All Things Consoled – Elizabeth Hay

All Things Consoled - Elizabeth HayThis book is subtitled “A Daughter’s Memoir”, and chronicles the last years of her parent’s lives after relocating from their home to London to a seniors residence in Ottawa. Ms. Hay’s wonderful prose describes her aged mother: “her loose skin hung off her like silken parchment … (her) bare arms were as pitiable as a ballerinas”.  The decline in the health of her parents is described in depressing and brutally honest detail, proving once again that growing old is not for sissies. Ms. Hay’s relationships with her parents (and her siblings) is examined thoughtfully, carefully and critically, in particular her often fraught relationship with her tempestuous father. This is very fine writing, introspective and compelling.

The Only Cafe – Linden MacIntyre

The Only cafe - Linden MacIntyre.jpgThis is a superb book, a mystery in the John LeCarre mold. Secrets abound: What will someone do to survive in a genocidal war? Was do we really know about a father when he goes missing? The setting is contemporary Toronto with topical issues like Jihadist recruitment. The back-story is the tragic conflict in Lebanon from 1976-83=2. Unanswered questions are rampant – this is just great writing, in part about journalism: can the truth ever be revealed.

Brother – David Chariandy

Brother - David ChariandyThis is an outstanding book that everyone in Canada should read for its insight into the world of ethnic immigrant families. The place is Scarborough; the principal family has Trinidadian origins: two brothers and their mother. The fragility and vulnerability of their lives is captured vividly. There are issues of poverty and violence, and most chillingly, dangerous encounters with police. All the honours that this books has received (Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, etc) are richly deserved. This will be a formidable contender in the upcoming Canada Reads competition.

Bellvue Square – Michael Redhill

Bellvue Square - Michael RedhillThis is an imaginative book set in and around Toronto’s Kensington Market. The core of the book examines an existential question: is a doppelgänger real or a figment of imagination? How can a hallucinatory state be distinguished from reality? Redhill has written a darkly comedic and thoughtful book that justifiably has been placed on the Giller short list.

The Hesitation Cut by Giles Blunt

The Hesitation Cut by Giles BluntGB is a well-known Canadian mystery writer for the Detective John Cardinal series of books set in Algonquin Bay. The Hesitation Cut is entirely different, an extraordinary book from a psychological point-of-view: a story about obsession and an honest depiction of how prolonged despair can lead to suicide. Not a fun book but a worthwhile read.

Close To Hugh by Marina Endicott

This is a brilliant book about complex relationships of love and friendship. At the core is Hugh, a 50-something man whose life is unravelling for physical and psychological reasons. The story is set in Peterborough and art (painting, installations art, and especially theatre) features prominently. The writing is very fine throughout.

And The Birds Rained Down by Jocelyn Saucier

And The Birds Rained Down by Jocelyn Saucier.jpgA beautiful and moving story about ageing on your own terms. The novel is set in Northern Ontario where 3 elderly men can hide in the remoteness. But two women join the hideaway and life for all changes. The ending is wistful and transcendent. This was the second funner-up in Canada Reads 2015 (with Martha Wainwright as the proponent), a very well-deserved recognition of exceptional writing.