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Touched by Magic, Visited by Ghosts: A List
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Touched by Magic, Visited by Ghosts: A List

By kileyturner
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These stunning new books use magical realism to explore love and loss.
Land Mammals and Sea Creatures

Land Mammals and Sea Creatures

A Novel
also available: Paperback Audiobook

A startling, moving magic realist debut

Almost immediately upon Julie Bird’s return to the small port town where she was raised, everyday life is turned upside down. Julie’s Gulf War vet father, Marty, has been on the losing side of a battle with PTSD for too long. A day of boating takes a dramatic turn when a majestic blue whale beaches itself and dies. A blond stranger sets up camp oceanside: she’s an agitator, musician-impersonator, and armchair philosopher named Jennie Lee Lewis — and …

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Julie Bird closed her eyes and listened to water slap the hull. The tinny taste of lager coated the back of her tongue. She and her father, Marty, spread themselves over lawn chairs on the deck of the old troller. Waves rolled under the boat, and the strips of rainbow vinyl creaked under their weight. Ice sloshed rhythmically against the sides of the cooler.

Ian, Marty’s best and only friend, emerged from the cabin and fished another beer from the ice. He called out to his two passengers. “Set?”

Julie’s father had his beer jammed into his prosthesis—his Captain Hook—and held it in the air for Ian to see. With his good hand he held binoculars fast to his eyes.

For the last half hour, Marty had been watching a figure on shore and giving Julie updates. The details were still shady. The figure, of indeterminate age, gender and height had been weighted like a pack mule when it’d arrived on the beach, and it was now setting up a bright orange A-frame tent, set in contrast to the navy water and dark conifers. Marty’s eyebrows, or the fatty lumps where his eyebrows used to be, rose.

“Now they’re stringing up a hammock in the trees. Looks like they’re there for the long haul. I didn’t think anyone camped on Tallicurn.”

“Marty, please stop spying,” Julie said.

“They just seem so familiar.”

“You know a lot of faraway specks?”

By Marty’s feet sat a small Tupperware container of herring pieces that were melting together in the heat. He’d set up a rod on the port side for some mooching, but so far, the line hadn’t budged. Marty wouldn’t have noticed anyway. Earlier, Ian had tossed a piece into the open water to “get the ocean’s juices flowing.”

“Hey,” Marty said. “I think they’re waving at me.” He took off his bandana, scratched his bald head, and retied the fabric.

“Marty, you’re a stick figure on a boat to them.”

“Look.” Marty handed the binoculars to her. Through the viewfinder, she saw a crowd of gulls circling above the orange tent. Farther down the beach, the backlit figure appeared with a blond puff of hair catching the light and shining like an anglerfish lure. The person stood in the water, looking in their direction. The waves crashed against their shins. They were gesturing with their arms, but it didn’t seem like a wave. More of a come hither.

Ian barged into the middle of their assembly and pointed starboard. “Hey, you two. Whale.”

Plumes of mist were approaching the troller. With a bird’s-eye view, one could trace a straight line between the puff-topped shadow, the fishing boat and the whale.

“Think it’s an orca?” Julie asked.

“Nah. No pod—it’s solo.” Ian hoisted himself up and took the binoculars from Julie’s hand. He stood on the deck with one leg propped on the railing. His white shorts flapped in the breeze, revealing a vast expanse of untanned thigh. “Too big, too,” he said.

“Grey?” Julie asked.

“Maybe. Look at it.” Ian passed the binoculars back.

All she could see was sun bouncing off waves and a flash of black and white as a flock of murres glided above the surface, but then the whale’s rolling back filled the viewing area. A burst of mist shot into the air and dissipated. Julie adjusted the sight. A group of fat barnacles pocked the skin around its blowhole, but otherwise the whale’s complexion was uninterrupted slate, like a blackboard wiped clean with a damp cloth. It was smoother than the greys Julie had seen.

“Fuck, yeah,” she whispered.

The back of the whale rolled over the surface until the flukes broke free and heaved into the air. The whale dipped below the surface.

Ian’s voice came from behind them, somewhere between a prayer and a curse. “It’s coming towards us.”

Julie imagined the whale as a submarine designed to look like a biological being, but with two soldiers sitting behind the eyes. If they could build a camera the size of a housefly, why not this? The submarine theory seemed so much more likely than a living being double the length of the Greyhound she rode from Port Braid to Vancouver. Fifty-five people could sit inside that Greyhound on a busy holiday, meaning that 110 humans could be comfortably hidden within the whale’s blubber, with leg and luggage room to spare.

Julie zipped her life vest and shoved one at her father as the whale got closer to the boat. As usual, Marty wouldn’t think of his welfare, so she’d have to do it for him. She watched him slide the life vest on and struggle to do it up. When the zipper wouldn’t go past his belly, he visited the cooler for another beer. Julie counted this as his fourth, still within safe limits for a calm day.

The list of events that could disrupt a calm day had shape-shifted since she was last home in Port Braid. Once again the rules had to be relearned. Marty’s triggers developed like allergies. Some were long-term—bird bangers, air brakes, metal-tinged smoke—and others came and went in a matter of years—the smell of Julie’s hair straightener, the rattle of Boggle.

She stood up for a better look, binoculars pressed to her cheekbones.

The whale broke the surface again, much closer to the boat. Its blowhole looked like the thieved nose of an Easter Island statue. It let out another giant breath, and this time Julie could hear the sound—a bucket of ice water hitting a campfire. Julie brought the binoculars down and turned to her father. “It’s a blue, you know.”

Marty scoffed.

Blues migrated by Port Braid but weren’t typically interested in stopping. They were half-starved from raising their young at the equator. Up north, all they’d have to do to be full was open their mouths.

So much of Port Braid’s aesthetic was based on the idea that whale spirits permeated the air: a metallic statue stood proud outside the bank, a badly constructed orca mural graced the side of the pharmacy, and of course, all of the T-shirts in the town’s single gift shop were a blend of semi-transparent moons, whales, wolves, eagles and feathers.

“I’m serious,” Julie said. “It’s a blue.”

Marty brought his beer to his lips and held it there, waiting for the beast to reappear.

A bulge of water appeared a few boat-lengths away. Julie’s breath caught. The whale’s nose pushed through the centre of this water mountain. Its body rose up to its pectoral fins. Columns of water fell away. The animal lunged and sent a boat-rocking wave.

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also available: eBook Paperback Hardcover

From the bestselling author of A Desperate Fortune and The Firebird, comes an entrancing new novel of love, war, and historical intrigue.

Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets.
It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treac …

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Heavy Bear, The

Heavy Bear, The


What happens when a respectable middle-aged father, teacher and writer decides one day to abandon his ordinary routine and embark on an unexpected journey toward an unknowable fate, following the ghost of Buster Keaton and a vision of a bear?

In Tim Bowling's fifth novel, The Heavy Bear, the main character?a sort of contemporary version of Joyce's Leopold Bloom who just happens to be named Tim Bowling'spends an intense late-summer day in downtown Edmonton. Haunted by "the slender sadness" of the …

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The Clothesline Swing

The Clothesline Swing


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 Lonely Hearts Hotel

The Lonely Hearts Hotel

A Novel
also available: Hardcover eBook Audiobook
tagged :


Longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

A Globe and Mail Most Anticipated Book

A NOW Magazine Book You Have to Read

A Toronto Star Book We Can’t Wait to Read

“Heather O’Neill is just getting better and better.” —The Globe and Mail

“It would be hard to overstate here just how the good the writing is in The Lonely Hearts Hotel. For it is stunningly, stunningly good.” —Toronto Star

“By the end I was a gasping, tearful mess.” —Miranda July, a …

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Oracle Bone

Oracle Bone


A magic-realist novel set in seventh-century China featuring ghosts, martial arts, and the transformative oracle bone.

Life in seventh-century China teems with magic, fox spirits, and demons; there is a fervent belief that the extraordinary resides within the lives of both commoners and royalty. During the years when the empress Wu Zhao gains ascendancy in the Tang court, her evil-minded lover Xie becomes obsessed with finding and possessing the oracle bone, a magical object that will bestow immo …

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Split Tooth

Split Tooth

also available: Paperback

Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Shortlisted for the 2019 Amazon First Novel Award
Shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
Winner of the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Prose in English
Winner of the 2018 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design – Prose Fiction
Longlisted for the 2019 Sunburst Award
From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tend …

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Sometimes we would hide in the closet when the drunks came home from the bar. Knee to knee, we would sit, hiding, hoping nobody would discover us. Every time it was different. Sometimes there was only thumping, screaming, moans, laughter. Sometimes the old woman would come in and smother us with her suffering love. Her love so strong and heavy it seemed a burden. Even then I knew that love could be a curse. Her love for us made her cry. The past became a river that was released by her eyes. The poison of alcohol on her breath would fill the room. She would wail and grab at us, kissing us, kissing the only things she could trust.

Fake-wood panel walls, the smell of smoke and fish. Velvet art hung on the walls, usually of Elvis or Jesus, but also polar bears and Eskimos.

The drunks came home rowdier than usual one night, so we opted for the closet. We giggle nervously as the yelling begins. Become silent when the thumping starts. The whole house shakes. Women are screaming, but that sound is overtaken by the sound of things breaking. Wet sounds of flesh breaking and dry sounds of wood snapping, or is that bone?


There are loud pounding footsteps. Fuck! Someone is coming towards us. We stop breathing. Our eyes large in the darkness, we huddle and shiver and hope for the best. There is someone standing right outside the closet door, panting.

The door slides open, and my uncle sticks his head in.

Towering over us, swaying and slurring. Blood pouring down his face from some wound above his hairline.

“I just wanted to tell you kids not to be scared.” Then he closed the door.

a day in the Life
It’s 9 a.m., late for school
Grade five is hard
Rushing, stumbling to get my pants on
Forgetting to brush my teeth 
Dreading recess
The boys chase us and hold us down
Touch our pussies and nonexistent boobs
I want to be liked
I guess I must like it
We head back to class
The teacher squirming his fingers under my panties
Under the desk
He looks around and pretends he’s not doing it
I pretend he’s not doing it
He goes to the next girl and I feel a flash of jealousy
The air gets thinner and tastes like rot
School is over
I leave for the arcade
Watch out for the old walrus
The old man likes to touch young pussy
We try to stay away
I wonder why nobody kicks him out
Things are better at home now
Three’s Company and a calm air
Archie comics and Lego

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The Onion Girl

The Onion Girl

also available: Paperback Hardcover

2017 Aurora Awards Best of the Decade Finalist

In novel after novel, and story after story, Charles de Lint has brought an entire imaginary North American city to vivid life. Newford: where magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where a broad cast of extraordinary and affecting people work to keep the whole world turning.

At the center of all the entwined lives in Newford stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, with her tangled hair, her paint-splattered jeans, …

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