Little Yellow House: Finding community in a changing neighbourhood – Carrisa Halton

This is a collection of stories and vignettes of living in a  “shitty neighbourhood” in Edmonton: Alberta Avenue (118 Avenue between 101-82 Streets). This is low-income housing with lots of social problems: drug houses, crime, prostitution … the list goes on. But the inhabitants are resilient and the area acquires a distinct personality.  But there is a warning in the last pages: “gentrification is the new colonialism”. A fabulous read, with a breezy style of writing. Thanks Sarah, for giving me this book.

Precious Cargo – Craig Davidson

Precious Cargo - Craig DavidsonDavidson usually writes gritty guy-books (e.g. Cataract City) that are fiction. In contrast, this new book is non-fiction, an account of a year spent driving a school bus for five special-needs kids in Calgary. There are some very funny parts, such as the perils of substitute driving a school bus at Halloween, but Davidson takes a thoughtful look at how people with disabilities are viewed by the non-disabled, in school and in society in general. The book also includes an introspective examination of himself as a struggling writer at the time – overall, a very worthwhile read.

The Three Sisters Bar and Hotel – Katherine Govier

The Three Sisters GovierAn epic story of the Western Rocky Mountains, with the setting of Gateway (actually Canmore). The story covers 100 years, from 1911 with guides taking pack-horse expeditions into the mountains. The core story is the disappearance of an American fossil-hunting expedition. The history of Canadian National Parks is presented as an evocative back story. This is a very good read, capturing the romance (literal and figurative) of mountains and the men and women who blazed the trails.

Who By Fire by Fred Stenson

who_by_fire_220This is a very fine book by one of Alberta’s best writers. First the settings of a 1960s farming family next to a sour gas plant in Southern Alberta and contemporary Fort MacMurray are described perfectly, especially the farming story. And second, the complex relationships are rich with nuance: husband-wife, parents-children, siblings, and so forth. This is excellent story telling on an increasingly relevant topic.

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.