Indians on Vacation by Thomas King (HarperCollins) Bird travels with his wife Mimi to Prague in an effort to find her Uncle Leroy’s medicine bundle, lost from the family and ostensibly left in Europe when he travelled there almost 100 years ago. King’s voice and humour are so clever and understated: by turns upending Europe’s and Canada’s colonial pasts neatly on their heads while bringing his characters to life with all their aging foibles, and creating laugh-out-loud moments that still spark deep reflection.
A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt (Penguin Canada) Belcourt was the youngest ever winner of the $ 65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize at just 23, for his 2017 collection “This Wound Is a World.” This is his debut memoir — as lyrical and profound as you’d expect. It opens with a letter to his kokum and memories of his early life on the Driftpile First Nation in Alberta, and then widens its perspective to include the wider world and experiences. He is emotional and honest, and this is a beautiful book.
Songs for the End of the World by Saleema Nawaz (McClelland & Stewart) She couldn’t have planned it like this if she tried. This book was released early as an ebook as events overtook it; it’s about a coronavirus pandemic that takes place in 2020 and follows the interconnectedness of a robustly drawn cast of characters. Not least of those is Owen, an author who wrote a book about a pandemic — and for whom everyone is now clamouring in the hopes he’ll somehow help them through. Meta, sure. But also wonderfully written and immensely readable.
A Family Affair by Nadine Bismuth (Arachnide, House of Anansi) A darkly humourous book about which La Presse said, “The author who accustomed us to the lies and neuroses of young adults now leads us into the world of forty-somethings, in which infidelity must somehow be managed in lives weighed down by work, shared custody and hours online.” “A Family Affair” was extremely well-received in Quebec, where it was initially published in French. Now in English thanks to the first book-length translation from well-known Canadian writer Russell Smith.
Forest Green by Kate Pullinger (Doubleday Canada) Have you ever walked by a homeless person and wondered: How did they end up here? What’s their story? In her new historical fiction novel, B.C. writer Pullinger delves into the imagined life of Arthur Lunn, whom we meet as an older homeless man on a Vancouver street in 1995; he grew up in the Okanagan Valley and, during the Great Depression, was caught up in a battle between vagrants and townspeople. Pullinger’s beautiful writing captures the sweep of a life.
If you’re looking for something for young readers, also out this week is I Can Catch A Monster by Bethan Woollvin (Pan Macmillan). Once upon a time, far far away, lived a little girl called Bo who wanted to be just like her brothers and capture a fearsome monster. Can she defeat the furious griffin, conquer the hideous kraken and triumph over the monstrous dragon? Or if not, can she make friends with them? Woollvin is an award-winning illustrator and is known for her feminist take on classic fairy tales.