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Over Land, Over Seas: Canadian Books Set Elsewhere
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Over Land, Over Seas: Canadian Books Set Elsewhere

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Recent and acclaimed fiction set outside of Canada.
Coconut Dreams

Coconut Dreams

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Audiobook

Coconut Dreams explores the lives of the Pinto family through seventeen linked short stories. Starting with a ghost story set in Goa, India in the 1950s, the collection weaves through various timelines and perspectives to focus on two children, Aiden and Ally Pinto. These siblings tackle their adventures in a predominantly white suburb with innocence, intelligence and a timid foot in two distinct cultures.

In these stories, Derek Mascarenhas takes a fresh look at the world of the new immigrant an …

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The Clothesline Swing

The Clothesline Swing

edition:Paperback

The Clothesline Swing is a journey through the troublesome aftermath of the Arab Spring. A former Syrian refugee himself, Ramadan unveils an enthralling tale of courage that weaves through the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, the encircling seas of Turkey, the heat of Egypt and finally, the hope of a new home in Canada.

 

Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, The Clothesline Swing tells the epic story of two lovers anchored to the memory of a dying Syria. One is a Hakawati, a storyt …

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The Forbidden Purple City

The Forbidden Purple City

edition:eBook

Finalist, City of Vancouver Book Award 2019

A man returns to Hoi An in his retirement to compose a poem honouring his parents. Two teenagers, ostracized in a private school, forge an unlikely bond. A son discovers the truth about his father's business ventures and his dreams of success. A young bride, isolated on a remote island with her new husband, finds community in a group of abalone divers.

Taking the title for his debut collection of short fiction from the walled palace of Vietnam's Nguyen d …

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Rue des Rosiers

Rue des Rosiers

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

Sarah is the youngest of the three Levine sisters. At twenty-five, she is rudderless, caught in a paralysis which keeps her from seizing her own life. 

When Sarah is fired from her Toronto job, a chance stay in Paris opens her up to new direction and purpose.

But when she reads the writing on the wall above her local Métro subway station, “death to the Jews”, shadows from childhood rise again. And as her path crosses that of Laila, a young woman living in an exile remote from the luxuries of …

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The Dictionary of Animal Languages

The Dictionary of Animal Languages

edition:Paperback

Shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
Longlisted for the 2019 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize
A novel of love, longing, and art set in interwar Paris, The Dictionary of Animal Languages will appeal to readers of All the Light We Cannot See and The Disappeared.

Ivory Frame is a renowned artist. Now in her nineties, the famously reclusive painter remains devoted to her work. She has never married, never had a family, never had a child. So when a letter arrives disclosing t …

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Excerpt

My eyes became her eyes, the eyes of someone who died young. Which makes them hard to live with. But Skeet doesn’t know this. Or Ondine. Or Valentina even. The only one left who knows is me.

Any eggs in the coop, Frame?

Yes, I tell him. But he hasn’t heard. He’s shaken out the coffee beans and ground out my voice.

The fork tines clink rhythmically against the steel bowl like the metallic call of a long-legged grassland bird I have transcribed. I am attuned to sounds. After all the animals I have recorded, read glyphic and elemental, like songs. He turns on the tap at the sink. He knows water works better than milk. It occurs to me we are a woman and a man in a stone house. The man making breakfast. It could be one of those tender moments that occur, the kind between sex and full- dressed protocol. But this isn’t that. I haven’t told him of the letter. It is a bit of a trick, this timing between it and Skeet arriving out of nowhere by the same low sun.

We eat our food slowly, in comfortable silence. My legs dangle from the too-high chair like a child’s. Skeet butters the bread in angular little lines, and says, This place is smaller than I thought.

I know, I say. It’s intensely orchestrated, three-quarter size. She must have culled everything and photographed from cunning angles. What is that? High or low, I can never remember.

High.

He sips his coffee looking straight ahead. I am reminded of my fondness for him. How nothing between us is insincere.

You know this valley has been called the Playground of Kings, I say. The Garden of France. Which makes you think it should be those things, but all I see are these hot yellow fields of sunflowers that will soon be cut, gleaming and bristling like a big cat’s pelt. They could be cornfields in middle America. I hold up my mug, feeling the steam on my skin. This coffee doesn’t taste like anything. It has happened to food too.

He looks out the window and blinks at the sun.

I suppose it has a certain kind of beauty. He eats his toast. The beauty of death.

I’ve missed you, Skeet.

Anyway Frame, what does it matter? You’re like an animal. Not even one percent changed by geography. He pauses. How are you?

Well you and I both know that isn’t true. The leg is better, I tell him, but that is hardly an event. Aren’t you going to ask me?

What?

About le grand projet.

Oh.

He is distracted. Normally this is his first line of inquiry. His eyes downcast, on the envelope with the letterpressed insignia and the same French font as all the graveurs on the table by the front door. A letter is pulled from a postbox and everything is pulled with it. Maybe it is me who is distracted.

Skeet gets up and paces the room, his fingers following the papers taped to the walls. I forgot this about him. He cannot sit for more than a few minutes. He goes quiet for a while and then turns to face me.

The photographs are everywhere, interlocking and branching patterns, extreme density interspersed with silences. All the data, the transcriptions in fieldbooks and papers with rubber bands in shopping bags on the floor. For a moment, I see the way someone else would see it. Not Skeet, but someone normal. How barking mad it all looks. As though I might have finally and definitely lost my mind. Despite feeling off-pitch, the project reassures me. I have always known myself in it.

After a long silence, Skeet sucks in air. Fuck.

Oh my god. What?

He stops dead. Frame. What?

I don’t know how to tell you this.

What? You look so worried. This look on your face, I’ve never seen it before.

He breathes out. He’s not sure which thing to tell, there are so many.

What’s going on? Is it about the project? I say, unsure.

Well— he hesitates. Yes and no.

Thud. We both startle at the sound. The bird again. It began hurling itself at the window before I left the house yesterday morning. I switched off the light and removed the keys and discs from the windowsill, all the deceptive things, to warn it off. Thud. It hit the glass again. The sun was bright and the wisp-white clouds passed above as I walked out to the car. In the  country you are always driving. The glass is hot; the driver’s seat swings wildly. I keep a breadboard wedged behind it, which allows my feet to touch the pedals and fixes the seat in position. The sky is vast and clear. There is only one road out. The fields blur, silvered by clouds that momentarily close over them. A relief from the gold sizzle that rattles the grasses dry and forces dogs to lie in shade, ribcages labouring. Everything grows from the cracks. Roses, ditches of poppies, trees bending with fruit. This time of year people come. They file into castles with conical spires. They pose in front of churches. I have no emotion for it. The beauty is general. The car radio crackles. What’s-her-name is singing, Yeah what have I got? / Nobody can take away. And it suddenly strikes me as funny that we see ourselves as immortal. What I have got somebody is about to take away. Nobody gets out of here alive. The sun flickers in like a heartbeat through the evenly spaced plane trees that parallel the road, their wide calico trunks tessellate.

For months nothing arrived from the conservatory or the university, but today, in the small metal postbox, finally, a letter. I think of countless fieldbooks full of animal sounds shaped into images, webbed maps, rough chorales, thin silver frequencies. They all funnel into this single gesture, a woman swivelling on her heel, handing me a white rectangle, eyes fixed on the next person in line. Except they don’t. I open it standing at the blue and yellow counter. Everything is bright and vibrating in the room. Pain swings and pits behind my eyes. Every little thing shoots off course, like looking up at the night sky of another hemisphere, not a single star you can name.

I drive home with the open letter on my lap, passing right by the short gravel lane to the house. It seems impossible that something that weighs almost nothing can contain such stunning facts. My breathing is panicked and sharp. The fields ripple and ride in waves from the wind. White cows all facing the same direction, lining up not as the farmers say to predict rain, but because the earth is one big magnet. The windows are down, open to birdsong and the thin layer of dust that bangs up from the cracked dirt road. These things I have seen a hundred times before I am now observing with total attention. The sky is saturated and smooth as stone, cut through with small grey wings. Cold perspiration films on my body, my clothes stuck to the leather seat. My hands are shaking. Of all the time it has taken between it and now. Facts never come soon enough. What is a fact? So much of life is lost vacant time of which you remember almost nothing. Memory is not a fact. But what is memory? Billions of infinitesimal particles collected from outerspace, Edison said.

Skeet moves his chair, the low timbre of wood dragging across the stone floor.

I first met Skeet years ago, at an airport, a kind of shack at the end of the tarmac where I was waiting for him in Whitehorse. He was tall with a good set of eyes, a bit of wildness in them. He looked serious, but had a part-grin that hid crooked teeth, the kind you don’t see anymore. The first thing he said after looking around was, You get the feeling that this is a town where people arrive on horseback. He is friendly but remote. The fieldwork is such a welcome antidote to all the hours bent over laboratory recording equipment. We spend great swaths of time sitting in cold, dry snow, waiting. Our eyes darting, anticipating the flashes of grey that will appear against the blinding white. In town we see a raven kick snow off a roof that slides and lands on a man’s head. It fits with the legend, where the Haida say they are the creator, but also the trickster. There is a white raven in legend too. Supposedly it brought the world into existence. It stole the sun and the moon and then flew through a smoke hole, turning black but also bringing light to the world.

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Children of the Moon

Children of the Moon

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

From celebrated author Anthony De Sa comes a raw and compelling novel of love, war and the heartbreaking effects of memory.

"'You must listen to my words. You must promise to tell my story the way I have shared it with you.'"

Tanzania, 1956. A Maasai woman gives birth to a child with albinism. The child is seen as a curse upon her tribe, and so begins Pó's tumultuous story. As Pó navigates the world, she must claim her life in the face of violence and ostracism.

Further south, in Portuguese-cont …

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Excerpt

Standing in the shadow of my balcony, I look beyond the hotel grounds to where the brown mouth of the Buzi River meets the Beira harbour, then out, out towards the open sea.

“I was born near the mountain of two peaks. White men called it Kilimanjaro.”

Serafim sits in a chair in my room and listens to my words. He is a journalist from Brazil, sent here, to Beira, to record my story for National Geographic. I know very little about him, except that I am comforted by the scritch-scratch of his pencil on paper and the crinkles around his eyes.

“My people, the Maasai, have always called that place Oldoinyo Oibor—White Mountain. They say the snowy peak, Kibo, is the house where all gods live.”

“Do you believe in God?” Serafim asks.

“There are no gods left. They have been driven off the moun­tain. If they ever were there.”

I turn slightly because I am curious to see his reaction. His face is down, looking at his hand move his pencil over paper. He is fifty—a solid man, his body strong and straight, his once-compact frame still visible under a layer of fat. His hair, the colour of warm sand, is parted on the side. Grease tames it into waves. His brown eyes are set close together and float above his small nose, made smaller by his bushy moustache. He needs a shave.

Serafim adjusts himself on the chair, the same chair he has been sitting on during this past week, ever since he arrived. He sat patiently, interviewing those I had invited to speak to him. They were mostly women and children, the men unwilling to trust an outsider and reluctant to share their stories of fear with another man.

Serafim clears his throat. He pinches the cigarette that rests in the ashtray and draws in the smoke. It comes out his nose in two streams that slow, then curl together.

“Is that why you are here? Looking for gods?” It is too late to soften the edges of my words, but I know he does not care whether I believe in God. That’s not why he’s here.

In the past, journalists like Serafim had travelled great dis­tances to meet me. They talked of the bigger world and how it was hungry to hear of my work. They brought food and school sup­plies for the children, and so I welcomed them. They promised my story would help end the threat faced by people like me. Their letters were thin and tilted forward as if they were being pushed from behind. I call them scribblers, because I once allowed myself to love a man who scribbled down his thoughts.

“I’ve startled you,” Serafim says, packing his things. “I guess today’s interview didn’t get off to a very good start.” I hear his satchel snap shut.

I adjust my eyeglasses. When I turn around, to lean against the balcony railing, Serafim is already standing near the door, his bag slung across one shoulder and pressed flat against his thigh. He moves to drop his cigarette in the hallway, but catches him­self, and instead bends down to douse it in a small puddle by the wall. His hands are always clean. His nails trimmed. He tucks the cigarette butt into his pocket. This man cares about the world.

“I can come back tomorrow. Or Sunday, if you like. When you have more time. If you’ll allow me, that is.”

I catch his scent—warm clove and curing tobacco. I close my eyes and my toes clench. I loosen my shawl. “Let me speak.”

“Please,” Serafim says, and there is such urgency in his voice that I want to weep.

“There is nothing worse in this world than to be silenced,” I say, and Serafim’s body relaxes against the door jamb. “Except, perhaps, being forgotten.”

Other journalists have come before him looking for facts. I have given them what they have asked, only to never hear from them again. I was left feeling used and empty. No more. I am grateful I have hunted down words over the years so that I can begin to construct a story—a story that is my own.

“People tell me I was born in 1956, or close to it. I do not disagree, but it means nothing to me. This is what I know. I grew up on the grasslands of Tanganyika, before the land became Tanzania. My people did not care about Europeans or the names they gave things. They drew lines wherever they wanted and claimed what wasn’t theirs. The Maasai are a proud people. We kept ourselves alive. The foreigners had all heard our story.”

“Story?”

“How the God, Enkai, sent the cattle to our people down a long rope between heaven and earth.”

The ocean breeze blows through my window, a distant smell of the salty monsoon sea and charcoal fires.

“We had been given everything. Until one of us tried to demand more from Enkai. He got angry and cut that rope. But you don’t need to know all this.”

“Please, continue. I want to hear it.”

Over and over I have rehearsed how I would tell this story. But this is the first time I have heard my words. I have to push past my uncertainty. “We were sent out of the garden, climbed up from a crater bounded on all sides by a steep cliff. The red dust clung to our skin. We survived the sun and dry lands for countless moons, herding our beasts along the great river they call Nile, walking by the rim of Enkai’s angry gash in the earth they also named, Great Rift Valley. You see, the white man has always wanted to tell our story—to name things. The Maasai had nothing they could take. They feared us as warriors—they could not possess us and sell us to foreign lands. And for these reasons they left us alone.”

I look over my balcony once again, out across the hotel grounds. Small fires are everywhere. A man has caught some pigeons and is plucking them. Some children are bathing in the stagnant water that has collected in the deep end of the pool. They do so under the bright red light that pulsates from the Coca-Cola machine. It was delivered to that spot, set up against what once was the cabana wall, shortly after the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013. They ran wires to connect that one machine. I have never seen anyone buy anything from it. It accepts nothing but South African rand. This building I live in was once called the Grande Hotel, but its rich guests haven’t walked these ruined halls for years. In 1974 the Portuguese soldiers who fought the last days of the War of Independence returned to Portugal and the hotel was left in ruins. As soon as we had taken back our land we entered a war amongst our­selves. Another twenty years of bloodshed, but those soldiers had no need for the hotel. It is now home to over two thousand people. There is no running water and no electricity. The city’s politicians leave us alone. They know if you poke a stick into an anthill, the ants scurry about, clean up the mess and strengthen things, as if erasing the action. With its many ghosts we share the hotel and drink leaking rainwater. Elevator shafts have become dark throats that swallow our waste, and at least once a year a child falls in and is lost to us. The war has scarred this place. Serafim can see that for himself.

“Here we are all broken—the lame, the poor, refugees, and albinos like me. We each have found a place. People with albi­nism have taken over Block B of the hotel. Here in Mozambique we are misunderstood. We are attacked, killed. Our body parts are sold to men who call themselves healers for use in charms and magical potions. But you have heard this.”

“Do you ever think of going back to the place you were born? Would you be safe there?” From the strength of his voice I know he has returned to the chair I set out for him.

“We are called zeru zerus there. It means we are nothing. Here, the people call me a branca. Albinos who do not belong to others have come here because they have heard of this place, and of me. I have no special magic, but I cannot convince them.”

Lulled by the sound of Serafim scratching his notes, I con­tinue. What comes through the gate of my mouth is carefully selected.

“If there is a god, the one my ancestors called Enkai, I have seen its face in three women. These were the strong ones who never feared my touch. Namunyak, my birth mother, gave me life and a name. She would not live long enough to see me laugh or play or take my first steps. Simu, my mother’s sister, took me in and nurtured a place of love in me so that I would not grow into a bitter root. Fatima, the last of the three women, she christened me Pó, the Portuguese word for pow­der. ‘A fitting name for a beautiful girl like you,’ she said.”

Serafim looks up from his notebook. His face glows.

“I have also seen the face of god in one man,” I say. “Ezequiel. He kept a harmonica in his pocket, an extra pair of boots over his shoulder, and a rifle across his back. He declared his love for me with a gift. And later he gave me another.” I catch my breath. “Because of Zeca, I can see things as Enkai had intended.” I remember thinking, This is the way the world is. This is the way the world was meant to be.

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The Storm

The Storm

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Paperback
tagged : sagas, historical

Inspired by the 1970 Bhola Cyclone, in which half a million people perished overnight, The Storm seamlessly interweaves five love stories that, together, chronicle fifty years of Bangladeshi history.

 

Shahryar, a recent Ph.D. graduate and father of nine-year-old Anna, must leave the US when his visa expires. As father and daughter spend their last remaining weeks together, Shahryar tells Anna the history of his country, beginning in a village on the Bay of Bengal, where a poor fisherman and his …

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