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.

Party Wall – Catherine Leroux

party-wall-catherine-lerouxThis is a really excellent book, not surprising since this was a Giller finalist. The chapters are all about pairs, for example, two sisters. But some of the pairs are not what they seem: a husband and wife, a mother and son, and a brother and sister. There is a strong sense of place but not of time. And finally, lives begin to intersect. This is dazzling writing and exceptional translating (the translator won a Governor General’s Award), so a “must read”.

The Best Kind of People – Zoe Whittall

the-best-kind-of-people-zoe-whittallThis powerful book is about rape culture. George, a revered high school teacher, is accused of sexual misconduct and attempted rape; the complainants are 12-14 year-old school girls. George then recedes into the background as the book vividly details the collateral damage to his family who want to be supportive of a good husband/father but powerful emotions like guilt over suspicion, anger and confusion are inevitably present. Feelings of powerlessness are described evocatively. The consequences of living in a small judgemental town with attendant lies and betrayal is another vivid characteristic in this fine  novel (Giller nominee). In fact, the verdict delivered by the end of the book is inconsequential: lives have been changed irrevocably.

The Wonder – Emma Donoghue

the-wonder-emma-donoghue
Set in Ireland in the 1860s (not long after the famine), this book provides impeccable detail into an investigation into a fantastical claim that an 11 year-old girl hasn’t eaten for four months: a miracle or a scam?  The investigation requires close observation (24/7) and as Margaret Mead postulated long ago – observation changes behaviour. One of the observers is an English nurse, so there are Irish-English issues as well. There are strong religious overtones but at its heart, this is a story about motherhood (so in that regard, somewhat similar to The Room). Donoghue is a fabulous story teller, nominated for the Giller.

15 Dogs by Andre Alexis

15 Dogs by Andre AlexisAn inventive and imaginative book that is deserving of recent accolades (Governor General’s Award, Giller). Apollo and Hermes make a wager on the consequences of granting human consciousness to 15 dogs. In most cases, there is not much consequence in short lives terminated by violence. But in a few instances, there are very interesting passages about love versus loyalty, the impact of language, and the role of dominance.

Amy note: As seen at the Vancouver Writers Festival, 2015

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

The Ever After Of Ashwin Rao – Padma Viswanathan

The Ever After Of Ashwin Rao - Padma ViswanathanA Giller finalist and another WordFest author.  This is a sweeping story from the early 1980s in India to the 1985 Air India bombing, and the aftermath leading to the trial in 2004. A search for coping mechanisms for grief produces a very strong story with distinctive characters, both in India but mainly in Canada.