Historical fiction, dark comedy, detective fiction, a thriller, heartrending drama, and more. Whatever your tastes, you'll find something to love in this list of remarkable spring fiction.
A Convergence of Solitudes, by Anita Anand
About the book: A story of identity, connection and forgiveness, A Convergence of Solitudes shares the lives of two families across Partition of India, Operation Babylift in Vietnam, and two referendums in Quebec.
Sunil and Hima, teenage lovers, bravely defy taboos in pre-Partition India to come together as their country divides in two. They move across the world to Montreal and raise a family, but Sunil shows symptoms of schizophrenia, shattering their newfound peace. As a teenager, their daughter Rani becomes obsessed with Quebecois supergroup Sensibilité—and, in particular, the band's charismatic, nationalistic frontman, Serge Giglio—whose music connects Rani to the province's struggle for cultural freedom. A chance encounter leads Rani to babysit Mélanie, Serge's adopted daughter from Vietnam, bringing her fleetingly within his inner circle.
Years later, Rani, now a college guidance counselor, discovers that Mélanie has booked an appointment to discuss her future at the school. Unmoved by her father's staunch patriotism and her British mother's bourgeois ways, Mélanie is struggling with deep uncertainty about her identity and belonging. As the two women's lives become more and more intertwined, Rani's fascination with Mélanie's father's music becomes a strange shadow amidst their friendship.
Why we're taking notice: Anand was winner of the 2015 QWF Concordia University First Book Prize for Swing in the House and Other Stories, which was also shortlisted for the 2016 Relit Award for Fiction and the Montreal Literary Diversity Prize.
Cambium Blue, by Maureen Brownlee
About the book: Set in the British Columbia Interior, the novel Cambium Blue is an homage to resource towns, independent women and local newspapers.
In 1994, at the outset of the bark beetle epidemic that will decimate millions of acres of pine forest in western North America, a fiercely independent lumber town faces a bleak future when its only sawmill is shuttered. Encouraged by a provincial government intent on transitioning the region from timber to tourism, the town council embraces a resort developer as their last, best hope. A failure to anticipate the human cost of that choice ignites a struggle for the very soul of the community.
Cambium Blue’s narrative alternates between three viewpoints. Stevie Jeffers is a timid, twenty-four year-old single mom who stakes her future on the town after a traumatic break-up. Nash Malone is a reclusive Spanish Civil War veteran who supplements his pension with salvage from the local dump—an occupation that puts him on a collision course with the town’s plan to beautify itself. At fifty-four years old, cash-strapped and short-staffed Maggie Evans is treading water while waiting to sell her dead husband’s newspaper, the barely solvent Chronicle. As the characters’ lives intertwine and the conflict heats up, they will each be challenged to traverse the ambiguous divide between substance and hype, past and future, hope and despair.
Rich with unforgettable characters and set in the Interior hinterland of British Columbia, Cambium Blue is a masterful and compassionate illumination of the human politics of a small town, and the intersection of individual lives with political agendas and environmental catastrophes.
Why we're taking notice: Because after we read this novel and recommended it, we heard back from another who reader who wrote, "I just finished Cambium Blue (in almost one sitting) and I can’t remember when I last read a book I didn’t want to end." (It really is THAT good.)
Unrest, by Emma Côté
About the book: Mortician Mylène Andrews spends her days dealing with death, but has never quite figured out how to live. After her estranged mother passes away, adult-orphaned Mylène sets out in her hearse to see the graveyards her mother visited before her death, guided by a collection of unsent postcards and the residual wake of a tragedy long-considered buried.
With an aversion to black, a colourful vintage wardrobe, and a caustic sense of humour, Mylène has always subverted expectations of how a funeral director should be. Over the course of her trip this helps her become an unlikely media sensation, as she encounters a smattering of strange characters and settings, including intrepid reporters, pesky rodents, and burial sites requiring scuba gear.
Brisk and darkly comic, Unrest is both a road trip story and a touching eulogy on life, death, and what we leave behind.
Why we're taking notice: Unrest was winner of the 2020 3-Day Novel Writing Contest.
Gone But Still Here, by Jennifer Dance
About the book: As her recent memories fade, Mary lives increasingly in the past—returning to the secrets of her turbulent interracial love story.
Coming to terms with advancing dementia, Mary has no choice other than to move into her daughter’s home. Her daughter, Kayla, caught between her cognitively impaired mother and her belligerent teenage son, soon finds caregiving is more challenging than she imagined. Sage, the family’s golden retriever, offers comfort and unconditional love, but she has her own problems, especially when it comes to dealing with Mary’s cat.
Throughout it all, Mary struggles to complete her final book—a memoir, the untold story of the love of her life, who died more than forty years earlier. Her confused and tangled tales span Trinidad, England, and Canada, revealing the secrets of a tragic interracial love story in the 1960s and ’70s. But with her writing skills slipping away, it’s a race against time.
Heartwarming, funny, and hopeful, Gone but Still Here is an honest, open look at the struggles of one family as they journey into the unknown.
Why we're taking notice: Dance is an acclaimed author of novels for children, and this is her debut for adult readers.
Noonday Dark, by Charles Demers
About the book: An exciting second installment in the Doctor Annick Boudreau Mystery Series, the endearing and unflappable Dr. Boudreau returns in this complex and nuanced portrait of psychology and a city.
When Dr. Boudreau is contacted by the Vancouver Police and informed that her patient Danielle has been reported missing and there’s a suicide note, the psychologist is shaken. Danielle, who was being treated for a major depressive episode, had been doing well—talking about her new relationship and the contract she just completed as a speechwriter for a bike-riding politician’s successful mayoral campaign.
Dr. Boudreau is, once again, on a mission to discover what really happened and joins forces with Danielle’s estranged father, Ivor, a former radical journalist turned right-wing blogger. Along the way, the realpolitik is illuminated in a clash over the Knight Street trucking route, protected by the Satan’s Hammer Motorcycle Club, who has a strong presence on the waterfront and refuse to relinquish the port traffic to the suburbs.
Discover the clash and charisma of a city embroiled in politics in this twisting and turning story. Charles Demers renders a divisive cityscape entangled in questions of ownership and change—who owns the city and who has the right to change it—with humour, edge and compassion, revealing the intricacies of a metropolis on the verge of myriad transformations.
Why we're taking notice: Because the novel is recommended by Iona Whishaw (our fave!) who writes, “Dr. Annick Boudreau is a smart, caffeinated heroine whose reckless but earnest drive to save her patient from a murder charge makes for a fast and exciting read from start to finish … I look forward to her next case!”
The Wards, by Terry Doyle
About the book: The Wards are a working-class Newfoundland family on the cusp of upheaval. The children are becoming adults, the adults are growing old, and the new dog was probably stolen. When a sudden illness forces the Wards together, can they finally learn to be close-knit?
This unsettling, at times hilarious novel explores the instability of nuclear families and the depths of dysfunction.
Family is family—you don’t get to choose.
So what, exactly, do you get to choose?
Why we're taking notice: Doyle's first book, Dig, was a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Fiction, the ReLit Award for Fiction, the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Fiction, and the Alistair MacLeod Short Fiction Award.
Night in the World, by Sharon English
About the book: A tender ensemble novel about coming home to oneself and one's family through the beauty and soulfulness of Earth, even in an age of unravelling.
Brothers Justin and Oliver have never been close. Justin owns an iconic Toronto restaurant and lives with his wife and daughter in Baby Point. Oliver, a former environmental reporter, does admin for a local gym and rents an attic apartment. Yet both men know their worlds stand on the brink. With their mother's abrupt death, each sets out to set things right: Oliver to reclaim a beloved home, Justin to save one that's falling apart.
Intersecting Justin's and Oliver's journeys is Gabe: a budding biologist enchanted by the underappreciated beauty of moths, and conflicted by the demands of scientific scrutiny. As the brothers' pursuits take them from Toronto Island to the Humber River, from drugs and transgressive art to meetings with imperiled activists, Gabe stakes everything on a glimpse of a new possibility.
Sharon English has penned a tender and powerful novel about the claims places make on our hearts, and how journeys into darkness are sometimes necessary to see through catastrophe. Night in the World explores the need to end our separations from each other and from nature—coming home, at last, to a beleaguered yet still beautiful world.
Why we're taking notice: English is the author of two acclaimed story collections, included the Giller-longlisted Zero Gravity, and this is her long-awaited first novel.
Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner
About the book: Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:
Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances--most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.
Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she's been working to support the family following her husband's breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.
Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she's working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.
As they interact with various literary figures of the time—Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others—these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.
Why we're taking notice: Jenner's debut The Jane Austen Society was a huge sensation, and we're excited for what's next!
Mindful of Murder, by Susan Juby
About the book: Meet Helen Thorpe. She’s smart, preternaturally calm, deeply insightful and a freshly trained butler. On the day she is supposed to start her career as an unusually equanimous domestic professional serving one of the wealthiest families in the world, she is called back to a spiritual retreat where she used to work, the Yatra Institute, on one of British Columbia’s gulf islands. The owner of the lodge, Helen’s former employer Edna, has died while on a three-month silent self-retreat, leaving Helen instructions to settle her affairs.
But Edna’s will is more detailed than most, and getting things in order means Helen must run the retreat for a select group to determine which of Edna’s relatives will inherit the institute. Helen’s classmates, newly minted butlers themselves, decide they can’t let her go it alone and arrive to help Helen pull things off. After all, is there anything three butlers can’t handle? As Helen carries out the will’s instructions, she begins to think that someone had reason to want Edna dead. A reluctantly suspicious investigator, Helen and her band of butlers find themselves caught up in the mystery.
Why we're taking notice: Because Juby is a comic genius and this book is receiving fantastic reviews.
The Darkness in the Light, by Daniel Kalla
About the book: A psychiatrist’s patients are dying—are they suicides related to a new antidepressant, or is there something even more sinister going on in the northernmost town in the US? A riveting new thriller from internationally bestselling author Daniel Kalla.
After Brianna O’Brien takes her own life, Dr. David Spears blames himself. Though he understands suicides can be a tragic occurrence in psychiatric practice, this loss hits him particularly hard. With Brianna, he’s convinced he missed crucial warning signs. When David suspects Brianna’s friend, Amka Obed—whom he’s also been treating virtually—is in crisis, he flies to the remote Arctic community of Utqiagvik, Alaska, only to discover that she has disappeared.
While the regional police are confident that Amka will turn up safe, David and the town’s social worker, Taylor Holmes, have serious doubts. Each battling their own demons, David and Taylor launch an investigation, determined to help uncover the truth about what happened to Amka. David wonders if a new antidepressant he recently prescribed both Amka and Brianna played a role in what took place. Taylor, who’s familiar with the locals, suspects a drug lord with connections to Amka’s boyfriend.
Who is right? Where is Amka? Is she still alive?
What begins as a missing persons inquiry and suspicion over a pharmaceutical cover-up quickly evolves into a terrifying journey of treachery and death—one that will horrify this isolated town and endanger many more lives.
Why we're taking notice: We're big fans of Kalla (see his recommended reading list, Tackling the Big Themes, from last year) and this one sounds fantastic.
Letters to Singapore, by Kelly Kaur
About the book: Growing up in Singapore, Simran always knew what was expected of her: to learn how to be a good mother and wife. The only problem? Simran has no interest in any of this. After a close escape (almost at the altar!), Simran earns a reprieve to attend the University of Calgary in Canada. Letters exchanged back home to her mother, sister and friends reveal that no matter which path women take, traditional or independent, life is fraught with conflict, hilarity and peril. Simran's experience as a brave and hopeful young woman and a new Canadian will touch your heart; her thoughtful determination to chart her own course will inspire you.
Why we're taking notice: We're big fans of Alberta-based Stonehouse Publishing (book design to die for!) and their whole spring list sounds fantastic.
This is How We Love, by Lisa Moore
About the book: From the celebrated author of February and Caught comes an exhilarating new novel that asks: What makes a family? How does it shape us? And can we ever really choose who we love?
As the snowstorm of the century rages toward Newfoundland, twenty-one-year-old Xavier is beaten and stabbed in a vicious attack. His mother, Jules, must fight her way through the shuttered streets of St. John’s to reach the hospital where Xavier lies unconscious. When a video of the attack surfaces, Jules struggles to make sense of what she sees in the footage — and of what she can’t quite make out.
While Xavier’s story unfolds, so, too, do the stories that brought him there. Here, across families and generations, are stories of mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers; of children cared for, neglected, lost, and re-found; of selfless generosity and reluctant debt. Above all, Moore, in the inimitable largesse of her art, paints a shimmering portrait of the sacrifice, pain, and wild joy of loving.
A tour de force of storytelling and craft, This is How We Love brings us a cast of characters so rich and true they could only have been written by Lisa Moore.
Why we're taking notice: Because Lisa Moore is a national treasure, and this latest novel will take your breath away.
What We Both Know, by Fawn Parker
About the book: For readers of My Dark Vanessa, a mesmerizing, disturbing, and thoroughly compelling novel about one woman’s role in preserving—or destroying—her famous father’s legacy.
In front of me are hundreds of pages of work. Already I feel it leaving me. He will obliterate what is there, replace it, deny I ever wrote a word. But, he cannot take the words I write on my own.
Hillary Greene’s father, once a celebrated author and public figure, is now losing his memory and, with it, his ability to write. As her father’s primary caretaker, each day begins with two eggs, boiled and Charlie Rose or some other host on the iPad screen. Her father compulsively watches himself in old interviews, memorizing his own speech, trying to hang on to who he was.
An aspiring author herself, Hillary impulsively agrees to ghost-write his final work—a memoir spanning his career—and release it in his name. Diving deep into her father’s past, and in turn her own, a horrifying truth begins to piece itself together.
With full control over her father’s memoir, Hillary is faced with a stark choice: reveal her father as a monster or preserve his legacy as a respected literary figure. But she wonders what writing the truth will do to her and if it will damage her own prospects for a career. Whichever option she chooses, Hillary has to deal with the significant pain writing the memoir has re-surfaced—specifically, how the truth about her father adds to her grief over the death of her enigmatic sister, Pauline. For the first time in her life, Hillary holds the power.
Set in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, What We Both Know is a visceral, intimate, and complex novel about confronting the personal and professional consequences—and potentially devastating fallout—of revealing the truth about a famous man.
Why we're taking notice: Fawn Parker is a wide-ranging writer, as well as a fantastic literary booster, and this book is both timely and excellent.
Such Big Dreams, by Reema Patel
About the book: A savvy former street child working at a human rights law office in Mumbai fights for redemption and a chance to live life on her own terms in this fresh, propulsive debut novel about fortune and survival.
Rakhi is a twenty-three-year-old former street child haunted by the grisly aftermath of an incident that led her to lose her best friend eleven years ago. Constantly reminded she doesn’t belong, Rakhi lives alone in a Mumbai slum, working as a lowly office assistant at Justice For All, a struggling human rights law office headed by the renowned lawyer who gave her a fresh start.
Fiercely intelligent and in possession of a sharp wit and an even sharper tongue, Rakhi is nobody’s fool, even if she is underestimated by everyone around her. Rakhi's life isn't much, but she's managing. That is until a fading former Bollywood starlet tries to edge her way back into the spotlight by becoming a celebrity ambassador for Justice For All. Steering the organization into uncharted territories, she demands an internship for her young Canadian family friend, Alex, a Harvard-bound graduate student. Ambitious, persistent, and naive, Alex persuades Rakhi to show him "the real" India. In exchange, he’ll do something to further Rakhi’s dreams in a transaction that seems harmless, at first.
As old guilt and new aspirations collide, everything Rakhi once knew to be true is set ablaze. And as the stakes mount, she will come face to face with the difficult choices and moral compromises that people are prepared to make in order to survive, no matter the costs. Reema Patel’s transportive debut novel offers a moving, smart, and arrestingly funny look at the cost of ambition and power in reclaiming one’s story.
Why we're taking notice: There's so much buzz for this one! A propulsive novel with an unforgettable narrative voice.
Mansions of the Moon, by Shyam Selvadurai
About the book: From the bestselling, award-winning author of Funny Boy and The Hungry Ghosts comes a breathtaking reimagining of ancient India through the extraordinary life of Yasodhara, the woman who married the Buddha.
In this sweeping tale, at once epic and intimate, Shyam Selvadurai introduces us to Siddhartha Gautama—who will later become “the enlightened one,” or the Buddha—an unusually bright and politically astute young man settling into his upper-caste life as a newlywed to Yasodhara, a woman of great intelligence and spirit. Mansions of the Moon traces the couple’s early love and life together, and then the anguished turmoil that descends upon them both as Siddhartha’s spiritual calling takes over and the marriage partnership slowly, inexorably crumbles. Eventually, Yasodhara is forced to ask what kind of life a woman can lead in ancient India if her husband abandons her—even a well-born woman such as herself. And is there a path she, too, might take towards enlightenment?
Award-winning writer Shyam Selvadurai examines these questions with empathy and insight, creating a vivid portrait of a fascinating time and place, the intricate web of power, family and relationships that surround a singular marriage, and the remarkable woman who until now has remained a little-understood shadow in the historical record. Mansions of the Moon is an immersive, lively and thrilling feat of literary imagination.
Why we're taking notice: Selvadurai's first novel, Funny Boy, was a national bestseller, won the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award as well as the Lamda Literary Award, was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, and his work has been celebrated ever since.
The Gunsmith's Daughter, by Margaret Sweatman
About the book: 1971. Lilac Welsh lives an isolated life with her parents at Rough Rock on the Winnipeg River. Her father, Kal, stern and controlling, has built his wealth by designing powerful guns and ammunition. He’s on the cusp of producing a .50 calibre assault rifle that can shoot down an airplane with a single bullet, when a young stranger named Gavin appears at their door, wanting to meet him before enlisting for the war in Vietnam. Gavin’s arrival sparks an emotional explosion in Lilac’s home and inspires her to begin her own life as a journalist, reporting on the war that’s making her family rich.
The Gunsmith’s Daughter is both a coming-of-age story and an allegorical novel about Canada-US relations. Psychologically and politically astute, and gorgeously written, Margaret Sweatman’s portrait of a brilliant gunsmith and his eighteen-year-old daughter tells an engrossing story of ruthless ambition, and one young woman’s journey toward independence.
Why we're taking notice: Because we loved Sweatman's previous book, the spy novel Mr. Jones, plus she has under belt honours including the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, the Carol Shields Winnipeg Award, and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year.
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