We Measure the Earth With Our Bodies – Tsering Yangzom Lama

This very impressive debut novel is Giller short-listed. Two sisters, Lhamo and Tenkyi, flee the Chinese invasion of Tibet to resurface in Nepal in the 1960s. Fifty years later, Lhamo’s daughter Dolma is living in Toronto with Tenkyi. This is a beautifully written book about female relationships, a truly epic story of displacement and survival, exile and loss.

Jones – Neil Smith

Abi and Eli are siblings, Abi the elder by two years. They share a special communicative relationship, more typical in twins. Their story concerns growing up in a dysfunctional family; in fact, family is described as the f-word. This is a difficult book to describe, other than it is wonderfully written and is highly recommended albeit with a warning that there is violence and abusive parental behaviour. Some dreadful actions are balanced with amazing humour. The outcome is absolutely stunning in its complexity and honesty. Note: I have just heard Neil Smith speak twice at Calgary’s WorldFest, making it even more important to read this book.

Should We Stay Or Should We Go – Lionel Shriver

In 1991 at the age of 51, Cyril and Kay make a pact: to avoid the ravages of old age, they will jointly commit suicide at age 80. Now in March 2020, it is decision time. Ms. Shriver thoughtfully and comprehensively provides 12 possible outcomes. What if one opts out? What if cryogenics delivers then into a future strange new world? As usual, Shriver addresses serious themes with characteristic scenarios that may be touching but often hilarious, with contemporary issues like Brexit and the pandemic. Highly recommended.

The Christmas Bookshop – Jenny Colgan

You may wonder why I liked this book because the story is entirely predictable, and the plot is sweetly sentimental. On the other hand, the word “bookshop” is in the title and the setting is contemporary Edinburgh. What can I say – it is a relationship book that is entirely satisfying.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – Gabrielle Zevin

Sam and Sadie first meet at ages 11/12 over a shared love of video games. Ten years later, they are creating video games. This is an insightful relationship book: a profound friendship is often complicated by human frailties. Sadie describes herself as “a dervish of selfishness, resentment and insecurity”, clearly significant barriers to having successful relationships. Creative ambitions, disability, success, and failure are all themes.

The Good Women of Safe Harbor – Bobbi French

There is much to admire in this first novel. First, it is a female relationship book that deals with gritty subjects: teenage pregnancy, suicide, and medically assisted death. And second, the setting is Newfoundland. Some core values: friendship and forgiveness, the decision to love and be loved.

Astra – Cedar Bowers

This is a very fine relationship book. Astra has had an unconventional childhood on a BC commune, essentially growing up without security or love. This creates a defensive and needy personality, someone who is defined by her relationships. Thus, each chapter is presented from the point-of-view of 10 people who interact with her. Excellent storytelling.

The Employees – Olga Ravn

This is a fascinating and original story. The Six Thousand spaceship has both a human and humanoid crew. The ship removes strange objects from the planet New Discovery. The story is told as a series of statements, like an HR debrief. Is this part of an investigation? What causes tension among the humanoids? Is this an existential nightmare? Much is left to our imaginations; very entertaining.