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Vine Awards Shortlists, 2018
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Vine Awards Shortlists, 2018

By 49thShelf
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Congratulations to all the great books nominated for the 2018 Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Writing.
The Other Mrs. Smith

The Other Mrs. Smith

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

This novel traces the life experiences of a once highly successful woman who falls prey to electroshock and subsequently struggles to piece back together her life. Naomi suffers enormous memory loss; additionally, an estrangement from her family of origin that she has no way to wrap her mind around. The novel begins with her wandering the corridor of St. Patricks-St Andrews Mental Health Centre (St. Pukes) faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of coming to terms with the damage done her, …

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So Much Love

So Much Love

edition:Paperback

Finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A Quill & Quire Best Book of the Year
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 …

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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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Class Mom

Class Mom

A Novel
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

Laurie Gelman’s clever debut novel about a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom—a brilliant send-up of the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics.

Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom—or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max—this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and …

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Buried Words

Buried Words

The Diary of Molly Applebaum
edition:eBook

Hidden away underground, in a box, twelve-year-old Molly has only her older cousin and her diary to keep her company. For two years, she writes of her confinement “in a grave”: the cold, dark and stuffiness, the unbearable suffering from insufficient food, and the complicated reliance on the two farmers who are risking their own lives to save her. Buried Words is a stark confession of Molly’s fears, despair and secrets and, above all, her fervent wish to stay alive.

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The Handover

The Handover

How Bigwigs and Bureaucrats Transferred Canada's Best Publisher and the Best Part of Our Literary Heritage to a Foreign Multinational
edition:Hardcover
tagged :

Until recently, McClelland and Stewart had been known as “The Canadian Publisher,” the country’s longest-lived and best independent press. Its dynamic leader Jack McClelland worked with successive provincial and federal governments to help draft policies in the 1960s and 70s which ensured that Canadian stories would, for the first time in the nation’s history, be told and published by Canadians. M&S introduced Canadians to themselves while championing the nation’s literature, bringing …

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Not in My Family

Not in My Family

German Memory and Responsibility After the Holocaust
edition:Hardcover

Winner of the 2018 Western Canada Jewish Book Award Winner of the 2017 Canadian Jewish Literary Award Shortlisted for the 2018 Vine Book Award for Canadian Jewish Literature

Even as the Holocaust grows more distant with the passing of time, its traumas call out to be known and understood. What is remembered, what has been imparted through German heritage, and what has been forgotten? Can familiar family stories be transformed into an understanding of the Holocaust's forbidding reality?

Author Roge …

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In the Name of Humanity

In the Name of Humanity

The Secret Deal to End the Holocaust
edition:Hardcover
also available: Hardcover Paperback

On November 25, 1944, prisoners at Auschwitz heard a deafening explosion. Emerging from their barracks, they witnessed the crematoria and gas chambers--part of the largest killing machine in human history--come crashing down. Most assumed they had fallen victim to inmate sabotage and thousands silently cheered. However, the Final Solution's most efficient murder apparatus had not been felled by Jews, but rather by the ruthless architect of mass genocide, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. It was …

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Maud

Maud

A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

For the first time ever, a young adult novel about the teen years of L.M. Montgomery, the author who brought us ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.


     Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery -- Maud to her friends -- has a dream: to go to college and become a writer, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman's place in the world, and they do not include s …

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Excerpt

  She couldn’t breathe. Sweat pooled under the weight of her long hair, soaking her lace collar. The thin gold ring she always wore on her right hand strangled her swelling index finger. She tried twisting it, but it was stuck.
   “Stop fidgeting, Maud,” her grandmother whispered as she discreetly nudged Maud’s grandfather, who was dozing through Reverend Archibald’s sermon on the prodigal son. Grandfather grunted awake. “Honestly, I’m surprised at the both of you. This is no way for a Macneill to behave in church.” Grandfather sat straighter, and Maud cleared her throat so she wouldn’t laugh.
   Of course the heat did not fuss Grandma Macneill. Just like the black net that hid her graying hair, she was able to hide her emo- tions: an ability Grandma was always reminding Maud she sorely lacked. Grandma said Maud was too sensitive, wearing her feelings on the surface like the red sand on the Island shore. And Grandma was most likely right. She was right about everything.
   Maud muttered an apology, taking a quick look back at the rest of the congregation at Cavendish’s Presbyterian Church from their pew, always second from the front on the left-hand side. The Clarks, Simpsons, and Macneills were all present, as they were every Sunday, to give thanks—and also to take note of who was present, who was absent, and who was caught sleeping during the reverend’s sermon. Maud loved to think about how she might describe them if she put them in one of her stories.
   They were most definitely watching her—particularly the clan matriarchs, Mrs. Elvira Simpson and Mrs. Matilda Clark. Maud had seen them stare at her when she had followed her grandpar- ents into church that morning.
   Maud knew what they were thinking. Hadn’t she left Cavendish rather suddenly over some business with that schoolteacher Miss “Izzie” Robinson six months ago? It was certainly no surprise the flighty, overly sensitive (and frankly queer) child of the dearly departed Clara Macneill and her irresponsible husband, Hugh John Montgomery, would act that way. There was no escaping it; it was in her blood.
   It was true that Maud had left six months ago to live with her Aunt Emily and Uncle John Malcolm Montgomery in Malpeque and then with her Aunt Annie and Uncle John Campbell in Park Corner. What wasn’t true were the particular circumstances people believed—and there was nothing she could do about it.
   Now Maud was back with her Grandma and Grandfather Macneill, her mother’s parents, on their farm in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, a small village of about forty families, on the North Shore, where everyone knew everyone’s business. She had spent the summer with her merry Campbell cousins, but now was back to Grandma’s lectures, uncomfortable dresses, and a new school year with a new teacher.
   Maud stared ahead at a straw hat of lush summer flowers sit- ting on top of a mound of curly blond hair. Underneath it was her best friend, Mollie, who had the privilege of sitting in her par- ents’ pew in the front row with the new teacher. Miss Gordon appeared to be listening attentively to the reverend’s sermon. She had just arrived in Cavendish that week, after the last teacher, Miss Robinson, had finally left during the summer. Maud hoped she would get a chance to prove herself to the new teacher. Even though her grandfather had strong feelings about women teachers (“another confounded female teacher,” Maud had heard him mutter as they passed Miss Gordon on the way into the church that morning), a teacher still held an important place in the com- munity: people respected your opinion—something Maud had learned the hard way earlier that year.
   Mollie turned her head discreetly to catch Maud’s eye and, in her typical overdramatic fashion, mimed fanning herself. Maud returned the action with an overly dramatic grin, earning a firm tsk from her grandmother. Maud stifled a giggle and gazed out the window, which overlooked the slope of the western hill, and tried to imagine a cool breeze blowing through the chapel, clearing away the judgment. She longed to run down to the red sandy shore, strip off her stockings—she didn’t even want to think about what was happening to her poor black stockings—and jump into the Gulf. The air was as stifling as what awaited her when she got home: an afternoon of reading the Bible in quiet contemplation and the arrival of her mother’s brother, Uncle John Franklin, and his family for supper—although at least her cousin Lu would be there.
   Maud turned her attention to the front. She had no idea what Reverend Archibald was talking about; her thoughts drifted back to what Mollie had said before church—that she had news. Mollie always had the best news.
   Resisting the urge to tap her best friend on the shoulder, Maud quickly looked over at her cousin Pensie, sitting in the pew across the aisle. At sixteen, Pensie could wear her wavy auburn hair in the latest fashion on top of her head, and she sported fringe bangs that accentuated her long chin and big brown eyes. Alas, being only fourteen, Maud wasn’t allowed to put her hair up, and she was forced to live under the weight of it. Thankfully, Grandma had allowed her to tie it in two little ribbons clipped behind her head so it was off her face.
   At long last, the service came to an end. Had her grandmother not been there, Maud would have pushed through the congrega- tion and raced down the stairs, where there was space to breathe. As it was Sunday—and Grandma was there—Maud walked with what she hoped was graceful civility, as befitted a child of the Macneill clan, to the cemetery in front of the church, manag- ing to find the welcome shade of a tree while she waited for her friends . . . and Mollie’s news.
   Maud leaned her head against the coarse bark and closed her eyes, trying to shut out the murmurs of people filing their way out of the church, but she couldn’t help but overhear the talk around her.
   “I heard she had hysterics in the schoolyard,” Mrs. Simpson said. “That’s what my daughter Mamie told me.”
   Of course Mamie would tell her mother some falsehood. She was one of the girls that followed Maud’s nemesis, Clemmie Macneill.
   “I’m not surprised, given . . . everything,” Mrs. Clark said. “I hope that new school teacher knows how to handle an emotional child like Maud Montgomery.”
   “It’s the Montgomery side, I’m sure,” Mrs. Simpson said.
   Maud scraped at the tree. How dare they speak about Father when he wasn’t here to defend himself! She was both a Montgomery and a Macneill, which was why she would not lower herself by marching over to those women and telling them to mind their own business. No. She would pretend to ignore them.
   “You certainly got out quickly,” a familiar voice said.
   Maud opened her eyes and sighed. “That heat was unbearable, Pensie. I couldn’t stand it any longer.”

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