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2022 Spring Preview: Fiction

Discover new worlds in these highlights from the season’s novels, short fiction, and poetry titles

Emily St. John Mandel (Landon Speers), John Elizabeth Stintzi (John Elizabeth Stintzi), Michael Blouin (Michaela Rutherford)

Sea of Tranquility
Emily St. John Mandel
HarperCollins Publishers, April

Pandemics, fictional and real, once again figure in Emily St. John Mandel’s writing – in this case, a new novel about a time traveller who must resist the desire to change both history and the future. Spanning from early 20th-century British Columbia to a moon colony 300 years in the future, Mandel’s fiction plays with form, encompassing reality and fantasy. –Attila Berki

Daughters of the Deer
Danielle Daniel
Random House Canada, March

In her adult fiction debut, award-winning children’s author-illustrator Danielle Daniel draws from her own heritage and family history to tell the story of two generations of Indigenous women in the mid-1600s. While Marie’s marriage to a French settler is a political necessity, her daughter Jeanne is pushed toward marriage by settlers hoping to quash her two-spirited nature. –Andrew Woodrow-Butcher

The Swells
Will Aitken
House of Anansi Press, Jan.

The Emerald Tranquility is the best cruise ship on the seas, hosting only the most exclusive clientele – as well as travel writer Briony, who has learned to blend in with the super-rich while hustling from gig to gig. But it’s not until a strange elderly passenger sparks a mutiny and the put-upon crew takes control that Will Aitken’s darkly hilarious satire really weighs anchor. –AWB

Help! I’m Alive
Gurjinder Basran
ECW Press, May

The death of a teenager is caught on video, forcing the people who knew him to confront not only the unclear facts of his death but also their own ways of being in the world. Gurjinder Basran’s third novel takes an intimate and tender look at the connections we have with one another, and what they mean for us as individuals. –AWB

Time Zone J
Julie Doucet
Drawn & Quarterly, March

One of Canada’s most influential underground cartoonists returns to the medium after a decades-long hiatus. Julie Doucet recounts a trip she took to Paris in the late ’80s to meet a soldier she knew only from his letters. Based on her diaries, Doucet draws herself today, in her 50s, at the centre of this youthful escapade, weaving together past and present as she reflects on a creative life. –AWB

Jameela Green Ruins Everything
Zarqa Nawaz
Simon & Schuster, March

Jameela Green is not devout, but when her self-interest causes the local imam to be linked to a radicalized man, she becomes entangled with the CIA and a terrorist group, with absurd and spiralling consequences. This first novel by Little Mosque on the Prairie’s creator is a breezy dark comedy about serious contemporary issues. –AB

My Volcano
John Elizabeth Stintzi
Arsenal Pulp Press, March

A volcano has formed in Central Park. A Mexican child finds himself in the wrong century. A nomad in Mongolia is transformed by a bee-sting. A trans writer in New Jersey imagines an impossible planet. In their second novel, poet and educator John Elizabeth Stintzi offers a globe-spanning and enigmatic romp through the strangeness of our world. –AWB

Mansions of the Moon
Shyam Selvadurai
Knopf Canada, May

The Lambda Award–winning author of Funny Boy offers a novel of the underexplored life of the wife of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. As their romance is strained by Siddhartha’s spiritual journey, his bride Yasodhara’s own intelligence and spirituality cannot shield her from the social disgrace of what seems to be a failing marriage. –AWB

Pure Colour
Sheila Heti
Knopf Canada, Feb.

Sheila Heti explores the potential poetics of our daily lives in this unique novel. What if the world we live in were only an idea of what a world is – an early draft to be heavily edited? What if everything worked differently – not because physics were different, like in a sci-fi novel, but because someone’s artistic vision for our world simply changed? –AWB

Anna Maxymiw
McClelland & Stewart, June

A woman with a secret, Minique has abandoned the harsh world of Montreal to become the “witch in the wood,” only to be drawn to the ruthless adventurer and fur trader Antoine de Cadillac. Quill & Quire contributor Anna Maxymiw’s first novel is a feminist fable and survival story based on figures from 17th-century New France. –AB

Nosy Parker
Lesley Crewe
Nimbus Publishing, June

Expo ’67, Montreal. Young Audrey Parker and her dad have just moved to Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, where Audrey spends her days exploring the neighbourhood and her new neighbours – and jotting down everything she discovers in her notebook like some kind of Laurentian Harriet the Spy. What she’s really looking for, though, is the truth about her departed mother. –AWB

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies
Tsering Yangzom Lama
McClelland & Stewart, May

This debut novel, which follows two sisters who flee Tibet to lead lives in exile, is inspired by the experiences of Tsering Yangzom Lama’s own family. Lama captures the realities of exiled life and raises questions about how to handle stolen cultural artifacts when the daughter of one of the sisters tries to reclaim a statue she finds in a collector’s vault. –Cassandra Drudi

I Am Billy the Kid
Michael Blouin
Anvil Press, April

What would have happened to notorious outlaw and gunslinger Billy the Kid if – instead of being shot and killed by a sheriff at the age of 21 – he’d been saved by a young woman determined to exact revenge for the disappearance of her sister? In this sixth book from Michael Blouin, Billy tells the revisionist history himself. –CD

This Is How We Love
Lisa Moore
House of Anansi Press, May

A violent attack that leaves a young man unconscious as the snowstorm of the century bears down on St. John’s sets Lisa Moore’s new novel in motion. Her compelling characters and precise language and observation create an emotionally rich story of the generations leading up to the present moment. –AB

Animal Person
Alexander MacLeod
McClelland & Stewart, April

It has been a decade since Alexander MacLeod published his first collection of short fiction, the critically acclaimed Light Lifting, which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize. Eight stories look at what it means to lose faith in one’s beliefs and to exist in a state of desire before taking action. –AB

Jonathan Dyck
Conundrum Press, May

Jonathan Dyck illuminates a clash of cultures and ideas in this sequence of interconnected short graphic fictions set in small-town southern Manitoba. Once-quiet Mennonite communities are shaken up as attention turns to LGBTQ+ and Indigenous rights, while a U.S.-style megachurch opens for business. –AWB

Bloomsbury Girls
Natalie Jenner
St. Martin’s Press/Raincoast Books, May

Former Oakville bookseller Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society was an indie bookstore favourite and a bestseller. Her sophomore novel, set in the world of bookselling and sprinkled with literary figures from the 1950s, focuses on a trio of women at fusty Bloomsbury Books who are determined to create fulfilling lives in postwar London. –AB

Island of Forgetting
Jasmine Sealy
HarperCollins Canada, April

Spanning from Barbados in the ’60s to Canada in the 21st century, Jasmine Sealy’s intimate novel about family secrets and the ripples of trauma across the ages won the 2020 HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction. Drawing liberally from Greek mythology, this story of four generations explores the epic implications of our most personal connections. –AWB

Face: A Novel of the Anthropocene
Jaspreet Singh
TouchWood Editions, May

By turns playful and serious, Jaspreet Singh’s third novel encompasses crime and contemporary scientific issues, and mixes genres in a new departure for his fiction. A Canadian ice core archive, the Burgess Shale, and a German climate-change laboratory are all linked as two writers unravel an old fossil fraud in the foothills of the Himalayas. –AB

The Sisters Sputnik
Terri Favro
ECW Press, May
A time-travelling trio of storytellers-for-hire comprises the titular sisters of this sci-fi novel set in a near future populated by artificial humans. Their leader, comic book creator Debbie Reynolds Biondi, recounts the epic of the sisters’ adventures throughout a multiverse of 2,052 alternate worlds to a lover who begs her to tell him a story. –CD

A Hero of Our Time
Naben Ruthnum
McClelland & Stewart, Jan.

Naben Ruthnum’s first literary novel – he’s published two thrillers under the pseudonym Nathan Ripley – pokes holes in the hollow diversity and equity initiatives that prevent any measurable progress in corporate culture. Osman Shah teams up with a tech start-up co-worker who loathes but tolerates him as he tries to expose the self-interest their successful colleague disguises under a mantle of diversity politics. –CD

Celia, Misoka, I
Xue Yiwei and Stephen Nashef, trans.
Rare Machines/Dundurn Press, March

A middle-aged Montreal man feels like an isolated member of the Chinese diaspora after the death of his wife. In this latest novel by acclaimed author Xue Yiwei, the stories of this man and two women he meets on Mont Royal (the three characters named in the title) converge, connecting present-day Montreal and China in an examination of belonging and identity in a globalized world. –CD


Writers from across the Francophonie have some exciting releases this spring, and Canadian houses are publishing the crème de la crème. Here are our picks for French-language fiction, now in English.

Céline Huyghebaert; Aleshia Jensen, trans.
Book*hug Press, June

Winner of the Governor General’s Award for French-language fiction in 2019, Remnants reflects on the relationship between a father and daughter after the former has passed. The novel is told in various voices and through a variety of forms, including questionnaire, photograph, and dialogue. –AWB

Toronto, I Love You
Didier Leclair; Elaine Kennedy, trans.
Mawenzi House, May

More than two decades after winning the Prix Trillium, this novel by Montreal writer Didier Leclair finally appears in English. Protagonist Raymond Dossougbé emigrates from Benin to Toronto, where he finds problems, yes, but also freedoms and opportunities, all while navigating the existential gulf between himself and his Afro-Caribbean roommates. –AWB

A Knife in the Sky
Marie-Célie Agnant; Katia Grubisic, trans.
Inanna Publications, June

Haitian–Canadian writer Marie-Célie Agnant’s latest novel follows Mika, a journalist working during the Duvalier regime, whose story illuminates the ways in which the consequences of colonialism have fallen so heavily on women. –AWB

The Agents
Grégoire Courtois; Rhonda Mullins, trans.
Coach House Books, Jan.
Like a 21st-century Kafka, Grégoire Courtois teases confusions, absurdities, and a fair bit of menace out of the humdrum of nine-to-five cubicle culture in this playful and bizarre contemporary dystopian novel. –AWB


Stray Dogs
Rawi Hage
Knopf Canada, March
From the acclaimed writer of De Niro’s Game comes an exciting new short fiction collection that tours both the globe and the psyche. Beirut, Tokyo, Montreal: the diverse settings and cast of these stories unpack the interactions of the self and the nation, of individuals, of our identities, and of our ever-shifting feelings of community. –AWB

Buffalo Is the New Buffalo
Chelsea Vowel
Arsenal Pulp Press, April

From the acclaimed educator and author of Indigenous Writes comes this new collection of short pieces that play with the tropes of classic sci-fi from a contemporary Métis perspective. These works of Indigenous futurism emerge from the assumption that ancestral ways will continue while simultaneously engaging with the trauma and baggage of colonialism. –AWB

Alex Pugsley
Biblioasis, May

In this collection of 10 stories from novelist Alex Pugsley (Aubrey McKee), a range of characters – from a pair of teenage boys outside a 7-Eleven to two movie stars involved in an affair unsure of whether they like each other – move through each other’s lives, making choices to stay within societal norms or cross social boundaries. –CD

After Realism: 24 Stories for the 21st Century
André Forget, ed.
Véhicule Press, April

This collection aims to forge a new standard of contemporary Canadian fiction by a generation of millennial writers pushing past the boundaries of the “real” with their work. An opening essay from editor André Forget accompanies stories by Casey Plett, Jessica Johns, Naben Ruthnum, Jean-Marc Ah Sen, Téa Mutonji, and more. –CD

Alexandra Oliver (Gavrilo Basekic), Farzana Doctor (Tanja Tiziana), Shani Mootoo (Quinte Studios)


Hail, the Invisible Watchman
Alexandra Oliver
Biblioasis, April

In this latest collection from Pat Lowther Memorial Award–winner Alexandra Oliver, the formal poet blends pop culture with a Gothic aesthetic and feminist spirit. The poems feature Oliver’s finely honed social observations as she exposes the social dilemmas that arise from intersections of class, bigotry, and addiction. –CD

Mother Muse
Lorna Goodison
Signal Editions/Véhicule Press, April

This collection (the first in nine years from former Jamaican poet laureate Lorna Goodison) sheds light on two often overlooked mothers in Jamaican music: Sister Mary Ignatius and dancer Anita “Margarita” Mahfood. In poems that range from praise songs to laments and autobiography to shared past, Goodison blends the personal with the political. –CD

Quiet Night Think: Poems and Essays
Gillian Sze
ECW Press, April

Gillian Sze is inspired by early parenthood to consider her own origins, including those of her family and her artistry. The title comes from a translation of an eighth-century poem by Li Bai, the subject of the first personal essay in this varied collection that invites readers to meditate with the poet on questions of origin and transformation. –CD

Cut to Fortress
Tawahum Bige
Nightwood Editions, April

Tawahum Bige is a two-spirit nonbinary Łutselk’e Dene, Plains Cree poet who began writing their debut collection after being incarcerated for defending Indigenous land against the expansion of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. Cut to Fortress looks at decolonization as a process that’s not just political but also personal and communal, and explores the image of a Turtle Island with the “forts” of settler occupation excised. –AWB

Novelists in verse
You Still Look the Same, Farzana Doctor (Freehand Books, May) • Cane | Fire, Shani Mootoo (Book*hug, March) • Nothing Will Save Your Life, Nancy Jo Cullen (Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn, April) –AB

By: Attila Berki; Cassandra Drudi; Andrew Woodrow-Butcher

January 12th, 2022

11:36 am

Category: Preview

Issue Date: January/February 2022

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