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Editors' Picks: Week of September 16–22
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Editors' Picks: Week of September 16–22

By kileyturner
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An eclectic, fantastic collection of books for you this week!
Dishwasher, The

Dishwasher, The




It’s October in Montreal, 2002, and winter is coming on fast. Past due on his first freelance gig and ensnared in lies to his family and friends, a graphic design student with a gambling addiction goes after the first job that promises a paycheck: dishwasher at …

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THE SNOWPLOW’S ROTATOR BEACONS light up the buildings’ white-coated façades as it slogs up Hochelaga pushing snow. We finally manage to pass it and turn onto a small, dimly lit street. Low-hanging cottony clouds fill the dark sky. The comfortable warmth of the car interior is almost enough to put me to sleep. You can just hear the dispatcher’s voice on the CB. Mohammed turns down his music the moment I get into his black Sonata. He keeps his car immaculately clean. No crumpled up newspaper floor mats, no old coffee cups or leftover food in the compartment under the radio. Just a small Koran with an illuminated cover and a receipt book. The leather seats are good as new. A fresh, minty aroma suffuses the car.

We pull onto Rue Ontario. Tall snowbanks line either side of the street.

Mohammed ignores a call on his cell. He never answers when he’s with a customer. In the extra rear-view mirrors he has mounted on each side of the windshield, I can see his serene face and wrinkled, baggy eyes under bushy eyebrows. We keep driving to Sicard, then turn right. I don’t have to give him directions. Mohammed knows the route by heart, has for some time. Mohammed, Car 287, is senior driver at the cab stand on the corner of Beaubien and des Érables. Mohammed is the cabbie who nightly takes home half the bar and restaurant workers who ply their trade in Rosemont. Mohammed is a fifty-four-year-old Algerian. He’s owed favours by every taxi driver working the area between Saint-Laurent and l’Assomption from west to east, Jean-Talon and Sherbrooke north to south. Even the old guard, the holdouts still driving for Taxi Coop, respect him to a man. Every second time I catch a taxi at the stand, I don’t have to say where I’m going; every third time I don’t even give my address. It doesn’t matter who’s driving. They know me because I’m a customer of #287. Mohammed is as generous as they come. The kind of guy who’d pull over to help two people moving, stuck under a fridge on their outdoor staircase.

I remember one time two or three years ago. We were driving down D’Iberville, getting close to my house, must have been 1:30 in the morning. The moment we turned onto Hochelaga I had a nagging doubt. This was back when I was closing by myself. At the end of a busy night I’d be so spent I’d sometimes forget some of the closing jobs, like making sure the heat lamps were turned off, or that the cooks hadn’t left the convection oven on. That night I just couldn’t remember if I’d locked the back door of the restaurant after taking out the dining room garbage. Mohammed stopped in front of my place. He looked at me in one of his mirrors. I still wasn’t certain, but I convinced myself I must have done it automatically. I got out of the cab. I stood there next to the car, hesitating, with my hand on the open door. Mohammed turned around and said:

“Get back in, my friend. We’re going back.”

He didn’t turn the meter back on. It turned out I hadn’t locked the back door, and the meat order hadn’t been put away in the cooler. When we got back to Aird and La Fontaine, where we’d started, I held out sixty dollars.

“No no, my friend. The usual fare.”

He wouldn’t take more than twenty.

“It was my pleasure. You’ll sleep better tonight.”

Sometimes, deep in the night, you come across people like Mohammed. After years of night shifts, years of going to bed at four in the morning, I’ve gotten to know all kinds of characters, from young kids so jacked up on coke they chatter uncontrollably to hard cases content to ride their downward spiral all the way to rock bottom. The night sadly doesn’t belong to the Mohammeds of this world. But they’re out there, making it a more hospitable place for its denizens.

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A Dance of Cranes

A Dance of Cranes

A Birder Murder Mystery
also available: eBook

Two separate continents, one shared fate: Death knows no boundaries.

Newly estranged from his girlfriend, Lindy, Inspector Domenic Jejeune has returned to Canada to the news that his brother, Damian, has gone missing in Wood Buffalo National Park while conducting field research on Whooping Cranes. But even if Jejeune can find Damian in the vast, remote wilderness, staying alive afterward may prove a far greater challenge.

Back in the U.K., Sergeant Danny Maik is on a missing person search of his …

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Chapter 1

VI. Six. The most dangerous number of all. It meant perilous conditions. It meant violent, unpredictable forces. And for Annie Prior, it had meant death.

The man stared back up the river, transfixed for a moment by the raw energy of the water boiling down through the narrow chasm. A low roar reverberated off the rocks, filling the air with its dull thunder. He had never seen Category Six rapids before, but he knew these would qualify. Surely, no level of river danger could exceed the way this water was churning through the steep-sided gorge, crashing down in explosions of white spume onto the jagged rocks below. Even for the most experienced white-water canoeist, any attempt to navigate this stretch of rapids would be madness. For a novice, without a helmet or life jacket, it was tantamount to suicide. But for someone who is in fear for their life, any escape route must be tried, no matter how terrifying.

The man still found it hard to believe that this stretch of river was undocumented. In most places on earth, such waters would have been part of the local folklore, highlighted on the maps, most likely with a sidebar warning about their dangers. But in this vast, remote wilderness, even deadly Category Six rapids could go unrecorded. They were merely one more hazard in this unforgiving landscape that offered no quarter to those who dared to challenge it. Those like Annie Prior.

He had suspected the body would end up in this eddy. The two of them had noted it during their earlier reconnaissance of the river, when they had decided the drops and ledges of this section were far too risky, far too treacherous to be navigated. He’d headed for this spot as soon as he’d seen the canoe disappear into the rapids. Annie Prior hadn’t bailed out by then, and that meant she wasn’t going to. All that remained for her now was a short, dizzying descent toward death. As the raging waters thrashed the canoe to pieces on the razor-sharp rocks, she would have been rag-dolled into a state of near-unconsciousness, even before the craft flipped and submerged her in the frigid currents. After that, there would have been no hope. Annie Prior’s body would be pounded against the boulders time and again by the force of the churning water, until it eventually broke free of the rapids and drifted downstream to this spot.

He saw Annie’s lifeless form now, a few metres from shore, turning in a slow spiral. Set against the manic rushing of the river beyond, the movement of the water in the eddy was as benign as the swirling of cream in a coffee cup. The silence here seemed to fill the air like a pocket of empty time. But despite the peace of this place, he could not allow Annie Prior’s body to remain like this.

He took off his clothes and laid them in a neat pile on the shore. As cold as the water was going to be, it would be vital that he had warm, dry clothes when he was done. In these temperatures, damp clothes wouldn’t dry for a long time, and as evening approached, they’d leach out what little body heat he had. With no heavy jacket to protect him, it would leave him vulnerable to the cold night ahead.

After two steps, the shallow incline disappeared into a steep drop-off, plunging him thigh-deep into water so cold he couldn’t even breathe. Numbness seized his legs, freezing out all feeling, the still air all around him seeming only to heighten the intensity of the icy chill. Carefully testing the footing, he began wading forward. He felt his chest contract as the icy water rode up his ribcage, and he opened his mouth repeatedly, as if trying to bite off chunks of the cold air to gulp down into his lungs.

Part of him had hoped he would not see her face, but as she drifted round towards him, he could not bring himself to look away. She stared back at him through cold, dead eyes, her face so bloated and battered it was almost unrecognizable. He had not seen many smiles from Annie Prior, amid the firm set of her jaw, her intense concentration, her determined expressions, but those few that had come his way had been worth waiting for; face-brightening moments of unfettered joy. She should have let herself smile more often, he thought.

He stretched out his arm across the glassy surface and his fingertips touched the rough Gore-Tex material of Annie’s jacket. He tugged at it and the body began to drift gently in his direction. He felt in the pocket of the jacket to retrieve Annie’s inReach device and clicked it off. Then he removed the battery and threw both parts of the unit into the fast-flowing waters beyond the eddy. He reached out once again and pushed Annie’s head under the water, forcing the body down against its natural buoyancy until it snagged on a submerged log.

His grisly task completed, he was in the process of turning away when the body broke free and burst up beside him in the water. He recoiled from the grotesque mask of discoloured flesh with its dead, unseeing eyes, sputtering and gasping furiously as he splashed back into the frigid water. Recovering, he approached the body and tried again, pinning it beneath the log and securing it firmly. He paused for a moment, in case the body broke free and once more floated to the surface. But this time, it held fast and he backed away carefully until he reached the shore.

He emerged from the water, shivering violently. He pulled on his clothes as fast as his numb hands would permit, hugging his thick, lined sweater around him tightly when he had finished. As he stepped into his boots, he stopped to fish out his own inReach device. He pried off the case and removed the battery. Pausing, he held the two parts as if testing their weight. And then he slid them both gently into the water. For a moment they seemed to hang suspended on the surface, and then they slowly sank, until through the clear water, he saw his only contact with the outside world disappear.


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A Novel
also available: eBook Paperback Paperback
tagged : psychological


A riveting novel about a mother’s all-consuming worry for her child over forty-eight hours at a remote cottage with old friends and a mysterious neighbour, for fans of Little Fires Everywhere and Truly Madly Guilty

Ruth is the fiercely protective mother of almost-four-year-old Fern. Together they visit a remote family cottage belonging to Stef, the woman who has been Ruth’s best friend—and Ruth's husband’s best friend—for years. Stef is everythin …

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This Wicked Tongue

This Wicked Tongue


An A.V. Club Book to Read for June 2019

In moments of exile and self-exile, exodus and return, Elise Levine’s uncanny narratives lay bare the secret grammar of their characters’ psyches. An ill-tempered divinity-school candidate refuses to minister to a dying man’s wife; a couple fails to connect as they tour an ersatz cave in the south of France; holy women grieve in medieval England, and a pregnant runaway hitches a ride with a Church leader of dubious intentions. Propelled by their longi …

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Excerpt from This Wicked Tongue

If I moved my head, the air turned dark and blurred my breathing and I felt sick, bad sick.

It was the middle of the day in the middle of July, mid-desert. If we ran the AC, the car overheated. If we drove over sixty, the car overheated.

Are you drinking enough? he said. I told you, keep drinking.

I couldn’t — the water hot as tar. I gave myself up. Whatever happens, I said silently, careful not to move my lips. Better believe I’m yours.

But I faced forward, the better to behold the black and white in front of me. What a world. It was like the heat gave me X-ray vision. A bus breached past, air-conditioned — I could tell because the windows looked sealed and inside people chatted and played cards, ignoring the nothing outside. Twenty minutes later we passed the bus pulled over on the interstate shoulder, engine smoking, suckahs. We snailed on until a stray palm snaked into view — better believe I kept my eyes open — and then an exit, Indio, a gas station where we could fill up and a café where we could eat.

Partway through my burrito I wobbled to the bathroom, thinking I should after all this time. No pee came. My underwear, stretched between my knees, webbed with lines of salt. So much in me.

I flushed though I didn’t have to and struggled to do myself back up. I splashed water on my face. I opened the door to the tiny bathroom. The café wasn’t like what I thought a café should be, candles on the tables and music playing, him facing me.

I moved nearer. His plate lay at his elbow, and by his lowered head and bobbing shoulders it seemed he’d started on mine. Mr. Skinny. I never knew where he put it — bags of corn chips and plastic-wrapped hot dogs and subs, jewel-boxed Krispies washed down with Supersizees, and starting in Oklahoma the biscuits and gravy at Mickey Dee’s. And still his bones left bruises on me each time we joined our hearts together. Always hungry. His thin brown hair matted to his head, sticking up in places like he’d slept in a ditch for a year. The rest of him a scarecrow fixed to poles. Or a scrap of torn plastic bag flapping in a field — I wondered was it ever filled with something, who it used to belong to.

But I loved him, yeah. I felt baggy myself from the drive, my skin too big and stretched over me like a waste of plastic wrap. And that blur so near it felt like any which way.

Dizzy and ditzy are not the same thing. I believe in signs and in knowing what I know despite what anybody tells me. Stubborn bitch, you’re so stupid. Or, Dummy. And those aren’t the worse.

Mostly I lay in the back all the way here, at first sleeping or pretending to, and then with my eyes staring at all I’d never seen before and not ashamed to admit it, once we were a long way from Ontari-ari-ari-o. So much sky, each moment different. When I sat, green hills, sands like the sea. He drove far into the night and I’d wake to pink licking the windows like a thousand wet puppies. I’d manage him apart from me and let myself out. Fog welling in the ditches. I’d walk a few steps and the haze would lift, as if I’d squeezed my last tears and could get on with things. Like a rest stop with clean bathrooms. Truck rigs neatly lined up. Men mostly, asleep. I never felt so safe. When I’d come back to the car and open the door, on my side there’d be food piled from the stash in the trunk, chips and chocolate bars grabbed in quick handfuls, whatever was most convenient at each station while I’d slept, only waking to the gunning engine and the over-lit midnight stores blown behind us like nuclear blooms in old movies — and then the grainy aftermaths of night forests, local roads.

In Indio, in a café where no music played, he chewed the burrito as if afraid it might escape. His shoulder blades were thin moons.

What could I say to draw him to me, or me to him? Most of the time words don’t mean a thing. They twist mean and not much to do with the truth.

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I Hope We Choose Love

I Hope We Choose Love

A Trans Girl's Notes from the End of the World

American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards Honor Book; Winner, Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature

What can we hope for at the end of the world? What can we trust in when community has broken our hearts? What would it mean to pursue justice without violence? How can we love in the absence of faith?

In a heartbreaking yet hopeful collection of personal essays and prose poems, blending the confessional, political, and literary, acclaimed poet and essayist Kai Ch …

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