Heart Berries, A Memoir – Terese Marie Mailhot

Heart Berries, A Memoir - Terese Marie MailhotAn ongoing quest to read more indigenous authors can be complicated because there can be a vast gap in the ability of a non-Indigenous reader to grasp meaning. This book by Ms. Mailhot produced an uncomfortable feeling because of her raw and uncompromising writing. The narrative unfolds as a stream-of-consciousness confession of many difficulties: foster care, parenthood and removal of children, substance abuse, complicated and often destructive relationships, mental illness, suicidal ideation … the list goes on. Although short in terms of pages (132), this book is thought-provoking and intense, and is best read in short segments (like poetry). Highly recommended but be warned that this is a tough read.

The Star Side of Bird Hill – Naomi Jackson

The Star Side of Bird Hill - Naomi JacksonThis is a remarkable first novel about 3 generations of women who are both powerful and vulnerable. Two sisters in Brooklyn, Dionne and Phaedra, are sent to Barbados to spend the summer with their grandmother, due to their mother’s deepening depression. There is a predictable cultural clash as the strong-willed grandchildren are confronted with a more traditional society. Life becomes more complicated with their mothers suicidal death. This is  passage near the end of the book when Phaedra thinks about her mother’s death: “This time there was no hope for her mother’s arrival, because Angie was where she would always be now, silent and below the ground. And this had, rather than saddening Phaedra, settled in beside her, the way that the hill’s red dust filmed her white clothes, the way that sand lined her pockets days and weeks after she came home from the beach. It was always there, a reminder of what had come before”.
Powerful story-telling about love and conflict, death and discovery, pain and hope – highly recommended.

Moonglow – Michael Chabon

Moonglow - Michael ChabonChabon has written many imaginative novels: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Telegraph Avenue, etc. Moonglow is a fictionalized memoir, ostensibly based on his grandfather’s life. The writing is superb: his grandfather’s experiences in WWII and a lifelong interest in rocketry; a poignant story of his grandmother’s mental illness. A powerful aspect of the story telling is the consequences of keeping secrets and telling lies. This is an excellent read; thanks Renee, for this recommendation.

Martin John by Anakana Schofield

Martin John by Anakana SchofieldThis book was on the Giller short list. Martin John is a sexual predator, with actions ranging from touching himself in public to inappropriate touching of others. What is fascinating is that the voice of this book describes the circular thoughts in his head with clear evidence of mental illness. And there is his Mam, frustrated by MJ’s pattern of offending and re-offending – how far can a mother’s love stretch. This is an excellent and provocative book.

Amy notes: As seen Vancouver Writers Festival 2015

Adult Onset by Anne-Marie MacDonald

Adult Onset by Anne-Marie MacDonaldThis is a complicated sometimes messy book that will not appeal to all, but in my opinion the book and story telling is brilliant. Difficult issues of childhood trauma (real or perceived?), debilitating post-partum depression, and mother-child relationships including maternal love and rage are all included for an incredible spectrum of issues. The core character, Mary Rose (MR, aka Mister) is sometimes completely off the rails and often neurotic, so a hard character to care about at times, which makes the storytelling all the more compelling.

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.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18490560-nobody-is-ever-missing