Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven - Emily St. John MandelA brilliant telling of a post-apocalyptic future after a virus rapidly kills >99% of the world’s population. The story alternates between the present which is 20 years after the plague, and the back-story of the key characters. There are some very satisfying inter-relationships between characters that are revealed slowly, including the importance of an unpublished graphic novel. This is an excellent entertaining book.


Amy notes: Later on the CBC Canada Reads long list 2016

Leaving Tomorrow – David Bergen

Leaving Tomorrow - David BergenThis is an insightful and introspective book, typical of Bergen’s novels. The first part of the book is a perfect recounting of growing up in rural Alberta. Arthur describes his influences: isolation, books and school, religion, sibling rivalry, and conversations that leave much more unsaid than stated explicitly. The latter part of the book is a coming-of-age story in Paris. Just an excellent read.

The Language Of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language Of Flowers - Vanessa DiffenbaughThis is a brilliant book, one of my best reads in the past 6 months. On one level is is a heart-breaking story of the consequences of growing up in foster care without love and affection, leading to feelings of being unworthy of love and affection (officially, attachment disorder). But this is also a story of redemption through flowers, especially by learning the language of flowers to enhance communication and the understanding of the complexity of relationships. For example, yellow roses means either jealousy or infidelity. The main character, Victoria, is a compelling, angry, destructive and often frustrating character who struggles to forgive and be forgiven. Amazing writing but keep a tissue box nearby!

A Sunday At The Pool At Kigali by Gil Courtemanche

A Sunday At The Pool At Kigali - Gil CourtemancheFull disclosure – this is a disturbing book and not for the faint-hearted. The book details the events in early 1994 in Rwanda: the AIDS epidemic and mainly the Hutu-led genocide against the Tutsis. Amidst much death and brutal violence is a love story, the tender relationship between a Canadian journalist and a Rwandan woman who is Hutu but looks like a Tutsi. Issues of identity are crucial in the genocidal purge of “cockroaches”, the term the Hutu use to describe Tutsis to justify their extermination. Indifference from the UN and Western powers is described in detail, along with rampant corruption. This is a powerful book: how can love exist in this Rwandan hell?

A Good Death – Gil Courtemanche

A Good Death - Gil CourtemancheA Good Death – Gil Courtemanche (perhaps best known for A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali). This is a very well-written story of a dysfunctional large family in Montreal. The patriarch has always been a mean—spirited nasty individual who now has had a stroke with the onset of Parkinson’s. Some members of his family speculate that everyone would be better off if he died. The question of how his death might be facilitated becomes an important theme.  His eldest son states that “you can only kill individuals that you love or hate. In this case, the son has never loved his irascible father but can’t hate him because of his illness. This dilemma is resolved in an interesting ending.

Nobody Is Ever Missing – Catherine Lacey

Nobody Is Ever Missing - Catherine LaceyA brilliant story about a 28 year-old woman who flees her husband and her NY life, to go to New Zealand. She continues to be lost. The writing is amazing, long disjointed sentences to mirror her aimless thoughts. And the ending is intriguing.

The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

he Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)This is the second book about Cormoran Strike, a hard-boiled private investigator in the Mickey Spillane mode. This book is set in the vicious world of publishing. Excellent plot with ongoing development of the relationship between Cormoran and his trusty secretary, Robin. The story takes place in London, and you can feel the cold of an English winter.

Certainty by Madeleine Thien

474662This is a great book, really two love stories spanning two generations set in North Borneo (WWII, now Malaysia), Vancouver and The Netherlands. It is a compelling story of secrets and sorrows of the past, and grief and loss (a phrase: “ routine .. to keep their thoughts contained”). This may be the only time I have recommended two books by the same author in a single month.