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Spring preview 2014: fiction

Novels

The fall of 2013 was such a jam-packed season for CanLit, it seemed as though the well must have run dry for big, splashy books. But a quick glance at the lineup for the coming spring puts the lie to that notion. One of the big books of the season is bound to be the new novel from David Adams Richards, which, among other things, revisits the character of Sydney Henderson from the Scotiabank Giller Prize”“winning novel Mercy Among the Children. Coming from Doubleday Canada in May, Crimes Against My Brother ($32.95 cl.) follows three boys who forge a blood brotherhood as children. As they grow to adulthood, their bond is tested by violence, debt, and other seemingly intractable forces. “¢ Miriam Toews returns to the Mennonite milieu of her Governor General’s Literary Award”“­winning 2004 novel A Complicated Kindness in her new book, which tells the story of two sisters: one a world-famous pianist intent on suicide, the other an author of rodeo-themed young adult novels intent on keeping her sibling alive. All My Puny Sorrows (Knopf Canada, $29.95 cl.) appears in April.

Following her 2012 collection of historical short stories, Astray, Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue returns with a novel set among the criminals and lowlifes of 19th-century San Francisco. Frog Music (HarperCollins Canada, $29.99 cl., May), a story of love and violence, is based on actual characters and incidents. “¢ Ray Robertson returns to fiction after a detour into memoir with 2011’s Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live. His new novel, I Was There the Night He Died (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., March), tells the story of a friendship between a novelist whose father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and the troubled 18-year-old woman living next door. “¢ Winner of Canada Reads and the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis returns with his fourth novel. A newly single and unemployed copywriter faces familial strife, loneliness, and impecuniosity, all of which pale in comparison to the burden of his name: Earnest Hemmingway. McClelland & Stewart will publish No Relation ($22.95 pa.) in May.

After experimenting with the genre mash-ups Beauty and Sadness and A, André Alexis returns with his first full-length novel since 2008’s Asylum. Pastoral (Coach House Books, $17.95 pa., March) tells the story of a parish priest who finds himself seconded to a bucolic town where the mayor walks on water and sheep talk. “¢ Magic of a different kind forms the background for the fourth novel from Vancouver’s Steven Galloway. The Confabulist (Knopf Canada, $29.95 cl., April) tells the intertwined stories of illusionist Harry Houdini and Martin Strauss, the everyman whose life becomes inextricably bound to the notorious escape artist. The novel features cameos from the Romanovs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “¢ Another Vancouver resident, Nancy Lee, returns with her first book since the acclaimed 2002 story collection Dead Girls. Set in Vancouver during two weeks in 1984, Lee’s debut novel tells the story of a young woman whose struggle to forge an identity for herself is complicated by her involvement with an older woman and her group of subversive friends. The Age (M&S, $22.95 pa.) is due out in March.

Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti also has a first novel out this season. Based on a True Story (House of Anansi Press, $19.95 pa., May) is a satire about a celebrity and a muckraking journalist who embark upon an overseas voyage to seek revenge on a man who has wronged them. “¢ Montreal’s Arjun Basu is the author of Squishy, a story collection, and Twisters, a popular series of 140-character stories on Twitter. His first novel is due out in April from ECW Press. Waiting for the Man ($24.95 cl.) tells the story of a 36-year-old copywriter named Joe who begins hearing a voice that gives him instructions on how to live.

No less a literary light than Margaret Atwood has endorsed Ghalib Islam‘s debut novel, which she calls “the 1001 Nights of its time “¦ in the same literary mansion as Calvino, Burroughs, and other metafabulist satirists.” Fire in the Unnameable Country (Hamish Hamilton Canada, $30 cl., March) tells the story of a boy born on a flying carpet, who grows up to write an extended letter reckoning with the memory of his family and the titular country’s troubled history. “¢ Aislinn Hunter‘s 2002 debut novel, Stay, got a boost last fall when the film adaptation, starring Aidan Quinn, screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. Hunter is back this season with her long-awaited follow-up. The World Before Us (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., May) is about a woman with a tragic past who is researching the history of a woman who disappeared from a Victorian asylum 125 years previously.

Trevor Ferguson is the acclaimed author of novels such as Onyx John, The Kinkajou and, under the pseudonym John Farrow, the genre mysteries City of Ice, Ice Lake, and River City. Ferguson’s new novel focuses on a conflict between the townspeople of Wakefield, Quebec, who want to preserve the covered bridge across the river, and the loggers who want it torn down. The River Burns ($29.99 cl., Feb.) is published by Simon & Schuster Canada. “¢ The new novel from Jonathan Bennett recasts the story of Paris and Helen in the context of a 21st-century city besieged by civil war. ECW will publish The Colonial Hotel ($22.95 pa.) in May. “¢ Richard Wagamese‘s previous novel, Indian Horse, was a finalist for the 2012 edition of Canada Reads and won the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Literature. His follow-up, Medicine Walk (M&S, $29.95 cl., April), is about Franklin Starlight, a 16-year-old who travels with his dying father into the mountains so that the older man can be buried according to traditional Ojibwa custom.

The second most famous writer to come out of Wingham, Ontario, Andrew Kaufman follows up his 2013 novel Born Weird with the first Canadian publication of a book that has previously been available only in the U.K. The Tiny Wife (Cormorant Books, $18 pa., May) tells the story of a bank robber with a very particular M.O.: instead of stealing money, he steals an item of sentimental value from each of his victims. “¢ Nora Gold won a Canadian Jewish Book Award for her first collection, Marrow and Other Stories. Her debut novel, Fields of Exile (Dundurn Press, $19.99 pa., April), addresses the political hot potato of anti-Semitism and attitudes toward Israel in academia. When graduate student Judith protests the presence of an Anti-Oppression Day speaker who supports terrorism, she finds herself the target of attacks from faculty and peers at the university.

A native of Barbados who immigrated to Canada in 1978, Cecil Foster has worked as a reporter for The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and the Financial Post. The author’s first novel in almost a dozen years is set in 1966 Barbados, and features two childhood friends who encounter conflict when a Canadian benefactor returns and lavishes attention on one of them. Independence ($29.99 cl.) is due from HarperCollins Canada in January. “¢ A novelist, critic, and teacher at the University of British Columbia, Brett Josef Grubisic was nominated for the City of Vancouver Book Prize for his debut novel, The Age of Cities. His new novel, The Location of Unknown Possibilities (Now or Never Publishing, $19.95 pa., April), features an English professor named Marta Spëk who agrees to spend a week in the Okanagan Valley acting as a consultant on an ill-fated, low budget, made-in-Canada biopic.

Brian Payton‘s second novel takes as its backdrop the only Second World War battle fought on American soil. The Wind Is Not a River (Patrick Crean Editions, $29.99 cl., Jan.) follows the parallel stories of a man who is shot down over the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and his wife who is determined to find him. “¢ The second book in Nadia Bozak‘s Border trilogy (which also includes the previous volume Orphan Love and the forthcoming english.motion) is a desert island survival story. El Niño (Anansi, $22.95 pa.) ships in May.

A native of Stirling, Scotland, Sean Michaels grew up in Ottawa and now lives in Montreal. His debut novel, Us Conductors (Random House Canada, $22.95 pa., April), about the Russian spy Lev Termen ““ who also invented the Theremin ““ is the only Random House New Face of Fiction entry for spring. “¢ A psychiatrist obsessed with the work of Sigmund Freud uncovers a cache of letters from Nobel laureates about the possible origins of Stonehenge, and traces them back to a codicil in Alfred Nobel’s will that provides for an additional prize to whichever laureate successfully solves the mystery of the structure’s construction. Harry Karlinsky‘s intriguing new novel, The Stonehenge Letters (Coach House, $17.95 pa.), appears in April.

Erotic novels keep on coming in 2014. The latest is Claudine (Penguin Canada, $18 pa., May), about a Yale post-grad doing work in the field of erotic literature who moonlights as the eponymous courtesan offering role play to her high-end clients. The name on the book’s cover, Barbara Palmer, is the pseudonym for a best-selling Canadian author. “¢ The alcoholic twin sister of a born-again priest who heads an ad hoc cult peopled by drug addicts and vagrants struggles to find balance between the ferocious, dogmatic faith she has been brought up with and her own personal integrity in Jane Woods‘ debut novel, The Walking Tanteek (Goose Lane Editions, $19.95 pa., March). “¢ Montreal’s Guillaume Morissette is the author of the quirky 2012 story collection I Am My Own Betrayal. He is back this season with a novel about a 26-year-old video-game designer facing a quarter-life crisis. Will he be able to reboot his life, or will it crash? New Tab (Véhicule Press, $19.95 pa.) is out in March.

Q&Q‘s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2014. “¢ 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.

This feature appeared in the January/February 2o14 issue of Q&Q.