
Three sisters, one guitar, and the Trans-Canada Highway. That’s the premise of Road Signs That Say West, which follows a trio of young women left home alone for a summer when their parents take a lengthy trip to Europe. Setting out from Nova Scotia, sisters Hanna, Claire and Megan find their bond both tested and strengthened as they travel and secrets are revealed. Full of chance encounters with new acquaintances, the story explores issues around trauma, guilt, and uncertainty for the future.
Souvenir of Canada, by Douglas Coupland
One of Canada’s most well-known and intriguing author, Douglas Coupland offers up a deep dive into what it means to be Canadian in Souvenir of Canada. This non-fiction book explores our quirky and complicated history, and our collective Canadian traditions, from stubbie beer bottles to the FLQ crisis. Written in a dictionary style with categories organized alphabetically, the book includes 100 illustrations including photos taken by Coupland, historical images and various Canadian icons.
Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road, by Kate Harris
The travel in this book doesn’t take place in Canada, but it follows Canadian Kate Harris on an extraordinary journey on the other side of the planet. Harris follows a childhood dream to complete the entire length of the fabled Silk Road, and heads out with the friend with whom she biked a portion of it earlier in life. Weaving adventure and personal insight, this book is equal parts travel and memoir. It won the RBC Taylor Prize and the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction.
The Truth About Luck, by Iain Reid
One of Canada’s favourite authors, Iain Reid, shares the story of a planned vacation with his grandmother that turns into a “staycation” in his basement apartment in Kingston, Ontario, in The Truth About Luck. The story—which took place when he was 28 and his grandmother was 92—details their shared time as they visit local attractions and go out for meals. His grandmother shares details and memories from her own inspiring life story, helping Reid explore—through humour and sensitivity—issues around family connection, adversity, aging, and more.
At thirty-eight years old, Ruthie finds herself newly unemployed, freshly single, sleeping on a friend’s couch and downing a bottle of wine each night. Having overstayed her welcome and desperate for a job, Ruthie responds to David’s ad: he’s looking for someone to drive his aging mother, Kay, and her belongings from PEI to Vancouver. Ruthie thinks it’s the perfect chance for a brief escape and a much-needed boost for her empty bank account.
But once they’re on the road, Kay reveals that she’s got a list of stops along the way that’s equal parts sightseeing tour, sexual bucket-list, and trip down memory lane. As David prods for updates and a speedy arrival to his home in Vancouver, Kay begins to share details about a long-lost love and Ruthie takes a detour to play matchmaker, but finds herself caught up in a web of well-intentioned lies.
With the road ahead uncertain, and the past and present colliding, will Ruthie be able to forge a new path? Heartfelt and humorous, The List of Last Chances follows a pair of reluctant travel companions across the country, into an unexpected friendship, new adventures, and the rare gift of second chances.
Comments herecomments powered by Disqus