book review

Published by Brindle and Glass and available to order from Polar Peek Books and Treasures.

In 2011, my first novel, The Bone Cage, was a finalist in CBC’s national book program called Canada Reads. NHL celebrity Georges Laraque defended The Bone Cage in the debates that aired on Jian Ghomeshi’s Q. The whole thing was an incredible thrill – especially my moment on stage at the Toronto launch. There I stood between (gorgeous) Georges Laraque and (very handsome) Jian Ghomeshi, while Jian insisted “I am not short!” and Georges and I looked down and replied “Actually, you kind of are.” The whole thing was – to put it simply – so freaking fun!

The critics are going wild at the release of Steven Heighton’s new short-story collection, The Dead Are More Visible. Recent reviews have compared Heighton to James Joyce, to Vladimir Nabokov, to Alice Munro, to Mavis Gallant. There appears to be universal agreement that he is, in the words of Jeet Heer, “as good a writer as Canada has ever produced.” This bold assertion seems designed to provoke naysayers; there have been none.

On May 10, JJ Lee visited the Fernie library to talk about his highly acclaimed memoir The Measure of a Man. The book, JJ Lee’s first, has been nominated for a slew of nonfiction prizes, including the BC Book Prize, the Charles Taylor Prize, and the Governor General’s Prize. Reviewers across the country have praised Lee’s fine prose, throwing out phrases like exquisite, beautifully and cleverly executed, and deftly crafted. The Measure of a Man deserves all this praise and more.

I write this column as I fly home from Burlington, Vermont where I attended The Face of the Game, a symposium held in conjunction with the Women’s Hockey World Championships at the University of Vermont. The panel on which I participated focused on representations of women in hockey literature, and my own discussion centred on Cara Hedley’s Twenty Miles, the first Canadian novel to feature women’s hockey.

As soon as I finished The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott, I knew I had to write about it. It’s the kind of novel that not only bears up under multiple readings but rewards them, the kind of book that grabs hold of readers, pulling them into a fully realized world that lingers with them long after the last page. Endicott has recreated the milieu of early twentieth century vaudeville in such vibrant detail that, for the space of 530 pages, readers live there. Best of all, Endicott manages to celebrate the lives of these artists without romanticizing them.

Workbook is an aphrodisiac. Better than raw oysters.

On February 6 Valerie Compton and Rosemary Nixon will be speaking at the Fernie Heritage Library about their recently released books: acclaimed novels that also work as emotionally heightened meditations on motherhood and loss.

For and Against is my favourite kind of poetry collection. Rather than hiding behind clever postmodern tricks, McCartney takes personal risks and delivers meaty poems with emotional heft. She, to steal a phrase from Hemingway, writes hard and clear about what hurts.

The Man Booker Prize is an annual award given to the best work of fiction in the British Commonwealth and Ireland. Alison Pick’s Far to Go is one of three Canadian books recently long-listed for the 2011 Booker, a great honour which was just the incentive I needed to pull it out of my towering to-be-read pile. I’m very glad I did. Pick’s story held me firm in its grip from the first sentence to the last, her characters as real to me as my next-door neighbours.