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Really need to read

By spatsy
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Books that go beyond catching my attention
Pressure Cooker

Pressure Cooker

Why Home Cooking Won't Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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Food is at the center of national debates about how Americans live and the future of the planet. Not everyone agrees about how to reform our relationship to food, but one suggestion rises above the din: We need to get back in the kitchen. Amid concerns about rising rates of obesity and diabetes, unpronounceable ingredients, and the environmental footprint of industrial agriculture, food reformers implore parents to slow down, cook from scratch, and gather around the dinner table. Making food a p …

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Mamaskatch

Mamaskatch

A Cree Coming of Age
edition:Hardcover

Growing up in the tiny village of Smith, Alberta, Darrel J. McLeod was surrounded by his Cree family’s history. In shifting and unpredictable stories, his mother, Bertha, shared narratives of their culture, their family and the cruelty that she and her sisters endured in residential school. McLeod was comforted by her presence and that of his many siblings and cousins, the smells of moose stew and wild peppermint tea, and his deep love of the landscape. Bertha taught him to be fiercely proud o …

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Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever

The Best New Canadian Non-Fiction
edited by Moira Farr & Ian Pearson
introduction by Marni Jackson
edition:Paperback

In honour of the twentieth anniversary of the Literary Journalism Program at the Banff Centre, Cabin Fever celebrates two decades of writing with thirteen of the finest creative non-fiction pieces written by program participants.

Drawn primarily from the program’s second decade, this anthology includes essays on a strikingly original and global range of topics by some of the best non-fiction writers in the country: Tara Grescoe goes in search of "pure" absinthe; Jeff Warren examines the way wh …

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Trickster Drift

Trickster Drift

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Following the Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted Son of a Trickster comes Trickster Drift, the second book in Eden Robinson's captivating Trickster trilogy.

In an effort to keep all forms of magic at bay, Jared, 17, has quit drugs and drinking. But his troubles are not over: now he's being stalked by David, his mom's ex--a preppy, khaki-wearing psycho with a proclivity for rib-breaking. And his mother, Maggie, a living, breathing badass as well as a witch, can't protect him like she used to bec …

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Excerpt

The clouds finally broke into a sullen drizzle after a muggy, overcast day. Jared Martin flipped up his hood as he turned the corner onto his street. His mom’s truck was in the driveway. The house he’d grown up in was two storeys high, white with green trim. The large porch was littered with work gear. His mom rented out two of the rooms and the basement to pay the bills. Most of her tenants were sub-subcontractors, in Kitimat for a few weeks and unwilling to shell out for a pricey furnished one-bedroom or a motel room. Or they were hard-core smokers who wanted to be able to light up in their rooms and found a kindred spirit in his mom, a dedicated two-packer who hated being forced outside.

He paused on the sidewalk, listening. Things seemed quiet. Which didn’t mean it was safe to go in, but Jared went up the steps and opened the front door. Not visiting his mom before he took off for Vancouver would save him a lot of grief, but it would be such a douche move. She’d never let him forget it.

“Mom?” Jared said.

“In here,” she said, her voice coming from the kitchen.
 
The kitchen windows were all open and moths fluttered against the screens. She was frying a pan of meatballs, her cigarette tucked into the corner of her mouth.

Her hair was in a ponytail. She wore her favourite ripped Metallica T-shirt over jeans and flip-flops. He could see all the little muscles working in her face as she inhaled. She was losing weight again. He hoped it was just coke.

Jared put his backpack down by the table and then hopped up to sit on the counter. His mom salted a pot of boiling water and cracked in some spaghetti.

“Nice of you to show up,” she said.

Jared swung his feet, staring down at them. “Where’s Richie?”

“He is where he is.”

Her boyfriend sold the lighter recreational drugs. They used to get along, but Richie seemed suspicious of Jared now that Jared was sober, like he had suddenly turned into a narc. When they were forced together by his mom, Richie wouldn’t talk to him for fear of incriminating himself.

Jared watched her resentfully making him dinner. She hated cooking. He wished she’d just ordered a pizza. He tried to think of a safe topic of conversation. His Monday night shift at Dairy Queen was normally dull, but his new co-worker had kept stopping to sob into her headset. “Work was nuts. I had to train my replacement. She does not handle stress well.”

“Not many people survive the soft-serve ice-cream racket.”

Ball-buster, his dad called her when he was being charitable. His adoptive dad? His dad. Philip Martin, the guy who had raised him when his biological dad turned out to be a complete dick.

She stirred the pasta. “What? No snappy comeback?”
 
“I’m tired.”

“Yeah, looking down on all us alkies and addicts must be exhaust­ing.”

“Are we going to do this all night?”

“Get the colander.”

Jared hopped down and grabbed the colander from the cupboard above the fridge.

When he handed it to her, she stared at him a moment. Then her lips went thin, the lines around her mouth deepening. “I don’t want you staying with Death Threat,” she said.

Death Threat was the nickname of one of her exes, Charles Redhill, a low-level pot grower who said it would be okay if Jared bunked in his basement while he was going to school in Vancouver, if he didn’t mind working a little security detail in exchange.

“People aren’t exactly lining up to let me sleep on their couches,” Jared said.

“He’s a fuckboy with delusions he’s Brando.”

“Stel-la!” Jared said, trying to make her laugh.

She ignored him as if he wasn’t standing beside her. She took the cigarette out of the corner of her mouth and let the pasta drain in the colander in the sink and then dumped it back in the pot. She poured in a jar of Ragú spaghetti sauce and stirred and then added the meatballs. She crushed the last bit of her cigarette out on the burner and tossed the butt in a sand-filled coffee can near the sink. He carried the pot to the table. She pulled some garlic bread out of the oven.

They ate in silence. Or, more accurately, Jared ate in silence. His mom smoked and picked at a meatball with her fork, slowly mashing it into bits.
 
“Where’s Death Threat’s place?” she said.

Jared shrugged. He was hoping against hope that Death lived near his school, the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Didn’t matter, though. Nothing beat free.

“Nice. I’m your mother and you don’t trust me enough to know where you’re fucking staying.”

“He’s away in Washington State right now. I’m booked at a hos­tel for the first week. Just text my cell.”

“He told you where he lives, right?”

“He’ll show.”

“He’s a fucking pothead. He’ll forget you exist. He forgets where his ass is until someone hands it to him.”

“I can handle myself.”

His mom sucked in a great impatient breath.

“Can we just have a nice supper?” Jared said.

“Can you not live with the spazzy fucktard who calls himself Death Threat?”

“Chill, okay? I just need a free place until my student loan comes in, then I’ll find a room or something.”

“Buttfucking Jesus on goddamn crutches.”

“Mom.”

“Don’t Mom me, genius. This is a crap plan.”

“It’s my life,” Jared said, pushing the plate away.

“Jared, you can barely manage warding. What’re you going to do if you run into something really fucking dangerous?”

His mom was a witch. For real. As he had found out definitively, just before he swore off the booze and the drugs. He’d always thought she was being melodramatic when she told him witch stuff. Then he was kidnapped by some angry otters and his shape-shifting father/
sperm donor stepped in to save him, along with his mother. He only lost a toe. Her particular talent was hexes, though she preferred giv­ing her enemies a good old-fashioned shit-kicking. Curses tended to bite you in the ass, she’d told him, and weren’t nearly as satisfying as physically throttling someone.

“Who’s going to bother me?” Jared said. “I got nothing anyone wants.”

“You’re the son of a Trickster,” she hissed.

“There’s a billion of us.” On one website he’d found 532 people claiming to be the children of Wee’git. Either Wee’git couldn’t keep it in his pants or a lot of people wanted to appear more exotic.

“You think you’re so fucking smart,” his mom said.

Jared recited the Serenity Prayer in his head. She shook another cigarette out of the pack and lit it off her butt before crushing it out on the full ashtray in the middle of the table. The TV went on in the living room. The recliner squealed.

“I’ll be out of your hair tomorrow,” Jared said. “You can forget you ever had me and party yourself to death.”

“You are testing my patience.”

It was always a bad sign when his mom stopped swearing. Jared focused on the tick of the kitchen clock to stay calm.

“You think I don’t love you,” she said. “Is that it?”

“I don’t think I’m high on your priority list.”

She got up and stood over him. She took her cigarette out of her mouth and he half-expected to get it in his face. He must have flinched, because her eyes narrowed dangerously.

She grabbed his chin. “You shoulda been a girl. Wah. Mommy doesn’t fucking love me. My feelings. My feeeeeelings.”

He shoved her hand away. “Get off me.”
 
“Are we done emoting?”

“I am.”

She backed up a step. “So I asked my sister if you could stay with her.”

Holy crap. Jared was stunned. His mom hadn’t spoken to her sis­ter since . . . forever. God. She really didn’t want him to stay with Death Threat.

“I dunno,” Jared said.

“Mave’s willing to put you up,” his mom said. “But be careful. She’s deaf to magic. Don’t bring it up around her. She’ll think you’re nuts and try to get you on antipsychotics.”

“I thought you hated her.”

“I do.”

She took a piece of paper out of her jean pocket and handed it to him. His throat tightened when he saw the name and number. His aunt, Mavis Moody, had tried to get custody of him when he was a baby, figuring her sister would be bad for any baby. His mom had married Philip Martin to avoid losing Jared. He couldn’t meet his mom’s eyes knowing how much of her pride she’d sacrificed to find him a safer place to crash. He dropped his head.

“Don’t say I never did anything for you,” she said.

Jared reached down, rifled through his backpack and gave her his grad picture.

She frowned. “Are you throwing it in my face? I only have grade eight and you’re a fucking high school graduate? You think that makes you special?”

“It’s just a picture,” Jared said. “Toss it if you don’t like it.”

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Western Alienation Merit Badge, The

Western Alienation Merit Badge, The

edition:Paperback

Set in Calgary in 1982, during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada's National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother, Frances "Frankie" Murray returns to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and her sister, Bernadette, pay the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long-lost friend, becomes their house guest old tensions are reign …

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Naming the Shadows

Naming the Shadows

edition:Paperback

Sharon Berg's quietly insightful collection focuses on relationships between generations, acknowledging the prevalence of the shadows that are everywhere-but also celebrating the light.

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Excerpt

From 'Jigsaw Puzzle'

The police called about a week later. They'd found her in a vacant building owned by the town hospital, with her skinhead boyfriend and a case of beer.

'I want to see that man charged with statutory rape,' I said, picturing this scene.

'Well, ma'am, she's fourteen." The officer paused, then added, 'Which is the age of consent.'

'Consent? Since when? Fourteen is still a child! She hasn't got a clue about what it means to give consent!'

I began to cry, feeling the ground shake under me. The age of consent was sixteen when I was a kid, and most of our parents had considered it too young to start seeing boys.

'How can you call it consent, even when he's plying her with alcohol? This is insane. It's against the law to provide alcohol to a minor. She is a minor at fourteen. Surely you can charge him with that?'

The officer was placating. 'I understand, ma'am,' he began, and I could see that he was already backing out of that option.

'Well, if you can't charge him, can you at least bring her home? I registered her as a missing person.'

'I would bring her home,' he said, 'but her street friends have already clued her in. She told me she'll just walk away from your door, if I bring her to you. I know you reported her missing, but even with us still sitting in the cruiser to write up the report, we'd need a brand-new order to stop her from leaving again.'

Straight talking. This was his best attempt to be helpful. At the time, I couldn't get past the thought that I'd already lost her, still unsure whether she was blaming me for too little or too much attention.

'What can I do?' I sighed, hearing the note of desperation that crept into my own voice.

'Well, ma'am, I hate to say it like this, but we know the people she's running with pretty well. They have a long history.' He drops his next point like a bomb. It was worse than I feared. 'This guy she's with is one of the ring leaders. I think you just have to hope that your daughter gets hurt bad enough that she decides to come home, but not so bad that she can't come home.'

My heart stopped for a moment, I swear. I had no options as her parent then, except prayer. After I hung up, I fell to my knees, crying and praying to whatever greater power there was guiding the universe to save her.

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Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning, The

Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning, The

edition:Paperback

Finalist for the 2020 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize!
Three years into the second millennium, Majestic, Alberta is a farm town dealing with depressed crop prices, international borders closing to Canadian beef, and a severe drought. Older farmers worry about their way of life changing while young people concoct ways to escape: drugs, partying, moving away. Even the church is on the brink of closing.

When local woman Annie Gallagher is struck by lightning while divining water for a we …

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Excerpt

1
Annie Gallagher
You can smell the rain on the wind, a right smell for witching. The aspen that survived have taken on a tawny-yellow cast, the way they colour just before the limbs awaken. The willow seem the stronger, most seem to have resisted the drought. Deeper roots maybe. The black poplar, nothing but grey weathered sticks punc¬tuating the pale green understory. You can see it in the shelter belts, the thinning this year, the trees that just didn't make it.

There is no water to witch anymore. Unworkable, the cost of digging, the pumping, all that electricity when I have to tell them two hundred, three hundred, five hundred feet deep. They shake their heads. It isn't magic what I do; I can't conjure it. I can only find it.

And now this news of the bishop. He's coming to close the church. But more than that, he's coming.

This Thursday morning, I have Bob stop the truck just short of his yard. For a new well, I almost always choose a branch from a living tree. A green willow is best, a bit of water still in its body. It has to be green and it has to have give. That's how it finds the stream. And I always start before sunrise.

We set up in the pasture behind the old corral. The slope is better than in front. Higher ground. Less likelihood of ground¬water contamination at spring run-off. I begin to pace, like a monk walking his cloister, straight lines back and forth, head bent, arms outstretched, ears open. A choir monk listening for the cantor. My breviary, the divining rod. Nana called it a goddess branch after the Cornish. Palms down, both forks of the wand gripped, one in each hand, I try to feel the water drawing down from the branch, the crook in my hands speaking to the crook in my legs, to the tingling in my feet. The power in me, the power in the wand: intermittent. The feeling of the current is faint in me. Even at my fullest powers, I have to strain to hear it.

I make a widening circle. Not a vibration. A small meadow vole is watching too, worried for its place in the grass. I am careful to watch for and walk around its nest. A hundred paces on I stop and sit. Sometimes that works best for a while. Cross my legs on the earth and empty my mind, just listen for the pace, the rush of water, a faint layer beneath, muffled there, from so high above the surface.

Bob taps me on the shoulder, interrupts my reverie. "Are you sure about that sky?"

I rise again and twenty feet across the pasture, the willow branch jumps in my hands. I mark the spot, have flags ready for the purpose fashioned from old nails and strips of cloth.

I murmur sometimes when I witch. The farmers say I chant. I often close my eyes. There are usually no words, but an intention and a chord that focuses the mind, then a straining to hear the steady hum of the unseen water, the songs calling from beneath. I sway; I hang on and follow where the current takes me.

Yet today, I summon all my powers of concentration, all the spirits I can muster: the dead, the living, saint and animal. I call on them all. "Nana. Papa. Maman." Their names anchoring me; finding an echo in my bones; the electricity in my hands.

The wand wavers. I hold it close to my pelvis, try to stop the shaking in my hands. Then the dream I've had for days breaks in, a harsh dissonance: my young self wakes reaching for breath. Arms crossed over chest, the straitjacket pulled tight behind me. So tight, I cannot move. A young Bishop Leo, a priest then, stand¬ing over me; his words stripping me, harsher than any indignity he might have performed. Inside the straitjacket in my dream, my hands won't stop shaking. The rod pulls down hard, starts to shiver; my hands sweat.

"I thirst," I say to no one in particular.

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