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Fall preview 2013: Canadian novels

In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at fall’s most anticipated Canadian fiction.


The fall season kicks off with a blockbuster-sized bang in August, when McClelland & Stewart unveils MaddAddam ($32.95 cl.), the concluding volume in Margaret Atwood‘s environmentally themed speculative-fiction trilogy (which also includes Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood). Reuniting characters from the first two books, the new novel, which opens immediately after the closing scene in The Year of the Flood, involves humans and beasts coming together to oppose the rapacious CorpSeCorps. The novel also features the return of God’s Gardeners, the development of Crake theology, and the threats posed by cultural misunderstanding and bad coffee.

The Rock (not Alcatraz, or Dwayne Johnson, but Newfoundland) is fertile ground for writers. This year has already seen a well-received new volume of poetry from Michael Crummey and a major new novel from Lisa Moore. Two more CanLit veterans with strong ties to Newfoundland have books due out this fall. Wayne Johnston follows up his 2011 novel, A World Elsewhere, with The Son of a Certain Woman (Knopf Canada, $30 cl., Sept.), about a teenage boy in 1950s St. John’s struggling with hormones and a congenital disfigurement ¦ oh, and his sexual attraction to his mother. ¢ Michael Winter has a new novel about a contractor who returns from an Army-affiliated stint in Afghanistan wracked with guilt and post-traumatic stress. He searches for a way to alleviate his ennui and discontent by purchasing and repairing a friend’s dilapidated house. Minister Without Portfolio ($30 cl.) appears from Hamish Hamilton Canada in September.

Hamish Hamilton Canada is also publishing the new novel from Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden. Set in the 1600s, The Orenda ($32 cl.) is about the clash of cultures and beliefs that flare up among three characters: a Huron elder named Bird, the young Iroquois girl he kidnaps, and a Jesuit missionary named Christophe. ¢ Catherine Bush returns with her first novel since 2004’s Claire’s Head. Accusation (Goose Lane Editions, $29.95 cl., Sept.) tells the story of Sara, a woman whose past association with the touring Ethiopian Circus must be re-evaluated in the wake of a documentarian’s discovery of disturbing allegations of sexual and physical abuse at the circus ringleader’s hands.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a best-selling novel must be in want of a sequel. The real surprise about SECRET Shared: A S.E.C.R.E.T. Novel (Doubleday Canada, $17.95 pa.) is how quickly it is appearing. The first volume of L. Marie Adeline‘s erotic series, about a clandestine group of women who help other women achieve sexual fulfillment, was a huge hit for its author (who is really Toronto-based writer Lisa Gabriele) this spring. The sequel, which follows heroine Cassie as she is initiated further into the organization, appears in October.

Sex is also on the mind of Be Good author (and frequent Q&Q reviewer) Stacey May Fowles. Her new novel, Infidelity (ECW Press, $18.95 pa., Oct.), follows the trajectory of a romantic affair, in all its messiness and moral implications. The author questions rigid standards of right and wrong, monogamy and fidelity, and includes at least one acrobatic sex scene on an office desk. ¢ Eleanor Catton won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award for her 2010 debut, The Rehearsal, a stylized, unconventional tale about the fallout from a sex scandal at a high school. The author takes a sharp left turn into historical fiction for her follow-up. At nearly 850 pages, The Luminaries (M&S, $35 cl., Sept.) is described as Dickens meets Deadwood: the story of an Englishman who stumbles into a gold-mining town in 1866 New Zealand and becomes involved in the mysterious disappearance of the town’s wealthiest man.

Dennis Bock returns with a contemporary novel about sibling strife that leads to violence. Channelling Thomas Wolfe, Bock’s family saga is called Going Home Again (HarperCollins Canada, $27.99 cl., Aug.).

Mary Swan follows up her 2008 Giller-nominated debut novel, The Boys in the Trees, with another work of historical fiction. My Ghosts (Knopf Canada, $29.95 cl., Sept.) traces the lives of a family of Scottish orphans in 1879 Toronto. ¢ Another literary Mary, Mary Lawson, returns this fall with a new novel, her first since The Other Side of the Bridge in 2006. Once again set in the Northern Ontario town of Struan, Road Ends (Knopf Canada, $29.95 cl., Nov.) is about the repercussions of a suicide committed after a drunk driver kills a child.

David Gilmour‘s previous book was the 2011 autobiography-à-clef, The Perfect Order of Things. He’s back this season with a more straightforward work of fiction. Taking place over the course of a single Saturday night, Extraordinary ($23.99 cl., Aug.) is about sibling love and assisted suicide. The novel is the debut title in Patrick Crean’s eponymous imprint at HarperCollins Canada. ¢ HarperCollins Canada also has a new novel from David Macfarlane in the offing. The Figures of Beauty ($29.99 cl., Sept.) is a love story set in Italy, where a Canadian man spends a summer in the arms of a wild, bohemian local woman. The novel is narrated retrospectively, by the daughter the man never knew he had.

Literary madman Tony Burgess turns his warped imagination to the problem of waste disposal during the zombie apocalypse in The n-Body Problem (ChiZine Publications, $18.95 pa., Oct.). The decision to jettison millions of zombies into the reaches of outer space has dire consequences when the mass of bodies in orbit begins blocking out the sun and having horrific effects on the minds of humans left on Earth. ¢ Another warped imagination turns its attention to a character study of the delightfully named Raymond Gunt “ a living, walking, talking, hot steaming pile of pure id. Worst. Person. Ever. (Random House Canada, $30 cl., Oct.) is the first full-length novel in four years from Douglas Coupland.

Prolific author of novels, stories, and books for children Cary Fagan returns with a story that combines some of the author’s familiar themes: magic, childhood, and family. A Bird’s Eye ($19.95 cl.) is due from House of Anansi Press in August. ¢ Hot off his ReLit Award win for his story collection Pretty, Greg Kearney is back with a debut novel. The Desperates (Cormorant Books, $21.95 pa., Sept.) is a darkly comic tale of three characters who negotiate urban anomie, illness, and heartbreak in Toronto.

Tough-guy writer Craig Davidson scored international success last year, when acclaimed filmmaker Jacques Audiard cast Academy Award“winning actress Marion Cotillard to star in an adaptation of two stories from the author’s collection Rust and Bone. Davidson returns with a new novel, Cataract City (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Sept.), about a pair of childhood friends in Niagara Falls who grow up to find themselves on opposite sides of the law. ¢ Keith Hollihan‘s first novel was the critically acclaimed prison thriller The Four Stages of Cruelty. His follow-up, Flagged Victor (HarperCollins Canada, $32.99 cl., Aug.), set in 1980s Halifax, tells the story of two boyhood friends whose decision to rob a bank precipitates a wildly escalating crime spree.

Poet Jennifer LoveGrove has a novel out this fall with ECW. Watch How We Walk ($18.95 pa., Oct.) is the story of Emily, an urban woman who has grown up in a family of fiercely devout Jehovah’s Witnesses. ¢ Shallow Enough to Walk Through (NeWest Press, $19.95 pa., Sept.) is the intriguing title of Marissa Reaume‘s debut novel “ a Künstlerroman about an artist in Windsor, Ontario “ which is described as John Barth by way of Lena Dunham.

Chilean-born Montreal resident Mauricio Segura is a journalist and documentarian, and the author of the acclaimed novel Black Alley. Segura is back with a novel about a man who returns to Chile for his father’s funeral, only to discover that the dead man had been involved in clear-cutting Eucalyptus trees on the family’s property. Eucalyptus (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., Nov.) is translated by Donald Winkler. ¢ Anthony De Sa‘s debut, the story collection Barnacle Love, was shortlisted for the Giller in 2008. One of the characters from that collection, 12-year-old Antonio Rebelo, makes a return appearance in De Sa’s first novel. Kicking the Sky (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Sept.) focuses on the effects of a brutal 1977 murder in Toronto’s Portuguese community.

Nicole Lundrigan‘s previous novel, 2011’s Glass Boys, was fourth in a line of strong, well-crafted works that somehow continue to fly under the radar of most readers. Perhaps her fifth outing, The Widow Tree (Douglas & McIntyre, $22.95 pa., Sept.), will be her breakout. Set in 1953, the book tells the story of three teenagers who stumble upon a cache of Roman coins. Their decision to conceal this find has fatal consequences. ¢ Respected poet and publisher Meredith Quartermain has her first novel out with NeWest this September. Rupert’s Land ($20.95 pa.) follows the struggles of two children “ one white, the other native “ as they try to survive in Depression-era Alberta.

Christian McPherson follows up his 2011 office satire, The Cube People, with Cube Squared (Nightwood Editions, $21.95 pa., Sept.), which follows worker drone Colin MacDonald into middle age. ¢ Governor General’s Literary Award winner Louis Hamelin takes a fictionalized look at Quebec’s FLQ crisis in October 1970 (Anansi, $24.95 pa., Sept.), translated by Wayne Grady. ¢ The Innu word kuessipan, meaning to you or your turn, serves as the title for Innu author Naomi Fontaine‘s novel, written when the author was 23, and due out from Arsenal Pulp Press in October. Kuessipan ($14.95 pa.) is translated by David Homel.