The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

A sensational first novel for a number of reasons. The important characters are all women. Specifically, four women perfect a time travel procedure; there is no emphasis on technology, the reality of time travel is treated as a matter-of-fact occurrence. Instead, as the title indicates, the story is about the psychological consequences of time travel. Future versions of an individual can co-exist. How do you cope with knowledge about your future self: who you marry, how you die? And finally, the book contains a cracking good mystery. Very entertaining.

Woman at 1000 Degrees – Hallgrimur Helgason

Hallgrimur HelgasonOne of my goals is to read Icelandic literature and this is an epic story, deathbed recollections by an 80 year-old woman who has had a remarkable life. She is a unique individual: sardonic and above all, a survivor. Her existence as a young girl in WWII is harrowing and disturbing. The storyline is non-linear, like the ramblings of an old woman. This books gives some significant insight into the Icelandic psyche, an isolated under-populated island, plus varied experiences in places like Argentina.

Keeper n’Me – Richard Wagamese

Keeper n’Me - Richard WagameseIn the tributes to the late Richard Wagamese at literary festivals in Calgary and Vancouver, several Indigenous authors said that this book had a huge influence on their lives. Garnet Raven is a young child in an Ojibway-Anishanabe community in Northern Ontario. He is a victim of the sixties scoop, essentially a kidnapping, and so grows up without any sense of being an Indian. In fact, there are some hilarious instances of his attempts at cultural appropriation. After 20 years, he is reunited with his family and begins to lean the Indian way with an elder named Keeper. It is easy to understand why this book, published in 1993, became so important to Indigenous youth. This book should be essential reading for everyone, to appreciate a way of living in harmony with the land and the important of silence, of a slow pace of life and a solid sense of humour.

The Archeologists – Hal Niedzviecki

The Archeologists - Hal NiedzvieckiThis imaginative book is hard to describe. The story is NOT about professional archeologists at an excavation. Instead the story follows six very different individuals whose lives intersect when bones are (apparently) discovered at the edge of a river which is to be transformed into an expressway. Planning issues (think of Jane Jacobs) are described along with environmental and Indigenous issues. The characters are portrayed vividly, especially the obnoxious and wildly irresponsible Tim. This is a great read.

The Power – Naomi Alderman

The Power - Naomi AldermanThis is an excellent example of speculative fiction. Imagine if young women acquire/discover a new physical power, an electrical discharge so by touch they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. This is the ultimate manifestation of girl power! Now imagine the impact of this fierce new female power on religion, politics and crime. This book takes us on an imaginative journey into an alternate reality with many elements that resonate in today’s world. Thanks to Chris/Amy for this recommendation.

There There – Tommy Orange

There There - Tommy OrangeOrange is one of a group of impressive Indigenous authors introduced to me during the Calgary Word Fest. This is a superb first novel with intersecting characters assembling in Oakland for a Pow-wow. These individuals have links to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma but their Indian identity is very limited: these are urban Indians. For example, a young boy, Orvil Red Feather, learns pow-wow dancing from YouTube videos. The intersecting multi-generational story-lines can be complicated to follow sometimes because of uncertain or unknown parentage, but the culminating climax is presented powerfully. This is excellent story-telling about identity, violence and recovery, of belonging and un-belonging, loss and hope.