Canadian Books I Read in Q1 2016
I set myself a goal to read more books by Canadian authors this year. Last year I only read 11. Thanks in part to Canada Reads, I got 2016 off to a great start.
- •Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelThis post-apocalyptic novel was on the Canada Reads long list but wasn't chosen for the final. Station Eleven follows a former child actress who joins a traveling symphony after a devastating flu wipes out most of the world's population. Mandel effortlessly balances Shakespeare right alongside Star Trek and comic book references, using art as the touchstone for the lost world.
- •The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and Kelly MellingsThe Outside Circle is a graphic novel that was also on the Canada Reads long list. Pete is a young Aboriginal man man who is caught up in the gang life, and is sent to jail for beating his mother's abusive boyfriend. LaBoucane-Benson is a Metis social worker in Alberta, and this fictional account illustrates real Aboriginal justice programs with stunning art by Kelly Mellings.
- •The Reason You Walk by Wab KinewKinew is a former Canada Reads champion and host who left the program this year to run for public office in Manitoba. The Reason You Walk is his memoir about his father's terminal cancer diagnosis and their final months together. It is about the father-son relationship, but also about Aboriginal spirituality and traditional teachings.
- •The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodIn March I read Atwood's dystopian classic with my book club. The Republic of Gilead is a chilling biblical dystopia that removes women's rights and particularly enslaves those who are still able to reproduce. It is made more disturbing by the fact that Atwood built it out of details from a variety of times and places. Also served to confirm my suspicion that I only enjoy Atwood when she is writing speculative fiction!
- •Minister Without Portfolio by Michael WinterMinister Without Portfolio was one of five books that competed on Canada Reads this year. This year's theme was "starting over," and Minister Without Portfolio is about a man whose fresh start backfires when a friend is killed while they are in Afghanistan. Henry goes home to Newfoundland, where he tries to heal by repairing his dead friend's house for his widow. The prose is sparse but the Newfoundland setting is well realized.
- •Bone and Bread by Saleema NawazThis Canada Reads contender is about the troubled relationship between two sisters who grew up in Montreal with a Sikh father and a white mother. The younger sister, Sadhana, had just died, and Beena is trying to pick up the pieces, while also coping with the fact that her son is about to go away to college.
- •Birdie by Tracey LindbergAfter a lifetime of abuse, and then living on the streets of Edmonton, Birdie starts over with a job in a bakery on the coast of British Columbia. But her past catches up with her, leaving her bed-ridden as she struggles to heal old emotional wounds. Experimental style that slips through time and space.
- •The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau BadamiThis complex family drama follows Sripathi Rao, his wife, mother, sister, and son, after they take in the child of his estranged daughter Maya, who jilted her Indian fiancé and married a Canadian. Mute with grief, seven year old Nandana arrives in India, and changes everything. Beautifully written with a rich cast of characters.
- •The Illegal by Lawrence HillHill became the first two-time winner of Canada Reads when Olympian Clara Hughes championed The Illegal to victory in March. Keita Ali is on the run, literally and figuratively, living illegally in Freedom State because he fears for his life in his native Zantoroland. Fictional countries explore real issues of the refugee crisis.