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Some Books We're Looking Forward to in 2017
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Some Books We're Looking Forward to in 2017

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A new year is just around the corner with a whole new crop of books in store. These are some of the titles we're excited about.
So Much Love

So Much Love

edition:Paperback

Finalist for the First Novel Award
Olive Kitteridge meets Room and The Lovely Bones in this stunning first novel about the unexpected reverberations the abduction of a young woman has on a small community.

When Catherine Reindeer mysteriously vanishes from the parking lot outside the restaurant where she works, an entire community is shattered. Her fellow waitress now sees danger all around her. Her mother desperately seeks comfort in saying her name over and over again. Her professor thinks of …

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Excerpt

It seems disloyal after all these years, but I’ve got to start buying different mascara. The Lancôme one I’ve always used wears so nice and soft—heavy makeup makes a woman my age look like a harri­dan—but it isn’t waterproof, and I’ve been crying all spring.
     When Catherine first disappeared in March, everything was still frozen, but within a week the spring melt began. Rivers of slush ran down the edges of every street and the police came again and again, tracking dirty slush into my foyer. They doubted that an adult, a grown woman with a job and a husband, could be taken—as if such violence were kiddie stuff, or showed a lack of willpower. They kept asking questions about any unhappiness with Grey, an affair, secrets I can’t imagine my daughter would keep from me. Or him. I can’t imagine any of it. And so, helpless, clueless, I wept and wept.
     After four weeks, the police don’t feel the need to visit anymore. Like with a bad boyfriend, I call them if I think of anything new to tell them or just to check in, but they never call me. Things are changing, the world is stuttering forward, and these constant tears have to stop.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

I can cry at night, alone in my big bed full of pillows—perhaps I always will. But I’ve got to be stronger during the day. It will be a relief, maybe even a blessing, as Seva would say, to be back at work, thinking and talking and making people’s lives slightly easier by helping them with their banking. I want to spend the day with people who have never had the person they love most snatched away from a parking lot; I want to pretend to be one of them.
     I’ve been such a reliable employee for so many years that Janie has been generous about my leave of absence, even coming by for tea with some of the other girls from the branch. Not that anyone knows what to say, but they’ve come over the past three Friday afternoons, bearing pumpkin loaves and coconut brownies, little bits of news from work, and encouraging smiles. If Catherine had died, if she’d had a straightforward car accident on an icy night or a fall while hiking in the mountains, there would have been some discussion of God, I’m sure—all of that “everything happens for a reason” non­sense, but it would have filled in the silences. I’m not religious, and Seva and Leanne know that, but it’s what they rely on in bad times, and I rely on them. We’ve all been working at the same branch since the strip mall opened.
     Even if it had been a more uncomfortable thing, a drug overdose or driving under the influence—and we have certainly had our share of such tragic idiocies around here—there are things you can say. About forgiveness, about moving on, about appreciating the time we had. About never doubting the value of memories.
     But Catherine’s disappearance is nothing but doubt. No one knows who would do her harm, but equally no one knows why she would run off. Both options are impossible, and there is no third. There is nothing to say, no question left to ask. I read the poetry Catherine likes—the book she forgot on the sofa, and another by the same poet that I got from the library. The poems are about plates of pasta, cats in the dark, vegetable gardens—nothing to do with me, but they are something that she loved. And they are something to think about other than the empty space where my daughter used to be. No one wants to talk about that, but my colleagues aren’t that interested in poetry either. So on this, the fourth Friday since my daughter disappeared, I ask the ladies about mascara.
 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 
I wait until they’re gone and I’m at the sink washing dishes before I let myself follow my thoughts as far as they’ll go. It’s dangerous to think of Catherine too much, especially when I’m alone. If Grey were here, we’d pick one little topic and go over every detail—how she could never be bothered to blow-dry her thick, heavy hair, how even at the end of the day when she took down her ponytail there would still be a trace of damp. Or that woman poet she liked so much—or maybe she didn’t like her, but she was reading her books over and over in the weeks before . . . before. She was like that, so much energy, you didn’t always know what she loved and what she just felt strongly about. We can talk and talk about Catherine, Grey and I, and almost always manage to stop before one of us breaks down. We can do that because we both love her equally, if such a thing is possible.
     Alone, I worry I’ll go too far, think too much, and then not be able to get up off the floor. But remembering my beautiful girl is devastatingly tempting. Oh, my Catherine. So interesting. So lovely to think about. Her strange theories of how the world works. The rare moments when she wouldn’t do the expected, “normal” thing. Her refusal to get a student loan, so horrified of debt that she took only the courses she could pay for in cash, which was why her degree was stretching out into its seventh year. Her contempt for her friends who competed in figure-skating competitions. Her childhood terror at the idea of French immersion.
     She was only four when the neighbourhood school mailed me a flyer about French immersion classes—it seemed a wonderful opportunity to me. One night on the back porch as we played shadow puppets I told her that next year, when she went to school, she would get to learn French. In fact, I had the bunny shadow say it, hopping up and down the crumbling brick of our back wall. I even improvised a French accent, told her she would love French, mais oui.
     But Catherine unclasped her hands from making the goose shape and squawked angrily, “No, I will not. I will not learn French.”
     I was baffled—still so inexperienced as a mother even after four years. Though Wayne had never contributed much in the way of parenting, he had left only six months earlier and I was feeling especially unmoored. I tried to explain the benefits of learning a new language, something different and exciting, something I myself would have loved to have done. And Catherine in her pink-and-white overalls just plopped right down on her bottom and wailed. I can still picture her hot wet face, sobbing that she would never “say that stuff,” that she only wanted to say “true words.” I never found out where she got the impression that French was a scary language or even where she learned that French was a language.
     Years later, she laughed at the story and claimed not to remember her tantrum. When I pressed, she said, “Iria’s a pretty small place, Mom, and I’d never been anywhere. I probably thought I’d have to move away to learn another language.” She was giggling—I hope I laughed too, although I can’t remember that part. The memory of Cat is clear, though—I recall her grinning pink-lipstick mouth as clearly as I recall her childish panic. My memories come into clearer focus every day—I suppose it’s the longing that makes me conjure her so strongly.
     They would have let me say all this and more, Seva, Leanne, Janie— they would have listened all afternoon and been glad to. But so much has been taken from me, I have to keep some memories for myself.

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Glass Beads

Glass Beads

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

These short stories interconnect the friendships of four First Nations people — Everett Kaiswatim, Nellie Gordon, Julie Papequash, and Nathan (Taz) Mosquito — as the collection evolves over two decades against the cultural, political, and historical backdrop of the 90s and early 2000s.

 

These young people are among the first of their families to live off the reserve for most of their adult lives, and must adapt and evolve. In stories like “Stranger Danger”, we watch how shy Julie, though …

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Excerpt

From “Stranger Danger”

 

Nellie was struggling with an English paper. She hated the class.  Her professor had intoned at the beginning of class: “There are no right answers, only answers that you had to argue for.”  Nellie hated open-ended shit.  She just wanted to know which argument would give her an A.

 

She called Everett.  There was no answer.  He had no answering machine but he had call display and it told him how many times she called.  Right now if he would see: twelve.

 

She had been angry six calls ago.  Now she was just disappointed.  And horny.   

 

She opened up her political science binder, it was filled with photocopied readings.  She had to read about Aristotle even though she’d already read about him in Philosophy.  It must be nice to straddle two subjects with the same boring writing.  She went to the kitchen to refill her tea.  She was drinking green tea these days, it was supposed to fire up her metabolism by getting rid of all the free radicals lurking in her body.  She didn’t know what those were but Oprah said they were bad.  Nellie hadn’t lost a pound but then again it was hard to eat healthy when the entire apartment smelled like pizza.

 

Nellie padded into the kitchen and saw a pizza container on the counter.  She squelched a scream of frustration.  She opened the pizza box; it was sausage and pepperoni.  The top of the box was rimmed in dark where the fat had soaked into the cardboard.

 

Nellie spit on the pizza and spread the spit over the top of it with her finger.  She was closing the box carefully when the front door opened.

 

She looked around the corner as Julie stalked past her.  Nellie hurried behind her.

 

Julie sat on Nellie’s bed, her head against the wall.  Julie’s bedroom was the living room so during the day she used Nellie’s. It wasn’t the best situation but Nellie didn’t feel like giving up the extra rent money.

 

“So?”

 

“He’s ok, I guess.”

 

Nellie started small. “Did you have fun?”

 

“I guess.”

 

“Did you make out with him?”

 

“No.”

 

“Did you want to?”

 

“I dunno.  He’s so… bleh.”  Julie made a damn-I-just-stepped-in-dog-poop-and-I’m-wearing-sandals-face.

 

“Okay then.” Nellie’s disappointment was writ clear. 

 

“He wants to see me this weekend.  So I told him I work this weekend and then he’s all like what about before work and so I said yes but I don’t want to go.  He wants to go hang out at the park - what the fuck is at the park?”

 

“There’s ducks.”

 

“You and Everett ever go to the park?”

 

Nellie and Everett never went anywhere together.  It was her house or his.  Sometimes she saw him at the bar and she would wave to him and he would act like he was gonna come over but he never got to where she was sitting.

 

One time she asked him to meet her at Place Riel at the University.  She saw other girls meet their boyfriends there.  She had explained to him how to get there, walked him through the streets one by one.  He never showed up.  He told her that he made it to the University Bridge but then some woman give him a weird look which made him feel weird so he turned around and went home.

 

“I don’t like ducks,” Nellie replied.

 

“There wasn’t a single Indian in that place.  Me and a bunch of white people.   I felt like everyone was looking at us and I couldn’t stop looking at his arms.  He had this blonde hair all over them.  Like lots of it.” Julie made a face that she saved for the smell of rotten garbage.

 

“That’s how white people are, I guess.” How would Nellie know? She’d never studied one up close. “Was he nice?”

 

“He asked me if I liked being called Indian or Native.”

 

“Always say Native.”

 

“I know that, Nellie.  But I don’t have to answer that question if I’m with an Indian guy.”

 

Nellie wanted to argue from the perspective of diversity and being open minded but she was tired and felt nauseated from the smell of pizza.  So, they walked down to the Rainbow cinema where movies were three dollars on Sunday afternoons.  As they stood in line for popcorn, Julie laughed suddenly and sharply.

 

“What’s so funny?”

 

“I was thinking about the date.  You know when he asked me if I liked Native or Indian.”

 

“What did you say?”

 

“I asked him if he liked white or honky.”

 

Nellie rolled her eyes as Julie laughed at her own joke.

 

When they got home, Nellie checked the phone: Ball, N. had called.   She showed it to Julie who shrugged and then turned on the TV.  Nellie went back to her homework.

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What We Once Believed

What We Once Believed

edition:Paperback

A coming-of-age novel contrasting a daughter's disappointment in her mother's abandonment with the generational differences around feminist values. Summer 1971. While women demand equality, protests erupt over the Vietnam War, and peace activists march, adolescent Maybe Collins' life in quiet Oak Bay is upended by the appearance of her mother, who disappeared nine years earlier. And with her return comes another surprise: she's written a best-selling memoir called THE OTHER MOTHER, about motherh …

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Baseball Life Advice

Baseball Life Advice

Loving the Game That Saved Me
edition:Paperback

A passionate ode to baseball, its culture, and its community, which both celebrates and challenges the game – and reminds us why it really matters.
 
For Stacey May Fowles, the game of baseball is one of "long pauses punctuated by tiny miracles." In this entertaining and thoughtful book, Fowles gives us a refreshingly candid and personal perspective on subjects ranging from bat flips to bandwagoners, from the romance of spring training to the politics of booing, from the necessity of taking …

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Excerpt

From Baseball Life Advice

On not being encouraged to be a baseball fan:

"Baseball is one of those things I was never told I should love. No one passed it down to me like some sacred family heirloom — I chose it for myself. Throughout my life I’ve been told I should love certain books and films, certain bands and fashions. I’ve struggled to love the jobs I did, the men I dated, family members who were less than lovable. But unlike most people and things, baseball never asked anything of me, and no one ever demanded I be loyal to it. I never played it, my parents didn’t strong-arm me into attending games, and I didn’t have a social group that insisted it become an integral part of my life. In fact, I would say that I was consistently discouraged from loving this pastime and culture built for men and boys, fathers and sons, that’s not always welcoming of my gender. There is no real template for loving baseball when you’re a girl or a woman, so you have to fumble around a bit to make it your own. I like to think I truly love the game because it made itself hard to love and I embraced it anyway. Because of that, it belongs to me in a way nothing else does."

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Son of a Trickster

Son of a Trickster

edition:Hardcover

With striking originality and precision, Eden Robinson, the Giller-shortlisted author of the classic Monkey Beach and winner of the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award, blends humour with heartbreak in this compelling coming-of-age novel. Everyday teen existence meets indigenous beliefs, crazy family dynamics, and cannibalistic river otter . . . The exciting first novel in her trickster trilogy.

Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a sca …

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Excerpt

THE FOOD OF WORMS

Jared hadn’t realized he loved his dog until they decided to put her down. His mom and the vet agreed on a time, like her euthanasia was just a regular appointment. While he went to school, Baby would stay at the vet’s, sedated. In a way, he wanted them to do it right now, so it wouldn’t be hanging over them all day, but he was kind of glad there were rules to follow. Jared scratched Baby’s head. She was the result of a pit bull mixed with a boxer, a heavy, deep-chested dog with scraggly ears from a fight with her brother. Her fur was mottled orange, black and grey, a squiggly pattern like a toddler had coloured her with fading markers. Her face looked like it had been flattened by a shovel. She farted constantly from a diet of cheap dog food and a tendency to eat whatever landed on the floor. She had once shat marbles. Baby wheezed like a hardened smoker and then coughed. Jared’s throat tightened. The room blurred as his eyes watered. He swallowed loudly. Baby roused from the exam table and licked his arm. Jared leaned his head against hers.

“I’ll give you folks a moment,” the vet said.

After he left, Jared’s mom sat, shoving her hands deep in the pockets of her leather jacket. The fluorescent lights hummed. His mom’s left leg jiggled impatiently. Jared wiped his nose on his sleeve. The harder he tried not to cry, the more he cried. The painted concrete walls echoed his sniffling back at him.

“I’m going for a smoke,” his mom said.

Baby thumped her tail when his mom came over to squeeze Jared’s shoulder. His mom’s eyes darted around the room, but she avoided meeting his. Normally, she’d be telling him sixteen was way too old to be acting like a big fucking wuss, but they could hear the vet and the receptionist talking in the front room, so she stayed quiet. She patted her jeans as she walked out. Probably forgot her lighter in the truck.

The world is hard, his mom liked to say. You have to be harder.

Baby licked his cheek.

“Gonna miss you,” Jared whispered in her ear.

Baby lifted a leg and farted. Jared laughed, and then it turned into crying that faded into more sniffling. His heart was a bruise because Baby’s heart was full of worms. The X-rays showed them curled in its chambers like glowing balls of wool. Time stretched and folded so it went both too fast and too slow. After his mom finished smoking, she’d come back and drive him to school. He hugged Baby hard and she grumbled. He wasn’t going to be alone after she died, but the world was going to be a lonelier place without her.

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The Abominable Mr. Seabrook

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook

edition:Hardcover

In the early twentieth century, travel writing represented the desire for the expanding bourgeoisie to experience the exotic cultures of the world past their immediate surroundings. Journalist William Buehler Seabrook was emblematic of this trend?participating in voodoo ceremonies, riding camels cross the Sahara desert, communing with cannibals and most notably, popularizing the term "zombie" in the West. A string of his bestselling books show an engaged, sympathetic gentleman hoping to share th …

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Birds Art Life

Birds Art Life

A Field Guide to the Small and Significant
edition:Hardcover

A writer's search for inspiration, beauty and solace leads her to birds in this intimate and exuberant meditation on creativity and life—a field guide to things small and significant.

For Vladimir Nabokov, it was butterflies. For John Cage, it was mushrooms. For Sylvia Plath, it was bees. Each of these artists took time away from their work to become observers of natural phenomena. In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a local Toronto musician with an equally captivating side passion—he had recently lost …

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Excerpt

One winter, not so long ago, I met a musician who loved birds. This musician, who was then in his mid-thirties, had found he could not always cope with the pressures and disappoint­ments of being an artist in a big city. He liked banging away on his piano like Fats Waller but performing and promoting himself made him feel anxious and de­pressed. Very occasionally his depression served him well and allowed him to write lonesome songs of love but most of the time it just ate at him. When he fell in love with birds and began to photograph them, his anxieties dissipated. The sound of birdsong reminded him to look outwards at the world.
 
That was the winter that started early. It snowed end­lessly. I remember a radio host saying: “Global warming? Ha!” It was also the winter I found myself with a broken part. I didn’t know what it was that was broken, only that whatever widget had previously kept me on plan, running fluidly along, no longer worked as it should. I watched those around me who were still successfully carrying on, organizing meals and careers and children. I wanted to be reminded. I had lost the beat.
 
My father had recently suffered two strokes. Twice—when the leaves were still on the trees—he had fallen and been unable to get up. The second fall had been particularly frightening, accompanied by a dangerously high fever brought on by sepsis, and I wasn’t sure he would live. The MRI showed microbleeds, stemming from tiny ruptured blood vessels in my father’s brain.
The same MRI also revealed an unruptured cerebral aneurysm. An “incidental finding,” according to the neurologist, who explained, to our concerned faces, his decision to withhold surgery because of my father’s age.
 
During those autumn months, when my father’s situation was most uncertain, I felt at a loss for words. I did not speak about the beeping of monitors in generic hospital rooms and the rhythmic rattle of orderlies pushing soiled linen basins through the corridors. I did not deliver my thoughts on the cruelty of bed shortages (two days on a gurney in a corridor, a thin blanket to cover his hairless calves and pale feet), the smell of hospital food courts and the strange appeal of waiting room couches—slick vinyl, celery green, and deceptively soft. I did not speak of the relief of coming home late at night to a silent house and filling a tub with water, slipping under the bubbles and closing my eyes, the quiet soapy comfort of being cleaned instead of cleaning, of being a woman condi­tioned to soothe others, now soothed. I did not speak about the sense of incipient loss. I did not know how to think about illness that moved slowly and erratically but that could fell a person in an instant.

I experienced this wordlessness in my life but also on the page. In the moments I found to write, I often fell asleep. The act of wrangling words into sentences into paragraphs into stories made me weary. It seemed an overly complicated, dubious effort. My work now came with a recognition that my father, the person who had instilled in me a love of language, who had led me to the writing life, was losing words rapidly.
 
Even though the worst of the crisis passed quickly, I was afraid to go off duty. I feared that if I looked away, I would not be prepared for the loss to come and it would flatten me. I had inherited from my father (a former war reporter/professional pessimist) the belief that an expectancy of the worst could provide in its own way a ring of protection. We followed the creed of preventive anxiety.
 
It is possible too that I was experiencing something known as anticipatory grief, the mourning that occurs before a certain loss. Anticipatory. Expectatory. Trepi­datory. This grief had a dampness. It did not drench or drown me but it hung in the air like a pallid cloud, thinning but never entirely vanishing. It followed me wherever I went and gradually I grew used to looking at the world through it.
 
I had always assumed grief was experienced purely as a sadness. My received images of grief came from art school and included portraits of keening women, mourners with heads bowed, hands to faces, weeping by candlelight. But anticipatory grief, I was surprised to learn, demanded a different image, a more alert posture. My job was to remain standing or sitting, monitoring all directions continually. Like the women who, according to legend, once paced the railed rooftop platforms of nineteenth-century North American coastal houses, watching the sea for incom­ing ships, hence earning those lookouts the name widow’s walk. I was on the lookout, scouring the horizon from every angle, for doom.

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Eaten Back to Life

Eaten Back to Life

Essays
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : essays, culinary

A new essay collection by the Phillip K. Dick of chips

In this series of thoughtful essays and stink-eyed observations, Jonah Campbell explores food and drink in the modern world, from pig heads and whisky to fine wine and French gastronomy, Nigella Lawson to David Cronenberg, with a trail of potato chips and stale chocolate bars along the way. In the tradition of writers like M. F. K. Fisher and David Foster Wallace, Eaten Back to Life renders in delirious prose the ecstasies and absurdities tha …

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