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2023 Fall Preview: Fiction and Short Fiction

The Librarianist
Patrick deWitt
House of Anansi Press, July

Award winner Patrick deWitt returns after 2018’s French Exit with this novel about retired librarian Bog Comet who lives a solitary life surrounded by his books. An unexpected encounter with a confused elderly woman leads to a volunteer position at a local seniors’ centre, ultimately revealing the poignant narrative of his own life. –Cassandra Drudi

Sunshine Nails
Mai Nguyen
Simon & Schuster, July

Debbie and Phil Tran are Vietnamese refugees who have built a successful life for their family in Toronto, but when their landlord raises the rent of their salon – Sunshine Nails – and a fancy spa chain opens across the street, their newly returned daughter Jessica teams up with her brother and cousin to sabotage the competition. –CD

Empty Spaces
Jordan Abel
McClelland & Stewart/Penguin Random House Canada, August

Nisga’a poet, memoirist, and professor Jordan Abel reimagines and subverts the “classic” settler novel The Last of the Mohicans in a bold new work of fiction that explores contemporary Indigenous relationships to the land. Building on the autobiographical meditations of his earlier book NISHGA, Empty Spaces examines the role of the land as a witness to both kinship and violence. –Andrew Woodrow-Butcher

Learned by Heart
Emma Donoghue
HarperAvenue/HarperCollins Canada, August

Based on the remarkable journals of Anne Lister (which also form the basis of the HBO series Gentleman Jack), Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder, tells the secret and passionate love story of two teenage girls in the Regency era – the clever tomboy Lister and Eliza Raine, an heiress sent from India to England – when they meet at a boarding school in York. –Attila Berki

The Full-Moon Whaling Chronicles
Jason Guriel
Biblioasis, August

Jason Guriel’s second novel-in-verse tells the story, in heroic couplets, of Kaye, an English lit student on a quest for the reclusive author of a YA classic – interspersed with chapters from the YA werewolf novel in question and works of fanfiction, all set in the same world as 2020’s Forgotten Work and told in Guriel’s playful and genre-agnostic style. –CD

River Mumma
Zalika Reid-Benta
Penguin Canada/PRHC, August

A young Black woman, aided by two of her co-workers, is sent on a quest through Toronto by the stunning appearance of the Jamaican water deity River Mumma, and the women find themselves pursued by malevolent spirits called duppies. Informed by Jamaican storytelling tradition, this debut novel from the Giller-nominated author of Frying Plantain explores immigrant identity and ancestral ties. –AB

Reuniting with Strangers
Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio
Douglas & McIntyre, September

It’s winter in Canada, and a group of Filipino caregivers are coming together – from the Tagaytay highlands, Iqaluit, Sarnia, Toronto, and Montreal. As their separate stories unfold, they are all touched by the strange figure of a petulant five-year-old boy named Monolith, who appears again and again, sometimes lashing out, sometimes friendly. Austria-Bonifacio’s debut novel is an earnest and inventive celebration of the Filipino diaspora in Canada. –AWB

Mona Awad
Hamish Hamilton/PRHC, September

Mona Awad’s latest novel is a horror-tinted fairy tale that explores the dark side of beauty and the complex relationships between mothers and daughters. Belle returns to Southern California after the mysterious death of her estranged mother and finds herself tangled up in the same cult-like spa her mother frequented. –CD

The Bliss House
Jim Bartley
Rare Machines/Dundurn Press, September

It’s 1963, and the Bliss family have seen better days. With grandmother dead for a year, and grandfather’s body more recently stashed in the pantry, cousins Cam and Wes are the only ones left to raise little Dorie. But when nosy neighbours send Children’s Aid to the Bliss farm for a visit, Cam and Wes realize it’s time to run. Calamities follow as they flee with a body in the trunk and a kid in the back, looking for a place where they’ll be allowed to be a family. –AWB

Away from the Dead
David Bergen
Goose Lane Editions, September

Giller winner David Bergen returns with this novel set in early-20th-century Ukraine. The Russian Revolution injects violence into the lives of rich and poor alike, and the lives of three characters (bookseller Lehn, Mennonite-Ukrainian stableboy Sablin, and peasant Inna) are connected through love, family, and loyalty. –CD

Bar Delicious
Blaise Moritz
Conundrum Press, September

Released as part of the CONUNDRUM 25 line, Bar Delicious collects graphic works by Toronto poet and cartoonist Moritz Blaise that address, satirize, and interrogate desire – especially hunger – in the context of capitalism. In deco-inflected, poster-like images, this work highlights the mania, the dystopia, and the sheer verve of contemporary consumption. –AWB

Between the Head and the Hands
James Chaarani
ECW Press, September

Rejected by his family for being gay, young Michael Dawouk takes up with an older man, trading sex to get off the streets. But shelter isn’t the only thing Michael lost when he was forced from his home, and he soon learns that hedonism is no easy replacement for the beliefs he left behind. –AWB

The Adversary
Michael Crummey
Knopf Canada/PRHC, September

From one of Canada’s most acclaimed literary voices comes this new novel of revenge, violence, and the harsh realities of the North Atlantic fishery. When the Widow Caines interrupts a wedding that would have consolidated mercantile interests in their remote Newfoundland town, she sets off a chain of animosity and retribution that divides a community. –AWB

The Abduction of Seven Forgers
Sean Dixon
Freehand Books, September

Art collector Jackie Lin has been duped by forgeries seven times. When those seven forger-artists arrive at his London address, he vows to hold them there until they each produce an acceptable original piece to replace their fakes. As the artists take stock of their situation, they discover a child living secretly in the walls of the house, and Lin’s daughter shows up with an agenda of her own. This is high-stakes, wacky, thoughtful fiction from Toronto novelist and Governor General’s Award–nominated playwright Dixon. –AWB

The Clarion
Nina Dunic
Invisible Publishing, September

While musician Peter works a low-wage day job, his sister sacrifices her mental health chasing corporate success. In her debut novel, Journey Prize–nominated writer Dunic offers a tale of two siblings on very different trajectories in their careers and their lives, but both looking to learn who they are, and how to be well in the world. –AWB

And Then She Fell
Alicia Elliott
Doubleday Canada/PRHC, September

A Mohawk woman finds her seemingly perfect life morphing into something sinister, and her attempt at a modern retelling of the Haudenosaunee creation story may be the only thing that can save her and her baby daughter. From the author of A Mind Spread Out On The Ground comes a novel about inherited trauma, motherhood, and mental health. –AB

The Economy of Sparrows
Trevor Herriot
Thistledown Press, September

The noted naturalist and conservationist, and author of River in a Dry Land, turns his hand to fiction to examine settler culture’s relationship, both past and present, with the natural world, in this story about a woman who, on returning to her family’s prairie homestead, confronts an old family trauma and develops a fascination with a 19th-century bird collector. –AB

Do You Remember Being Born?
Sean Michaels
Random House Canada/PRHC, September

Poet Marian Ffarmer’s body of work has brought her global acclaim, but even at 75, it hasn’t brought her wealth. So when a mysterious and lucrative invitation arrives from a California tech company, she finds their proposal at once off-putting and intriguing: write a work together with our new poetry AI, Charlotte. In his third novel, Giller-winner Michaels digs into the meaning of art, the value of words, and how these intersect with the most timely questions of our current moment. –AWB

Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Drawn & Quarterly, September

With their third graphic novel together, cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki (Skim, This One Summer) bring their voices to adult fiction for the first time. In Roaming, three friends take a spring break trip to New York City, where an unexpected fling between two casual acquaintances unsettles the balance of a longtime friendship, all against the backdrop of a bustling metropolis slowly revealing its charms to first-time visitors. –CD

Spirits in the Dark
H. Nigel Thomas
Esplanade Books/Véhicule Press, September

Jerome Quashee navigates racism and classism while trying to suppress his sexuality and his culture, hoping for a way to get ahead. But a religious ceremony that lets him see his own past and face some demons might be just what he needs. From Esplanade Books comes this 30th anniversary edition of H. Nigel Thomas’s LGBTQ+, Caribbean-Canadian classic. –AWB

The Circle
Katherena Vermette
Hamish Hamilton/PRHC, September

Katherena Vermette’s final companion novel to bestselling The Break and The Strangers tells another chapter of the Stranger family’s story. Told from a variety of perspectives, the novel is structured as a restorative justice circle that explores what happens to the family members and the wider community when Phoenix is released from prison – and disappears soon after. –CD

Tamara Faith Berger
Coach House Books, October

From the author of Maidenhead and Queen Solomon comes an exploration of a young woman’s sexuality and sense of self. Sent from Brazil to Israel on a Birthright trip to loosen her from a toxic relationship with an older woman, Yara then escapes to Toronto and California to explore and understand her desires and the forces acting upon her in the world. –AB

Nights Too Short to Dance
Marie-Claire Blais and Katia Grubisic, trans.
Second Story Press, October

First published as Un coeur habité de mille voix (Éditions du Boréal) in October 2021, the posthumous Nights Too Short to Dance tells the story of René and his friends as, in the twilight of their lives, they reminisce about the hardships they have survived, including the Stonewall riots and the AIDS pandemic, and find hope and comfort in each other’s company. –CD

The Marvels of Youth
Tim Bowling
Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn, October

When Sean learns that the comic-book shop owner in his small B.C. working-class hometown has died, he is transported back in time to the late 1970s when, as a child, he found out about an affair that had the potential to set fire to the town’s existing tensions. –CD

Shanghai Immortal
A.Y. Chao
Hodder & Stoughton/Hachette Book Group, October

Set against the backdrop of Jazz-Age Shanghai, A. Y. Chao’s fiction debut follows Lady Jing – a half-vampire, half-fox-spirit errand-runner for the King of Hell – as she navigates worlds both demonic and mortal in this fresh and inventive tale of intrigue, sass, and human-immortal connections. –AWB

Once Upon an Effing Time
Buffy Cram
Douglas & McIntyre, October

Elizabeth Squire tells the story of growing up in the late 1960s – a tale that includes a neglectful mother, Margaret, and the doomsday cult she joins after the pair runs away from cheese-producing regions of Ontario. Elizabeth narrates this childhood story at age 19, from a Vancouver halfway house, in a novel that explores cults of all kinds. –CD

A Season in Chezgh’un
Darrel J. McLeod
Douglas & McIntyre, October

Dissatisfied with his assimilated middle-class life, a Cree man moves to a remote B.C. community in the hope of reconnecting with his roots, but ghosts from the past push him toward self destruction, even as the Dakelh culture sustains him. The Governor General’s Award–winning author of Mamaskatch considers cultural disruptions and the alienation of conventional success in his debut novel. –AB

Moon of the Turning Leaves
Waubgeshig Rice
Random House Canada/PRHC, October

In this follow-up to the acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel Moon of the Crusted Snow, author and journalist Waubgeshig Rice revisits the remote Anishinaabe community led by Evan Whitesky, that has been living off the land for more than a decade. With dwindling resources and a new generation to raise, they set off to their ancestral lands on the edge of Lake Huron, in an uncertain bid to reclaim their permanent home. –AWB

​​The Cobra and the Key
Sam Shelstad
Brindle & Glass/Touchwood Editions, October

From the winner of the 2023 Canadian Best Crime First Novel, the darkly comic Citizens of Light, comes a satirical meta-novel about writing and publishing, featuring Sam Shelstad, a Value Village cashier with one completed – as yet unpublished – novel, plus one autobiographical fiction and a guide to aspiring writers in the works. –AB

40 Men and 12 Rifles
Marcelino Truong and David Homel, trans.
Arsenal Pulp Press, October

Cartoonist Marcelino Truong and Montreal translator David Homel team up once again to present another riveting historical fiction set in Vietnam in the 1950s. 40 Men and 12 Rifles tells the story of Minh, a painter in Hanoi who dreams of studying in Europe. When his father sends him to tend to the countryside in the hopes of dissuading him from pursuing a career in art, Minh is caught up in the ongoing rebellion, despite his distaste for the political dogmatism of those he fights alongside. –AWB

As the Andes Disappeared 
Caroline Dawson and Anita Anand, trans.
Book*hug Press, November

This autobiographical novel follows a girl named Caroline, brought by her parents from Chile to Montreal at the age of seven. As she grows up, her memories of her homeland fade, and her family’s increasing prosperity is outpaced by Caroline’s own assimilation to Québécois life and culture. As the Andes Disappeared reckons not just with the distance between Canada and Chile, but also with the distances between the experiences of immigrant parents and their children. –AWB

Anne Michaels
McClelland & Stewart/PRHC, November

Memories, ghosts, and the many forms and manifestations of desire lie at the heart of the first novel in 14 years from the author of Fugitive Pieces. Beginning with the trauma of a First World War battlefield, the novel touches on many aspects of 20th-century history in a lyrical narrative that spans four generations. –AB

The Mystery Guest
Nita Prose
Viking Canada/PRHC, November

In this follow-up to her bestselling debut The Maid, Nita Prose picks up the story of Molly Gray, now head maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, as she finds herself holding the key to the murder of an esteemed hotel guest who drops dead in the tea room. –CD


These two titles reimagine some of the darker tales of Turtle Island.

Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology
Shane Hawk, Theodore C. Van Alst Jr., eds.
Random House Canada/PRHC, September

What might you summon if you whistle after dark? These stories from more than two dozen Indigenous writers offer some unsettling answers. –AWB

An Ordinary Violence
Adriana Chartrand
Spiderline/House of Anansi Press, October

In this Indigenous horror novel, Dawn lives in a condo in Toronto, far from her family’s prairie home, but is haunted by her past – including cryptic messages from her dead mother. When circumstances force her to return to her childhood home, she must reckon with the trauma and violence she left behind. –CD


Her Body Among Animals
Paola Ferrante
Book*hug Press, September

A sex robot who defies her programming; an unhappy wife who morphs into a spider; and a girl who tries to prevent her sister from growing a mermaid tail – these are just a few of the characters in this genre-crossing collection of short stories. Ferrante addresses toxic masculinity and ecological anxiety in stories that blend horror, fairy tales, and sci-fi. –CD

Tales for Late Night Bonfires
G.A. Grisenthwaite
Freehand Books, September

In this collection of stories, Nlakaʼpamux writer G.A. Grisenthwaite uses Indigenous oral storytelling techniques to tell larger-than-life tales that could be heard around a campfire, from stories of a car that drives herself, to that of an impossible moose hunt, and tales that include SPAM stew, Ikea bedroom sets, and everything in-between. –CD

Jessica Westhead
Invisible Publishing, September

Jessica Westhead’s latest short fiction collection examines the prevalence of white privilege, white entitlement, and white guilt in the context of a world ever more awakened to racial injustices. Westhead highlights the follies and harms done by the well-intentioned and the un-self-aware, all in her signature blend of sharp observation and wonderfully awkward humour. –AWB

The Girl Who Cried Diamonds & Other Stories
Rebecca Hirsch Garcia
ECW Press, October

Lines between genres blur in this debut collection – a girl born in a small pueblo is blessed or cursed with the gift of creating gems from her bodily fluids; a wife and mother escapes her exhausting life by shape-shifting into a cloud; and a girl faces the death of her father and the resulting change in family dynamics by slowly losing her physical senses. Rebecca Hirsch Garcia blends both literary and speculative fiction to explore the personal and interpersonal. –CD

The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society
Christine Estima
Astoria / House of Anansi Press, November

Interlocking stories detail the lives of Arab women and the immigrant experience, through the history of one family – from Lebanon in the 19th century, through the Second World War, to the lives of Syrian refugees in Montreal in the 20th century – that culminates in Azurée, a young woman who must reconcile tradition and family history with her life in contemporary Canada. –AB

Coming up next in the fall preview:
July 26: Poetry & Memoir
August 2: Nonfiction


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

July 19th, 2023

3:29 pm

Category: Industry News, Preview

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