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Spring preview 2013: Canadian novels

Rumours to the contrary notwithstanding, publishing is alive and well moving into spring. In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the spring’s biggest books.

Although she currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, best-selling author Claire Messud was actually raised in Toronto (her mother is Canadian). The former juror for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and author of the acclaimed novel The Emperor’s Children (2006) returns with a new novel about an elementary school teacher who comes to the aid of a bullied student, only to find herself drawn into his life and the lives of his half-Muslim father and Italian artist mother. Knopf Canada will publish The Woman Upstairs ($29.95 cl.) in April.

Lisa Moore‘s previous novel, February, was a Q&Q Book of the Year for 2009, and her debut novel, Alligator, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2005. Anticipation is high for her third work of full-length fiction, Caught (House of Anansi Press, $29.95 cl., June), about a prison escapee who becomes a dope smuggler. ¢ Another previous Giller nominee, Colin McAdam, returns with his third novel, about a couple who adopt a chimpanzee from Sierra Leone, and the parallel life of a chimp at an institute called Girdish, where the animals have been studied for decades. Addressing themes of family, friendship, and the close links between humanity and nature, ­A Beautiful Truth (Hamish Hamilton Canada, $30 cl., March) is told from the perspective of both its human and chimp characters.

It’s no secret that E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy is one of the fastest selling series of all time. And it’s no surprise that such a publishing phenomenon would spawn other books in the same vein. We’ve already had erotic series from Sylvia Day and Sylvain Renard. Now L.M. Adeline adds her naughty voice to the mix with a story about a New Orleans woman initiated into a clandestine underground society catering to all manner of sexual fantasies. The only secret about S.E.C.R.E.T. (Doubleday Canada, $17.95 pa., Feb.) is the true identity of its pseudonymous author.

Natalee Caple returns with her first novel since 2004’s Mackerel Sky. Set in the American Wild West of the 1800s, In Calamity’s Wake (HarperCollins Canada, $19.99 pa., March) tells the story of an orphan girl’s quest to find the mother who abandoned her. Her journey takes her across a treacherous landscape en route to the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, and a confrontation with her mother, the infamous Calamity Jane. ¢ Guy Gavriel Kay, author of the international bestseller (and 2008 World Fantasy Award winner) Ysabel, returns to the Tang Dynasty milieu of 2010’s Under Heaven in River of Stars ($32 cl.). Viking Canada will release the epic tale in April.

Author of the acclaimed literary thrillers The Killing Circle and The Guardians, Andrew Pyper returns with a new novel and a new publisher, Simon & Schuster. In The Demonologist, a Milton scholar is offered a chance to travel to Venice and witness a phenomenon that will have horrific consequences for both him and his 12-year-old daughter. Pyper’s turn toward more supernatural material has already paid dividends: his new novel has been optioned for film by Robert Zemeckis. ¢ Another novelist who has changed publishers is Don Gillmor, moving from Penguin Canada (where he published his debut novel for adults, Kanata, in 2010) to Random House Canada. Mount Pleasant ($29.95 cl., March) is about a debt-ridden son’s attempt to discover what happened to his inheritance after the death of his father.

Lauren B. Davis follows up her Scotiabank Giller Prize“longlisted novel Our Daily Bread with a semi-autobiographical novel about a woman’s harrowing and crippling battle with alcoholism. The Empty Room ($24.99 cl.) is out in May from Harper­Collins Canada. ¢ Tamas Dobozy had success in 2012 with Siege 13, a collection of linked stories about the 1944 siege of Budapest. Debut novelist Ailsa Kay also turns to Hungary’s history in Under Budapest (Goose Lane Editions, $19.95 pa., April), which follows the trials and fortunes of two North American families of Hungarian descent.

Novelist and Atlantic fiction promoter Chad Pelley (the force behind the popular Salty Ink blog) returns this spring with his second novel. Every Little Thing (Breakwater Books, $21.95 pa., March) tells the story of a man reeling from a family tragedy whose decision to help his neighbour’s father has disastrous consequences. ¢ Another East Coast writer, William Kowalski, is back with his fifth full-length novel. The Hundred Hearts (Thomas Allen Publishers, $24.95 pa., May) is a multi-generational tale about the effects of war on one veteran and his family. ¢ Journey Prize winner Saleema Nawaz has her first novel out with Anansi this spring. Bone and Bread ($22.95 pa., March) is about an orphaned woman trying to uncover the secrets surrounding her sister’s death.

Former Ontario lieutenant governor James Bartleman follows up his fiction debut, As Long as the Rivers Flow (2011), with a novel about a 13-year-old Chippewa boy in the 1930s, who struggles for redemption after a violent outburst at white men’s injustice inadvertently results in the death of his grandfather. Dundurn Press will publish Redemption of Oscar Wolf ($26.99 cl.) in June. ¢ Halifax resident Shashi Bhat‘s debut novel, The Family Took Shape (Cormorant Books, $22 pa., April), tells the story of a young Indo-Canadian woman whose father dies, leaving her to deal with her struggling mother and autistic brother. ¢ Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, writer Anna Quon follows up her 2009 debut novel with Low (Invisible Publishing, $19.95 pa., May), about a woman’s attempt to reconcile elements of love, illness, and loss that plague her life.

Ruth Ozeki, author of the acclaimed novels My Year of Meats and All Over Creation, returns with a metafictional tale about a writer named Ruth who uncovers a collection of artifacts connecting her to a suicidal teenager in Tokyo. A Tale for the Time Being (Viking Canada, $30 cl.) is due out in March. ¢ Another metafictional writer, Chris Eaton (also known as the driving force behind the alt-rock band Rock Plaza Central), follows up his acclaimed novels The Grammar Architect and The Inactivist with a book about a character named Chris Eaton who is compelled to construct a biography using scraps of information gleaned from Googling people who share his name. BookThug will publish Chris Eaton: A Biography ($25 pa.) in May.

Christine Eddie‘s novel Les Carnets de Douglas won the 2008 Prix littéraire France-Québec and the 2009 Prix Senghor du Primier Roman Francophone. A fable about a forest-dweller who calls himself Starling, his daughter, and a cast of eccentric characters including a pharmacist who may be a witch, Eddie’s book has been translated into English by the incomparable Sheila Fischman. The Douglas Notebooks (Goose Lane, $19.95 pa.) is due in February. ¢ Another renowned translator, Robert Majzels, is responsible for the English-language version of France Daigle‘s novel For Sure (Anansi, $24.95 pa., June), the final instalment in a series that includes Just Fine, winner of the 2000 Governor General’s Literary Award for French-to-English translation.

Private investigator Robert James is contacted by a young woman whose husband has been stabbed, but his attempts to uncover what happened are derailed by drink, his own tortured mind, and the unwelcome influence of an ad hoc partner named Darren. The Devil and the Detective (Coach House Books, $18.95 pa., April) is the first novel from John Goldbach, author of the 2009 story collection Selected Blackouts. ¢ Atomic Storybook (Anvil Press, $20 pa., April) is the second novel from Ed Macdonald, author of the well-received 2010 debut Spat the Dummy. The new book is a dream-like evocation of the early years of Albert Einstein, complete with a lunar explosion. ¢ The debut novel from Rebecca Campbell tells the parallel stories of a graduate student trying to rescue her best friend from the clutches of an itinerant preacher and a subpar opera tenor making a go of it on the Vaudeville circuit. The Paradise Engine ($19.95 pa.) appears from NeWest Press in May.

Knopf Canada has only one title in its New Face of Fiction program for 2013. Set in Johannesburg just prior to the Second World War, Kenneth Bonert‘s The Lion Seeker ($25 pa., Feb.) is a coming-of-age story about a Jewish boy and the secrets that infuse his family’s past. ¢ On the lighter side of the ledger, Ali Bryan‘s debut novel, Roost (Freehand Books, $21.95 pa., April) tells the story of a single mother trying to hold her life together. The plot involves bananas secreted in a two-year-old’s sock drawer and, unexpectedly, a stranger’s maternity pants. ¢ The first novel from Amanda Leduc features one character losing his grip on the world after he sprouts feathers on his back, and another seeking sexual penance from her boss after her brother falls victim to the mean streets of Vancouver. ECW Press will publish The Miracles of Ordinary Men ($18.95 pa.) in May.

Studio Saint-Ex (Viking Canada, $30 cl., April), the second novel from Ania Szado, the acclaimed author of Beginning of Was, tells the story of a love triangle involving Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. ¢ In Theresa Shea‘s debut novel, one woman on the cusp of 40 finds herself pregnant with a child who has Down Syndrome, while her best friend undergoes fertility treatments because she is unable to conceive. The Unfinished Child (Brindle & Glass, $19.95 pa., April) examines the ethical questions involved in modern reproductive technologies. ¢ Janet Hepburn‘s debut novel, Flee, Fly, Flown (Second Story Press, $19.95 pa., March), is about two Alzheimer’s patients who borrow a car and escape from their nursing home in search of adventure and the open road.

Q&Q‘s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 31, 2013. ¢ All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. ¢ Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.