Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Literary

Once More with Feeling

by (author) Meira Cook

House of Anansi Press Inc
Initial publish date
Sep 2017
Literary, Small Town & Rural
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Jan 2018
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


From award-winning author Méira Cook comes a novel exploring the intricacies and interconnected lives of one community in a small and colourful prairie city.

After twenty years Max Binder is still in love with his fiery wife, Maggie, and is determined to get her the perfect fortieth birthday gift. But Max’s singular desire — to make his wife happy — leads to an unexpected event that changes the course of his family’s life and touches the people who make up their western prairie city.

Set over the course of a single year, Once More With Feeling tells the story of this city through intersecting moments and interconnected lives. The colourful citizens who make up the community are marked by transformation, upheaval, and loss: the worker at a downtown soup kitchen who recognizes a kindred spirit amongst the homeless; the aging sisters who everywhere see the fleeting ghosts of two missing neighbourhood children; a communal voice of mothers anxious for the future of their children in the discomfiting world they inhabit. Award-winning author Méira Cook has crafted a novel that is at once funny, poignant, and yes, full of feeling.

About the author

Méira Cook is the award-winning author of the novels The House on Sugarbush Road, which won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and Nightwatching, which won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. She has also published five poetry collections, most recently Monologue Dogs, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry and for the 2016 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. She won the CBC Poetry Prize in 2007 and the inaugural Walrus Poetry Prize in 2012. In 2011 she served as Writer in Residence at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture, and was the 2013–14 Writer in Residence at the Winnipeg Public Library. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, she now lives in Winnipeg.

Meira Cook's profile page


  • Short-listed, The Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction
  • Winner, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award
  • Short-listed, McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award

Excerpt: Once More with Feeling (by (author) Meira Cook)

From “Pizza Chicken Dentist”

Down at the Mission folks were idling on the sidewalk, smoking and waiting for the metal shutters at the kitchen counter to clatter up so that lunch could finally be served. “Folks,” was what Miss Leonard called the men spinning on their worn-down rubber heels in the weak iodine sunlight of early spring. Miss Leonard volunteered all her free time to the Mission and consequently had a proprietary attitude. She called everyone folks: the old timers sipping coffee and playing checkers in the dining room, the born-agains who came for breakfast and stayed for Christ, the teenage boys with their wire hanger shoulder blades angling through their “Born to Rock” T-shirts.

Sometimes a woman would sidle or shuffle or strut into the Mission, her gait keeping pace with her disposition; the coin tosses of bravado or despondency that saw her through her days. Singly, or in spindly little groups, the women would wait in line at the lunch counter, their hunger for food or companionship rendering them bold. And they were folks, too.

Five or six men were idling outside the Mission when Annunciata arrived, a thin brown girl clutching at the balloon-string of her occasional buoyancy. The snow had finally rotted away, winter rushing through the gutters and gurgling down the drains. A couple of the men were smoking, coaxing a last puff from their burnt-down cigarettes, holding each breath until their eyes bulged. The Mission opened its doors to the city’s jobless, the street people, the panhandlers, the squeegee kids, the homeless ones, although once, when Annunciata had wondered aloud at these poor doorstep ghosts, the Senior Admin. had corrected her.

“We don’t say homeless here, Anna. We say ‘persons experiencing homelessness.’” Senior Admin. was a stocky girl with a permanent furrow above her brow. A little asterisk in the arid homelessness of her face, although what it bore witness to, Annunciata couldn’t exactly say.

“Experiencing homelessness” was meant to convey the temporariness of the condition, the vagrant hope that poverty was merely a refugee camp on the way to permanent citizenship. A waystation.

“Morning, Isaac, Donny, Bodo,” Annunciata called, stepping through the men who obligingly allowed her passage, sucking back their smoke and paddling at the air in front of them. “Morning, Nachos and Mr. Wilson.” Weary of being told what not to call the Mission people, Annunciata had decided to learn as many names as she could and use them accordingly.

“Morning Mr… Um.” His name wasn’t really Um but the old fellow was uncooperative when asked, and Mr. Um was the best she could do. Annunciata thought that perhaps he was secretive about his name because it was the only thing he owned. On the other hand, maybe he’d just forgotten it—drink did that to a fellow, and crack, and the dog-eyed loneliness that eats its own paws. His eyes were yellowish and his few remaining teeth were grayish. He never smiled and seldom spoke, but when he was hungry he rapped out a shave and a shoeshine on the metal shutters of the kitchen window, and when he was feeling perky he did a soft shoe shuffle in the dust.

Annunciata stopped to watch and applaud. “Bravo!” she clapped. Mr. Um made jazz hands and blew her a purposeful kiss. He had a heavy, stumbling gait but a perfect pitch for imaginary music. “Nice weather we’re having,” Annunciata replied.

“Pizza, chicken,” he confided. Something like that. But Annunciata thought he said “pizza,” and then some other kind of food. Possibly chicken. It was going on nine and she had to hustle to report for kitchen duty. So did.

“Heavens, child, I’m glad we’re not waiting for you to make any big announcements,” said Miss Leonard when Annunciata came into the kitchen shrugging off her jacket and tying an apron around her waist. She meant the miracle of the Lord’s birth which, if she was an angel, Annunciata would have been in charge of. Sometimes Miss Leonard said, “Hallelujah, young lady!” and sometimes just, “Hurry, you!” but it was always to do with Annunciata being half a minute behindhand and two thousand years too late.

Editorial Reviews

Meira Cook . . . writes prose so fluid, so effortless, so vivid, you’re swept away on its sheer beauty and power. . . . Once More With Feeling manages to be both sharp and tender, tragic and fiercely funny, and wholly satisfying.

Toronto Star

Other titles by Meira Cook

Related lists