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2023 Spring Preview: Fiction and Poetry

In the Upper Country
Kai Thomas
Viking Canada, Jan.
Set in Ontario at the terminus of the Underground Railroad, Thomas’s debut novel begins with the shooting of a slave hunter by an old woman. Young journalist Lesinda is summoned to encourage her to escape before the authorities arrive, but the old woman refuses, as she carries information about Lesinda’s family – information that touches on the relationships between Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes, enslaved Africans in the American South, and the settler nation of Canada. –Andrew Woodrow-Butcher

The Porcelain Moon: A Novel of France, the Great War, and Forbidden Love Janie Chang
HarperAvenue, Feb.
Pauline Deng is the daughter of one of the 140,000 Chinese workers recruited as non-combatant labourers during the First World War. When her father threatens to send her back home to Shanghai to marry someone of his choosing, she flees to a small town in search of her cousin who might help her stay in France. Janie Chang’s fourth novel explores a little-known history through a story of romance, intrigue, and unexpected friendships. –AWB

Cherie Dimaline
Random House Canada, Feb.
Meena, a powerful witch backed by an international headhunting firm dedicated to placing exceptional women in influential positions, sends Lucky and her grandmother, Stella, on a roadtrip across the U.S. in search of a magic spoon that has the potential to complete the coven and usher in a new era for contemporary witches. –Cassandra Drudi

In the Belly of the Congo
Blaise Ndala; Amy B. Reid, trans.
Scribner Canada, Feb.
Congolese Canadian writer Blaise Ndala looks at the dark history and legacy of Belgian colonialism through the lives of a Congolese princess put on display at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, and her niece who goes in search of her 40 years later. Ndala has been twice shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award and the French edition of In the Belly of the Congo has won multiple literary awards. –Attila Berki

The Story of Us
Catherine Hernandez
Harper Avenue, Feb.
The newest novel from the author of Canada Reads–finalist Scarborough tells the story of Mary Grace Concepcion, a Filipina personal support worker who moved first to Hong Kong, then to Canada, in the hopes of saving money and bringing her husband to live with her one day. For now, she looks after elderly Liz, who suffers from dementia, and with whom she develops an unlikely friendship. –AWB

On the Ravine
Vincent Lam
Knopf Canada, Feb.
In his second novel, Giller winner Vincent Lam confronts the complexities of treating substance use disorders as the paths of a doctor who lives in a downtown Toronto condo and a violinist who struggles with opioid use intersect, and Dr. Chen is forced to answer just how far he will go to save a life. –CD

Tell Me Pleasant Things about Immortality
Lindsay Wong
Penguin Canada, Feb.
Ghosts, zombies, and demons populate this collection of immigrant horror stories from the author of Canada Reads-shortlisted memoir The Woo-Woo. The women in these stories live in times and places that range from 17th-century China to modern-day Nebraska City, but all are haunted and haunting. –CD

The Book of Rain
Thomas Wharton
Random House Canada, March
The author of Icefields returns with a literary environmental suspense novel set in the near future. Three intertwined stories, all stemming from an environmental disaster that destroyed a northern mining town, tell of the disrupted lives of the townspeople and creatures. –AB

Anuja Varghese
House of Anansi Press, March
In this debut collection, Anuja Varghese offers a slate of magic-realist, feminist, folklore-infused stories featuring women of colour. Divine intervention, dream-loops, and darkness; Chrysalis explores the wondrous lengths people go to claim – or regain – their own power in the face of adversity. –AWB


Double Karma
Daniel Gawthrop
Cormorant Books, April
Set in a rarely glimpsed part of the world, Gawthrop’s novel follows a Burmese-American photographer who travels to Burma during the 1988 uprisings and is mistaken for an army captain – his doppelgänger. Decades later he returns to document the rise of violent events in Myanmar and to understand his father’s secret family history. –AB

The Fake
Zoe Whittall
HarperCollins, March
In this fifth novel from bestselling author Zoe Whittall, Cammie is an alluring and charismatic pathological liar who cons two unrelated characters, Shelby and Gibson, at vulnerable times in their lives. When they realize she’s been scamming them, they struggle to determine what they want from her and are left wondering how honest they are about their own characters. –CD

Instructions for the Drowning
Steven Heighton
Biblioasis, April
Instructions for the Drowning is the final, posthumously published collection of short stories by Steven Heighton, who is considered to be among Canada’s finest short story writers. –AB

Mercy Gene: The Man-Made Making of a Mad Woman
JD Derbyshire
Goose Lane Editions, March
Based on JD Derbyshire’s Jessie Award-winning stage play, Certified, this work of non-linear autofiction – which includes fictional appearances by Miriam Toews and Margot Kidder – is an intense but sardonically funny look at gender confusion, queerness, institutionalization, memory, and trauma. –AB

The Morning Bell Brings the Broken Hearted
Jennifer Manuel
Douglas & McIntyre, April
Jennifer Manuel’s second novel is a prequel to her Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize-winning debut The Heaviness of Things That Float. A teacher and long-time activist on Indigenous issues, Manuel tells the story of a non-Indigenous educator in a Nuu-chah-nulth community on Vancouver Island that examines the complexity and limits of good intentions and the failure of the education system for Indigenous communities. –AB

Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall
House of Anansi Press, April
On reimagined versions of Vancouver Island and Aotearoa that sit next to each other in the ocean instead of on opposite sides of the Pacific, Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall imagines a shared past for two Indigenous cultures. The Coast Salish and Māori sides of the family in this book have to work together to heal the damage caused by colonialism. –CD

The Winter Knight
Jes Battis
ECW Press, April
A reimagining of Arthurian legends brings the knights of the round table to downtown Vancouver. In this queer urban fantasy and detective story, Valkyrie investigator Hildie and Sir Gawain reincarnation Wayne have to contend with fallen knights, runesmiths, and the Wyrd Sisters of Gastown as they seek to solve the murder of one of the knights. –CD  

Leaving Wisdom
Sharon Butala
Thistledown Press, May
After a fall and concussion that breaks loose memories, a retired social worker moves back  near her family’s farm in Saskatchewan. Sharon Butala’s latest novel explores family secrets, the anti-Semitism of a small town, and the long shadow of the Second World War. –AB

Christine Lai
Doubleday Canada, May
Christine Lai’s debut is a country house novel set in the near future of climate catastrophe. Penelope catalogues the remainder of the art collection of a dilapidated estate slated for demolition, and in the process confronts memories and seeks an understanding of the past, and a way to survive disasters, through art. –AB

A Grandmother Begins the Story
Michelle Porter
Viking Canada, May
The stories of five generations of Métis women are interwoven in this debut novel in which each character seeks to move forward in her own way. Mamé in the afterlife, who knows she is the root of all of the stories, seeks to free herself from the last threads that keep her tethered to the living. –CD 

Denison Avenue
Christina Wong and Daniel Innes, ill.
ECW Press, May
Elderly Wong Cho Sum begins collecting bottles and cans in her rapidly gentrifying Chinatown-Kensington Market neighbourhood after her husband’s sudden death. Daniel Innes’s finely detailed ink-and-paper illustrations and Christina Wong’s text explore the larger urban issues of gentrification, classism, and racism in this graphic novel through the story of one woman’s life in a changing downtown neighbourhood. –CD  

The Spirits Have Nothing to Do with Us: New Chinese Canadian Fiction
Dan K. Woo, ed.
Buckrider Books, May
This anthology edited by Dan K. Woo collects short stories from a range of Chinese-Canadian authors, from the established (Sam Cheuk, Sheung-King, and Lydia Kwa) to the up-and-coming (Isabella Wang) and aims to redefine Chinese Canadian writing. –CD 

JAJ: A Haida Manga
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Douglas & McIntyre, May
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’s latest graphic novel tells the story of first contact between Europeans and the Indigenous peoples of the northwest coast. JAJ blends full-colour contemporary comics art with traditional Haida forms to recount the stories of several historical figures – including Johan Adrian Jacobsen (JAJ), who arrives in search of artifacts to display in a German museum – over a vast span of history. –AWB

Not Anywhere, Just Not
Ken Sparling
Coach House Books, June
In Ken Sparling’s sixth novel, people sometimes just disappear. And when they reappear, they can’t quite say where they’ve been. When this happens to one half of a middle-aged couple, the partner who remains frets about his eventual return. Bordering magic realism and absurdity, Not Anywhere, Just Not is sure to be a metaphysical delight. –AWB



Contemporary life is characterized by ubiquitous systems, gadgets, and ideas that only became popular in recent decades. This batch of new books looks to these mundane-yet-groundbreaking aspects of our 21st-century lives for inspiration.



Your Driver Is Waiting
Priya Guns
Penguin Canada, Feb.
In this contemporary, gender-flipped, queer riff on the movie Taxi Driver, ride-share driver Damani might be falling in love with the rich white woman who just rated her five stars. –AWB

Red Team Blues
Cory Doctorow
Macmillan, April
Aging Martin Hench, accountant to the very rich, knows all sorts of dirty secrets, but would rather keep them to himself while living a life of travel, good food, and wine. But a cryptocurrency scheme threatens all of that and more in this latest thriller from author and futurist Cory Doctorow. –AWB

Logan Macnair
Now or Never Publishing, April
When his satirical acting-class project makes the rounds on YouTube, Peter Riley realizes that playing a right-wing hate-monger might make him rich, or at least famous. But how far is he willing to take this role? –AWB

What Comes Echoing Back
Leo McKay Jr.
Nimbus Publishing, June
In the latest from Giller-shortlisted writer Leo McKay Jr., high-schooler Robot looks to connect with Sam, whose most embarrassing moment went viral. –AWB



Officially, the Cold War ended more than 30 years ago, but unofficially, the effects of this geopolitical period in history continue to this day. Three upcoming novels deal with the world that the Cold War built in different ways, different countries, and multiple time periods.



In a Land without Dogs the Cats Learn to Bark
Jonathan Garfinkel
House of Anansi Press, Feb.
This debut novel from Berlin-based Jonathan Garfinkel follows a mystery that leads from Moscow to Toronto to Tbilisi and is an examination of identity, lies, and the lasting effects of the Soviet Union. –CD

Some Unfinished Business
Antanas Sileika
Cormorant Books, Feb.
Martin Averka was inspired as a young teenager to seek out the world beyond his small village, but faces hardship as he perseveres through anti-Soviet resistance in occupied Lithuania, imprisonment in the Gulag, and bureaucratic machinations that threaten to intervene in his love for a woman with a mysterious past in this story of love and revenge. –CD

Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday
Jamaluddin Aram
Scribner Canada, June
Russian occupation of Afghanistan is over and civil war has broken out in this novel set in 1990s Kabul. But Jamaluddin Aram’s debut novel, set against this backdrop of armed conflict, is about the more immediate concerns of the people in the working-class village of Wazirabad, where tensions are high after a spate of burglaries. –CD



This spring brings forth a bumper crop of new books and interesting reissues from CanLit authors who need no introduction. 



All the Colour in the World
C.S. Richardson
Knopf, Jan.
In a novel written in one-page entries of miscellany and memory, C.S. Richardson (The End of the Alphabet), illustrates the healing power of art in the life of one man over the course of the mid-20th century. –AB

Old Babes in the Wood
Margaret Atwood
McClelland & Stewart, March
Margaret Atwood’s first short fiction collection in nine years includes some stories published in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine and features a clever cat’s eye cover. –AB

Nina Bunjevac
Conundrum Press, March
The internationally lauded cartoonist’s first collection is being reissued on its tenth anniversary with 30 pages of new material. –AB

Birnam Wood
Eleanor Catton
McClelland & Stewart, March
Ten years after her Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton returns with a thriller set on an isolated farm on New Zealand’s South Island. –AB

Snow Road Station
Elizabeth Hay
Knopf Canada, April
Giller Prize–winning author Elizabeth Hay returns with a novel about aging, female friendship, and confronting the choices made in life. –AB

A Safe Girl to Love
Casey Plett
Arsenal Pulp Press, April
The reissued first collection of Lambda Literary Award-winning author Casey Plett features the varied and unpredictable lives of young trans women. –AB

To the Bridge
Yasuko Thanh
Hamish Hamilton, May
The author of the memoir Mistakes to Run With returns to fiction with the tale of a mother trying to protect and heal her family after her daughter’s suicide attempt. –AB

The Whispers
Ashley Audrain
Viking, June
Following on her much-hyped bestselling debut The Push, Ashley Audrain returns with a novel about the impact of a terrible event on four suburban women friends. –AB

Entre Rive and Shore
Dominique Bernier-Cormier
Goose Lane Editions, March
The Cormiers say that their ancestor Pierrot escaped from the British the night before the Acadian Expulsion, disguised in a dress. Written in a liberal mélange of French and English, in Entre Rive and Shore Dominique Bernier-Cormier uses that perhaps-mythological moment of family history as a key image through which to explore Acadian identity, and a life lived between two languages. –AWB

The Ridge
Robert Bringhurst
Harbour Publishing, March
The latest collection from poetry heavyweight Robert Bringhurst is a work of nonfiction in poetic form as he explores the ecological past, present, and future of Canada’s West Coast, weaving together the physical and the metaphysical. –CD

Celebrate Pride with Lockheed Martin
Jake Byrne
Wolsak & Wynn, April
New from Wolsak & Wynn’s “outlaw imprint” Buckrider Books is this collection celebrating contemporary queer culture (and sex). The energy of Jake Byrne’s poems emerges through a variety of forms and styles, aiming to destabilize the relationship between capitalism and contemporary queer life. –AWB

Old Gods
Conor Kerr
Nightwood Editions, April
The second poetry collection by Métis Ukrainian writer Conor Kerr – whose first novel, Avenue of Champions was long– and shortlisted for several awards in 2021 – foregrounds the Métis worldview as it ranges over the Prairie landscape and the continual movement of its inhabitants, both animal and human. –AB


A knife so sharp its edge cannot be seen
Erin Noteboom
Brick Books, April
The poems in this new collection by poet, children’s author, and one-time physicist Erin Noteboom test theories and hypotheses to examine how we experience and cope with failure, success, illness, grief, and loss. –AB

Continuity Errors
Catriona Wright
Coach House Books, May
These feminist poems include the serious and the absurd and interrogate our collective obsession with productivity and work instead of with care. Wright’s lyric, prose, and persona poems are all located within the domestic sphere of childbirth and child care, using different voices to explore these issues. –CD

Fire Monster
Anita Lahey and Pauline Conley
Palimpsest Press, May
This mixed-genre book (part graphic novel, part poetry collection) is set in a fictional version of Main-à-Dieu, Nova Scotia, a town razed by wildfire in 1976. Anita Lahey and Pauline Conley explore the aftermath of tragedy through the story of an oilsands worker returning to the home he was mistakenly blamed for destroying as a child. –CD

Photo credits: Blaise Ndala (Pascale Castonguay); Lindsay Wong (Shimon Karmel); J.D. Derbyshire (Ben Laird); Anuja Varghese (Jesse Valvasori); Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall (Ebony Lamb); Christina Wong; Conor Kerr (Zachary Ayotte)

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

January 11th, 2023

1:01 pm

Category: Industry News, Preview

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