Arachnide Editions by House of Anansi Press Inc

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Back Roads

Back Roads

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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The Accidental Education of Jerome Lupien
Excerpt

After taking a stab at political science and then psychology, Jerome Lupien finally found his true calling as a man of letters; he enrolled in French Literature at the Université de Montréal, and earned a B.A. that let him imagine a career in teaching, journalism, publishing, or some other related field. Upon graduating, he decided to reward himself for the remarkable feat of his having combined university studies with part-time work as a waiter in an Old Montreal café by taking a year off — the first several weeks of which he spent sleeping, living the good life, and windsurfing. He planned to top off his sabbatical year with a long hitchhiking trip through South America.

Then, towards midsummer, his uncle Raoul, who had become a partial invalid, gave Jerome his hunting equipment. As an adolescent, Jerome had gone on dozens of hunting trips with his uncle, so he was fairly familiar with guns — which, to his father, were an abomination. Jerome’s memories of those trips were filled with marvels that passing time had embellished. So, one afternoon, handling the rifles and carbines his uncle had sent him and seeing how assiduously oiled and polished they were, he was so moved that tears came to his eyes. A hunger for the hunt took hold of him and held on unrelentingly; come the night, he dreamed of going on safaris in shadowy forests in which he came face to face with herds of deer, moose, or caribou, which he would slaughter in a terrifying burst of gunfire, half blinded by the clouds of acrid smoke that made him cough and laugh at the same time.

He dedicated a weekend to courses — “Arms Management” and “An Introduction to Hunting” — in order to get his permit, which he received a month later. Yet, even with it, he felt he needed to have someone experienced with him on his first adult foray into the woods. And so, in early October, he’d surfed the Internet to look for a hunting guide, came up with Donat Pimparé, and the business was settled in no time.

It was Pimparé who suggested they get themselves to Maniwaki.

“I know it’s a bit far,” Pimparé had said, “and sure, there’ll be some expenses, but in the past five or six years I’ve found no better place for big game. I’ve never led a hunting party up there that hasn’t come back with an animal. If you don’t wanna come home empty-handed, pal, then Maniwaki’s the place to go.”

Fifty-eight-year-old Pimparé lived in Sorel and had accumulated a lot of experience as a guide. And since Jerome, two months earlier, had totalled his beloved Mazda in an accident from which he, fortunately, had escaped unharmed — other than three demerit points off his driver’s licence — Pimparé offered to drive them both up to Maniwaki in his minivan.

“If we get a moose that’s too big for the van,” he joked, “you can come back by bus.”

Which was what he would have to do, apparently. But without the moose.

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Hope Has Two Daughters
Excerpt

The two girls were called Reem and Farah. They giggled to themselves as they glanced at one another, flickering their eyelids. One had her hair done pageboy style, slicked down, and a button nose, light-coloured skin, and slightly slanted eyes that made her look like a cat about to pounce. The other was constantly adjusting her abundant chestnut hair with the back of her hand. Her black eyes accentuated the whiteness of her skin; a few reddish blotches marked her oval face. Reem and Farah looked me over carefully when they saw me come in with Donia. Even before we were introduced, I knew they wouldn’t like me. My ripped jeans, my multiple earrings worn in a line along my earlobe, the high forehead I’d inherited from my mom, and my blues eyes, just like my dad’s: everything about me told them just how foreign I was. Even my brown and hopelessly curly hair that stood out in corkscrew-like tufts from my head — another hand-me-down from Mom and a source of wonder, of compliments, and admiration during my childhood in Canada — was not enough for them to see me as a Tunisian. Me, the daughter born of the marriage of Nadia the Tunisian and Alex the Canadian. In their eyes, I was some kind of strange mix, a hybrid, a monstrosity produced by the meeting of two distinct worlds but clearly belonging to neither.

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The Body of the Beasts
Excerpt

A wharf jutting out into the open sea. Waves rumble below, foam spouts from cracks between the planks. Men angle for tuna and stingrays. They cast their lines from the platform at the far end of the jetty, where the water is already deep, and wrest huge creatures from the sea that drench them in salt water as they writhe in mid-air and then again on the pier’s wooden planking. A warm breeze blows in from the interior and whips the clothing of passersby against their bodies and roars in their ears. Perched on the guardrails or on the backs of benches, children eat ice cream that trickles between their fingers and onto their bare bellies. The heat of the beach is like no other, worn like a piece of clothing.

So different from the others in their long shirts, the Borya brothers serve as their mother’s bodyguards. She holds the youngest on her hip and strides toward the fishermen, her skirts billowing around her legs. Three coins jangle in her pocket and their clinking combines with the clacking of her heels against the wharf. The biggest fish require tough bargaining, so the boys’ father sent his wife. He told her to wear her grey dress, the one with the low-cut square neck that shows off her breasts, plump with milk. She makes her way toward the men, her attempt at sensuality somewhat hindered by the presence of her sons. The eldest walks in front of her, pushing a wheelbarrow three times his weight to transport the animal once the deal has been made. The younger two run to keep up with their mother’s swaying gait. As for her, she sees only the huge fish hanging mid-wharf, the fishermen’s sturdy bodies, the blue water and the light sparkling on its surface.

Osip Borya, chasing a salamander, has stayed behind. By the time he loses the tiny creature in the tall grasses, his mother and brothers have left. He can’t see them anywhere. Immediately overhead, seagulls wheel like sparrow hawks. A pelican swoops toward the beach, throat stretched taut with its catch, and lands on a post right next to the boy. The bird is still dripping from its plunge into the water. It looks at the child, throws its skull back and, swallowing its prey in one majestic gulp, unfurls its wings. At that exact moment, several things occur. First, the pelican lifts off and returns to its position on the waves. Then, watching the seabird, Osip spies his mother at the end of the wharf and notices a tiny movement she makes: as her right foot lifts out of its shoe, she reaches down to brush sand off the sole of her foot. Just behind her, a fisherman lets out a shout and hauls from the water a five-foot-long swordfish thrashing around like a demon. Three men harpoon it to sap the creature’s strength.

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The Acacia Gardens

The Acacia Gardens

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary
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Captive

Captive

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : suspense, literary
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