Canada is known for its award-winning authors.
Last year, I set out to read more books written by Canadians and I am so happy I did. A bunch of Canadian-authored books landed on my list of favourites in 2015: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Still Life by Louise Penny, Room by Emma Donoghue, and They Left Us Everything: A Memoir by Plum Johnson.
Here’s a look at the 7 Canadian authors I’ll be reading for the first time this year…
The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Born and raised in Northern New York, Ellen Marie Wiseman now lives on the shores of Lake Ontario. I’ve been meaning to read her debut historical novel, The Plum Tree for over a year and I can’t wait to get started on it this weekend.
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: “Bloom where you’re planted,” is the advice Christine Bölz receives from her beloved Oma. But seventeen-year-old domestic Christine knows there is a whole world waiting beyond her small German village. It’s a world she’s begun to glimpse through music, books–and through Isaac Bauerman, the cultured son of the wealthy Jewish family she works for.
Yet the future she and Isaac dream of sharing faces greater challenges than their difference in stations. In the fall of 1938, Germany is changing rapidly under Hitler’s regime. Anti-Jewish posters are everywhere, dissenting talk is silenced, and a new law forbids Christine from returning to her job–and from having any relationship with Isaac. In the months and years that follow, Christine will confront the Gestapo’s wrath and the horrors of Dachau, desperate to be with the man she loves, to survive–and finally, to speak out.
Set against the backdrop of the German homefront, this is an unforgettable novel of courage and resolve, of the inhumanity of war, and the heartbreak and hope left in its wake.
The Far Side of the Sky: A Novel of Love and Death in Shanghai by Daniel Kalla
Emergency room doctor Daniel Kalla lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. I’ve heard nothing but good things about his wartime trilogy and I can’t wait to pick up the first book this winter.
Synopsis from Amazon.ca: On November 9, 1938—Kristallnacht—the Nazis carry out a shocking attack upon the Jewish citizens of Germany and Austria. Franz Adler, a secular Austrian Jew and surgeon, is desperate to find safety for himself and his family, but, like others seeking to escape the Nazi threat, finds only closed doors at the embassies and consulates.
When Franz learns that European Jews are able to travel without a visa to Shanghai, the cosmopolitan “Paris of the East,” he and his family set off on a risky journey that will take them to an unknown future halfway around the world.
Weaving together political intrigue, romance and medical drama, The Far Side of the Sky brings to life an extraordinary chapter of Second World War history, when the cultures of Europe and Asia converged and heroic sacrifices were part of the everyday quest for survival. This sweeping account of a world in tumult is a moving, ultimately hopeful story about the value of family and courage in the darkest of times.
The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens
I’m pretty excited to pick up this thriller from screenwriter-turned-novelist Lori Lansens. Born and raised in Chatham, Ontario and Toronto for twenty-five years, Lansens now lives in Santa Monica, California with her family.
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: On his 18th birthday, Wolf Truly takes the tramway to the top of the mountain that looms over Palm Springs, intending to jump to his death. Instead he encounters strangers wandering in the mountain wilderness, three women who will change the course of his life. Through a series of missteps he and the women wind up stranded, in view of the city below, but without a way down. They endure five days in freezing temperatures without food or water or shelter, and somehow find the courage to carry on.
Wolf, now a grown man, has never told his son, or anyone, what happened on the mountain during those five days, but he can’t put it off any longer. And in telling the story to his only child, Daniel, he at last explores the nature of the ties that bind and the sacrifices people will make for love. The mountain still has a hold on Wolf, composed of equal parts beauty and terror.
No Relation by Terry Fallis
After my favourite bookstore employee declared his love for the bestselling author of five novels, I decided to give him a try. Born and raised in Toronto, Fallis is a writer and public relations consultant with a background in politics.
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: This is the story of a young copywriter in New York City. He’s worked at the same agency for fifteen years, and with a recent promotion under his belt, life is good. Then, one morning this copywriter finds himself unceremoniously fired from his job, and after he catches his live-in girlfriend moving out of their apartment a couple hours later, he’s also single. Believe it or not, these aren’t the biggest problems in this copywriter’s life. There’s something bigger, something that has been haunting him his whole life, something that he’ll never be able to shake. Meet Earnest Hemmingway.
What’s in a name? Well, if you share your moniker with the likes of some of the most revered, infamous, and sometimes dreaded names in history, plenty. This is Earnest’s lifelong plight, but something more recent is on his plate: His father is pressuring him to come home and play an active role in running the family clothing business. And as a complex familial battle plays out, Earnest’s inherited name leads him in unexpected directions. Wry, clever, and utterly engaging, No Relation is Terry Fallis at the top of his form.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Gruen was born in Vancouver and currently lives in North Carolina.
Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Orphaned and penniless at the height of the Depression, Jacob Jankowski escapes everything he knows by jumping on a passing train―and inadvertently runs away with the circus. So begins Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen’s darkly beautiful tale about the characters who inhabit the less-than-greatest show on earth.
Jacob finds a place tending the circus animals, including a seemingly untrainable elephant named Rosie. He also comes to know Marlena, the star of the equestrian act―and wife of August, a charismatic but cruel animal trainer. Caught between his love for Marlena and his need to belong in the crazy family of travelling performers, Jacob is freed only by a murderous secret that will bring the big top down.
Punishment by Linden MacIntyre
Award-winning Canadian journalist and co-host of the CBC’s The Fifth Estate Linden MacIntyre was born in St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, grew up in Port Hastings, Cape Breton and now calls Toronto home.
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Forced to retire early from his job as a corrections officer in Kingston Penitentiary, Tony Breau has limped back to the village where he grew up to lick his wounds, only to find that Dwayne Strickland, a young con he’d had dealings with in prison is back there too–and once again in trouble. Strickland has just been arrested following the suspicious death of a teenage girl, the granddaughter of Caddy Stewart, Tony’s first love.
Tony is soon caught in a fierce emotional struggle between the outcast Strickland and the still alluring Caddy. And then another figure from Tony’s past, the forceful Neil Archie MacDonald–just retired in murky circumstances from the Boston police force–stokes the community’s anger and suspicion and an irresistible demand for punishment. As Tony struggles to resist the vortex of vigilante action, Punishment builds into a total page-turner that blindsides you with twists and betrayals.
The Reason You Walk: A Memoir by Wab Kinew
First Nations broadcaster, musician, and activist Wab Kinew lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I can’t wait to read this moving and important memoir for the ‘a book recommended by your local bookseller’ category of this year’s MMD Reading Challenge.
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant aboriginal man who’d raised him.
The Reason You Walk spans the year 2012, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father’s traumatic childhood at residential school. An intriguing doubleness marks The Reason You Walk, a reference to an Anishinaabe ceremonial song. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother, he has a foot in both cultures. He is a Sundancer, an academic, a former rapper, a hereditary chief, and an urban activist. His father, Tobasonakwut, was both a beloved traditional chief and a respected elected leader who engaged directly with Ottawa. Internally divided, his father embraced both traditional native religion and Catholicism, the religion that was inculcated into him at the residential school where he was physically and sexually abused. In a grand gesture of reconciliation, Kinew’s father invited the Roman Catholic bishop of Winnipeg to a Sundance ceremony in which he adopted him as his brother. Kinew writes affectingly of his own struggles in his twenties to find the right path, eventually giving up a self-destructive lifestyle to passionately pursue music and martial arts. From his unique vantage point, he offers an inside view of what it means to be an educated aboriginal living in a country that is just beginning to wake up to its aboriginal history and living presence.
Invoking hope, healing and forgiveness, The Reason You Walk is a poignant story of a towering but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to repair their family bond. By turns lighthearted and solemn, Kinew gives us an inspiring vision for family and cross-cultural reconciliation, and a wider conversation about the future of aboriginal peoples.
Have you read any of my picks? Who’s your favourite Canadian author?