All these books explore family (and group) dynamics, grief (in all its applications), and love (romantic, familial, lost, unrequited, second-chance, failed, renewed, complicated) with all the requisite summer tools, from pool noodles and pontoons to gas station sunglasses and faded plastic buckets. All of them ripe with humane and humorous reminders that life rarely goes as planned, and that’s exactly the point: you carry on, even when you’ve been forced to check your carry-on.
East Grand Lake, by Tim Ryan
Set in the summer of 1972, this novel-in-stories documents one sprawling family’s annual trip to the lake in all its messy glory. Despite themes of loss, uncertainty, and mental illness, East Grand Lake is full of warmth and humour. The perfect read if you’ve ever wondered what the adults were talking about in the kitchen. Nostalgic, emotionally precise and merry.
The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour, by Dawn Dumont
When a bout of flu sidelines the Prairie Chicken Dance Troupe on the eve of their European performance tour, a group of unlikely alternates takes their place setting the stage for a series of madcap missteps and misunderstandings. The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour is a story about self-acceptance, identity and stepping-up, especially when it means stepping out of your physical, social—and even your spiritual—comfort zones. The perfect read if you’ve ever been a last-minute replacement. Sharp, comedic, and entertaining.
Grin Reaping, by Rod Carley
In a series of interconnected stories, Grin Reaping catalogues both the shortcomings and the victories of the fictional Boyle family with exceptional wit and (almost) painful familiarity. Tackling themes of ageing, mortality, and gender, Carley’s go-big-or-go-home comedic style is on full and fantastic display. The perfect read if a little gravel got in the parfait and you served it anyway. Heartwarming, wise, and absurd.
The List of Last Chances, by Christina Myers
A pair of reluctant strangers, separated by a generation, but connected by parallel life crises, embarks on a cross-country road trip. Add a wacky bucket list, car trouble, and more roadblocks than an episode of the Amazing Race, and you have The List of Last Chances. A provocative and insightful examination of loss, love, and second chances, plus a reminder that sometimes, the only way out of a rut is to shift the gear into drive and just give ‘er. The perfect read if you’ve ever posed with a penis-shaped rock. Charming, comical and enlightening.
Happy Sands, by Barb Howard
All Ginny Johnson wants is a postcard-perfect family getaway at the aptly named, Happy Sands Resort. Unfortunately, her family has other plans, like pretending not to be a part of the family or sleeping until two in the afternoon; and we’re talking about her husband here, not her teenage son. Happy Sands is a story about reconciling one’s expectations with one’s reality, family management, and walking (swimming) that fickle line between going with the flow and violently dogpaddling against it. The perfect read if you’re allergic to sunscreen. Relatable, poignant, and keenly observed.
Indians on Vacation, by Thomas King
Bird and Mimi travel to Europe in an attempt to trace Uncle Leroy’s legendary medicine bundle. Is it a vacation? Depends on how you define "vacation." This book is a reminder that our problems, preoccupations, and personality traits follow us wherever we go whether we’ve invited them to or not. It’s also a meditation on history, class, displacement, and our relationships—those with our (many) selves, our pasts and with the ones we bring on vacation. The perfect read if you’ve ever suffered food poisoning on holiday. Sardonic, perceptive, and rich.
Fight Night, by Miriam Toews
Fight Night explores love and loss, hardship and hope, fresh starts, and dead ends through the lives of three women living (surviving?) in the same household experiencing problems that range from the inconvenient to the existential. A story that is as gut-wrenching as it is gut-busting with blistering dialogue and knockout prose. Plus, California. Also, Miriam Toews. The perfect read if you’ve ever overcooked the conchigliette. Transformative, witty, and deeply felt.
Lost & Found in Lunenburg, by Jane Doucet
Just weeks after turning fifty, Rose Ainsworth finds herself widowed, lost, and addled with grief. In a bold move—one her family isn’t initially behind—Ainsworth flees the city for a fresh start in a small coastal town, where she buys the local sex shop. Lost & Found in Lunenburg is a testament to the healing power of community and proof that it’s never too late to get it on, even when you’re still feeling a little off. The perfect read if you’ve ever torn a hole in your fishnets. Big-hearted, bright, and amiable.
From Leacock finalist Ali Bryan, a witty and immensely fun dramedy about a family's memorial trip to the City of Love, where chaos ensues at every turn.
It's been ten years since Claudia's mother died after a tragic collision with a banana boat. Her kids are now teenagers, her brother's wife has left him, and her ex has had a spiritual awakening that has him hinting at reconciliation -- all things she can handle.
But when her septuagenarian father decides to remarry after a brief courtship with a woman who is decidedly different than their mother, the entire family is thrown off course, and plans a long overdue memorial trip to the only place their mother ever dreamed of going: Paris. However, minutes after take-off, the trip takes an unpredictable turn and sets off a chain of events that threatens to derail the closure the family desperately seeks.
Chance meetings, poolside confessions, run-ins with mimes, climate protests, and a man with a death wish force Claudia to reconsider everything she thought she knew about love, both the familial and the romantic, the tragic and the sublime. How well do we really know those closest to us? And how well do we really know ourselves?
In this follow-up to her award-winning novel Roost, Ali Bryan explores thorny family dynamics with her trademark offbeat humour and insight. Coq is a darkly comedic contemporary family drama that explores grief, identity, and second chances in the one-and-only City of Love.
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