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Expat Authors

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Canadian authors who live and scribble abroad.
Inside

Inside

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Paperback Paperback

Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and selected as an Oprah's Book Club Summer Reading Pick, an Amazon.ca Best Book, and an iTunes Store Best Book

When Grace, a highly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man in the snowy woods who has failed to hang himself, her instinct to help immediately kicks in. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from str …

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Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Paperback

These sixteen stories by the much-celebrated Alix Ohlin illuminate the connections between all of us—connections we choose to break, those broken for us, and those we find and make in spite of ourselves.

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Excerpt

From Chapter 1

So the important thing to know from the start is that she was miserable. She hadn’t always been, of course. She’d gotten married in a flurry of sex and promises, wearing a white dress so hideously confectionary that she felt like a parody of herself, a joke told in crinoline and lace, and even that made her happy, because it was silly and she knew they’d laugh about it later. Which they did. Then they had a baby, who was beautiful and perfect, then later on became less beautiful, less perfect, in fact troubled, for a time Ritalin and methamphetamine addicted, but subsequently, amazingly, pulled himself together and managed, despite the rocky years, to graduate from college and find a decent job at a zoo, tending to the turtles.
 
Which brings us to the misery, twenty-six years on. On the day she discovered she was miserable, Kathleen was forty-nine years old and a tenured professor of American literature at a college in suburban Philadelphia. Her husband, Terence, was fifty-two, and also tenured, in the same department at the same school. Their son, Steve, had been clean for three years. The mortgage had been paid. Financially, emotionally, and logistically, things were going pretty well. She and Terence were in a meeting, discussing whether or not to allow English majors to graduate without taking a course in Shakespeare. Tempers on this topic ran high, as they almost always did; the professors were a testy bunch, desirous of offense. Terence, the chair, argued this requirement was retrograde, absurd; everyone knew that English majors nowadays went on to marketing or advertising or law school.
 
“That’s true,” Kathleen said wearily, feeling obligated to support her husband. At one time, she’d worked hard to stake out her own positions, to be seen as objective and fair. She soon realized, however, that no matter what she said she would always be perceived as taking Terence’s side; even when she voted against him, this was interpreted as some kind of obscure but Machiavellian strategy the two of them had cooked up together. So she opted for the path of least resistance, which was to pretend, both at work and at home, that Terence was the most brilliant person she knew.
 
“Now, I love Shakespeare,” he said. Kathleen wondered if this was true. She hadn’t seen him read a book, any book, for pleasure, in the last decade. What he truly loved was reality television. He liked to root for the schemers and alliance forgers, praising them for their cunning amorality. Play the game, he would urge them out loud in the den, his voice tight with drama.
 
“I could happily spend the rest of my days,” he went on, “reading the plays and sonnets over and over again. But I’m a scholar. And we’re not preparing scholars, by and large, after all.”
 
“Surely you don’t mean to suggest that only literary scholars need to read Shakespeare?” Fleur Mason said. “Surely even you, Terence, aren’t that hostile to literature?”
 
Her even you hung in the room’s ensuing silence. In this group there was no such thing as a passing remark; each one was noted, parsed, enshrined. Fleur Mason looked right at Terence and didn’t flush. Young, square-shouldered, and passionate, she wore ruffled skirts and lace blouses and a gold cross on a chain; she seemed like someone who’d spent her childhood alone in a room, writing poems about trees. She didn’t belong to today’s world but refused, violently, to admit it.
 
“Surely even you, Fleur, aren’t so defensive and small-minded as to think that questioning literature’s practices is the same as being hostile to them,” Terence said smoothly.
 
It was almost five, and the others looked indiscreetly at their watches, anticipating blood-sugar crashes, child-care crises, cocktails tragically delayed.
 
“Maybe this is more than we want to get into right now,” Kathleen said diplomatically, for which she received a few grateful glances. But not from Fleur and Terence, both of whom were breathing hard.
 
Another half an hour passed, with no resolution reached on the Shakespeare requirement. Finally, after some in the room progressed from stuffing papers into their bags to standing up and moving to the door, Terence tabled the issue and adjourned the meeting, promising that next month they would communally endure the punishment of having to discuss it again.
 
Kathleen went back to her office, hoping to wrap up a few things, but all she could think about was her feverish irritation with Fleur Mason. It was ridiculous for her to be so difficult, so adamant. She obviously had to know that letting Terence have his way was the easiest course of action for everyone. Fleur had, in fact, always driven Kathleen crazy. She was single and thirty-seven and appeared to have no life outside of her job. She had a laugh like a demented clown’s; it rose too suddenly and lingered too long. There was also the profound and unforgivable stupidity of her name.
 
By six thirty everyone else had left, including Terence, who played squash with his friend Dave on Tuesday afternoons. Fleur’s office had once been Kathleen’s, and she still had the key. She walked down the hall, let herself in, and stood there for a moment, energized with hate. The room smelled like dust and Yankee Candle. There were framed New Yorker cartoons with literary jokes on the walls. And there was this: Fleur kept a bird in her office. God only knew why this was allowed but she’d brought in the bird—it was a parakeet—one semester when she was, she said, spending more time here than at home, and didn’t want it to be lonely. Now the bird was a permanent fixture, chirping all day long. Fleur put a blanket over the cage before leaving, and the bird went to sleep. Or so she said. When Kathleen lifted up the blanket, it wasn’t sleeping, just staring back at her with tiny, waxy, jelly-bean eyes. She opened the office door—there was no one around—and then the cage. She reached in and grabbed the bird in her hand, and in the instant before she threw it out into the hallway, where it confusedly took flight, its yellow wings scraping the walls, she could feel the frenzied, angry beating of its miniature heart against her palm.

***

 
She went home and cooked shrimp scampi, which she ate while listening to Terence hold forth on Shakespeare and the irrelevance of canonical literature in today’s digital world. When she glanced outside, a cardinal was sitting on the branch of an elm tree, looking back at her. She thought of the parakeet, trapped in the hallway of the Humanities Building or, alternately, flying around the campus, making its yellow way through a world it had never before seen. She felt remorseful, but also still corked with hate. Not a single thing had been exorcised from her soul.
 
At that moment, she understood—how belatedly!—that she detested not Fleur but herself, her own life, and most particularly her husband and his relentless occupation of that life. And that she’d hated all of this for a very long time.
 
“Terry,” she said.
 
He cocked his head at her, birdlike, chewing. Sometimes conversation seemed like something he’d read about in a magazine, never experienced firsthand. To him, her preferable role was that of mute audience. Anything she said in response, even her agreement, was liable to piss him off, and he’d storm away from the table, never clearing or washing the dishes, to scour the cable channels.
 
“Never mind,” she said.

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Heaven is Small

Heaven is Small

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
tagged : humorous

Award-winning author and poet Emily Schultz offers an immensely readable, funny, and sharp novel about a man who works for a Harlequin-like publisher, and gradually discovers that he has arrived in "heaven." Like Will Ferguson's international bestseller, Happiness, Heaven is Small is a smart, satirical novel from one of our best.

Heaven is Small is the funny, layered, startling, and profound story of Gordon Small, a degree-clutching slacker and failed fiction writer. Gordon is also, we discover i …

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Joyland

Joyland

A Novel
by Emily Schultz
illustrated by Nate Powell
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback
tagged : literary

Welcome to 1984 and the town of South Wakefield. Chris Lane is 14 and he’s sure that he can see the future, or at least guess what’s inside of Christie Brinkley’s mind. But he can't foresee the closing of Joyland, the town’s only video arcade. With the arcade’s passing comes a summer of teenage lust, violence, and a search for new entertainment. Never far away is Chris’s younger sister, Tammy, who plays spy to the events that will change the lives of her family and town forever. Joyl …

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Excerpt

The girl who was flopped on the carpet knew cities of jacks, terrains of kitchen crumbs, the dumb wooden legs of furniture, and all that lay between them. The worn spot beside the right pedal her father’s piano foot had stamped and thumped, and vigorously rubbed off. The catalogues and as–yet–paperless presents beneath her mother’s side of the bed. The jagged letters of her brother Chris’s name gouged white into an underlying beam of the playroom table (which had since become a study table), though he would not now admit that the letters had any association with him. The difference in vibration of footfalls — the hesitancy of her mother’s, the severity of her father’s, the singular triumphant stomps issued by Chris. The place to look for a lost Lite–Brite peg, a kicked Tinker Toy, a clumsy fallen Battleship, an elastic–shot chunk of Lego. The stretch of linoleum where a marble or HotWheels would stall. Whether or not a doll’s shoe would fit beneath the door. First, second, third, and fourth grade accumulated between individual grains of shag. When Tammy rose up, she was halfway through Grade Five, she would soon start Six. She had witnessed the beginning of her life from this fixed, ground level. She teetered through the house off balance, unaccustomed to being vertical. By her eleventh birthday, she had found her footing. Eventually, she became addicted to height, learned to climb.

 

That summer, Tammy Lane was brave enough and strong enough to reach the very top of the maple tree in her backyard. From there, she could see the cars on St. Lawrence Street shooting past. She could see her brother flying away down the sidewalk on his bmx. She could see him flying away from her, away from everything she had ever known. Tammy watched afternoon lapse into evening and waited for him to come home.

Chris zigzagged through the grocery store parking lot, his butt in the air as the front tire cleared the curb and dropped him into the street. He disappeared through the branches. According to Tammy’s Big Book of Spy Terms , he was "in the gap." When he reappeared, he was at the corner near the donut shop. Tammy lost him then — longer, "in the black" — and when she spotted him once more, he had doubled back through the grocery lot, riding hard and quick with his head down. Tammy pulled herself up by a branch she didn’t trust, crooked her body onto a side bough that bent away from the trunk — at an alarming angle. The branch had been cut off and had veered, growing at a ninety degree angle from its sacrifice point, though not during Tammy’s lifetime. She held tight, looking down, a thirty yard drop. She glanced back up just in time to catch Chris dodge into the string of back lots of the businesses on St. Lawrence.

Parallel, she located them: three shapes moving in the stretch in front of the donut shop. Bright blue track jackets and yellow hair bands. Girls.

To Tammy’s knowledge her brother had only six fears. One, their father (though Tammy couldn’t begin to fathom why). Two, J.P.’s older brother, who terrorized them on occasion (the same way J.P. and Chris liked to terrorize Tammy). Three, classical music (or anything other than hard rock and metal). Four, visiting their grandfather, but only because it meant being away from Joyland for days at a time (days, Chris said, that would make him "a total amateur again"). Five, ostriches (because he was once bitten while visiting an animal safari during family vacation). Six, clowns (due to too many viewings of the movie Poltergeist ).

To this list, Tammy added number seven. Girls (an undiscriminating category including nearly all, except her).

Fears numbers three and four probably didn’t count. Still, Tammy left them in. Chris’s seven fears were a thumb–sized wedge in the pie graph compared to all of hers. The Seven Fears. Like the seven dwarves, fears were real and respiring, each with its own distinct personality.

She pressed chin against branch and let her lips trail over the grey, leaving a wide wet mark, the kiss of the bark on her lips like a hard, scarred thing. She dropped her forehead to the branch and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, Chris and the girls were both long gone. Tammy swung from one limb to another, carefully, letting her body hover in the space between just a fraction of a second longer than needed to obtain the exhilaration of floating.

 

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Songs for the Dancing Chicken

Songs for the Dancing Chicken

edition:Paperback
tagged :

The films and life of acclaimed director Werner Herzog become linguistic launch pads for subtle investigations into everyday life in this collection of poetry. Hypnotic images are used to imbue that everyday life with profound insight, finding the intersection between Herzog's art and poetic voice.

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The Blondes

The Blondes

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

A breakout novel for a young writer whose last book was shortlisted for the Trillium Prize alongside Anne Michaels and Margaret Atwood, and whom the Toronto Star called a "force of nature."
 
Hazel Hayes is a grad student living in New York City. As the novel opens, she learns she is pregnant (from an affair with her married professor) at an apocalyptically bad time: random but deadly attacks on passers-by, all by blonde women, are terrorizing New Yorkers. Soon it becomes clear that the attacks …

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I, Tania

I, Tania

a novel
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

America lies in ruins during an age of decline, despair, and death. The year is 1975 and a radical far-left group has kidnapped a young woman from one of America's richest families. Using the memoir format just enough to spin off into a crazed, bawdy, and seditious charge through pop culture and politics, this is a highly fictionalized true story of the rise and fall of the Symbianese Liberation Army, as it never happened.

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Ronald Reagan, My Father

Ronald Reagan, My Father

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Startlingly original, these hilariously offbeat storylines blend vivid characters with bleakly comical plots that are both human and uncanny. Each memorable character?including the elderly who take to the streets at night for illegal and cathartic electric scooter racing, a copy editor who suffers brain damage from West Nile virus and is suddenly filled with cannibalistic violence and award-winning minimalist poetry, and Mayor McCheese who visits a sexually repressed British couple in the early …

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