It takes me a long time to write a book. Whether it’s poems or a novel, I feel like I’m at it over a lifetime. Death Becomes Us contains poems written mostly after my late husband died, and during that time I read a lot of books that helped me to heal. Survival wells inside us all, and whether a book is exploring how to survive life or death, it is comforting to read other writers’ experiences with that survival.
Here are a few books that I read that helped provide me with context, with compassion, as I grappled with my own loss.
St. Boniface Elegies, by Catherine Hunter
I find something strangely intimate in reading poems that are set in my hometown. This lovely volume of poetry, separated into four sections, explores death and loss with a gentle humour, all the while describing places I know well but feel I have never seen properly. Hunter has a clear vision, and is a master at depicting the scene. Her writing puts me in mind of the director of a movie, walking around with a whirring camera, capturing images with precision, each given its o …
In difficult times, sometimes hope is maligned as something frivolous, a symptom of one's inability to engage with reality and look trouble in the face. But of course, the certainty of hopeless is its own kind of limitation. As Rebecca Solnit writes, "To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly.”
The following books are infused with hope—that what we do and who we are really matters, that second chances are possible, and so too is a better world.
This is Not the End of Me, by Dakshana Bascaramurty
About the book: Layton Reid was a globe-trotting, risk-taking, sunshine-addicted bachelor—then came a melanoma diagnosis. Cancer startled him out of his arrested development--he returned home to Halifax to work as a wedding photographer—and remission launched him into a new, passionate life as a husband and father-to-be. When the melanoma returned, now at Stage IV, Layton and his family put all their stock into a punishing alternative therapy, hoping for a cure. This Is Not the End of Me recounts Layton's three-year journey as he tried desperately to stay alive for his young son, Finn, and then found purpose in preparing Finn for a world without him.
Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.
LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.
Today we're launching Christa Couture's memoir, How to Lose Everything, which is being championed by... me, Kerry Clare, author and editor at 49thShelf.com. Last spring, I had the opportunity to read this book by Couture, who is an award-winning singer-songwriter, as well as a radio host and writer, and I devoured it in two days. On my phone. And I have a really crummy phone. I have almost never managed to read an entire book on a screen, let alone in two days, so voraciously. But this is a pretty special book. A book you might think would be a bit of a downer, this story that catalogues the monumental losses experienced by Couture throughout her life—she had cancer as a child; she lost her leg in curing that cancer; her first two children died; she got divorced; she got cancer again. And yet. This is a book that sparkles and sings, a memoir as rich with joy as it is with sadness, a story …
Love is hearts and roses, but life is complicated, and to share a life with someone else requires a bond and commitment far stronger than any verse ever penned on a Valentine. In the new anthology Love Me True, edited by Fiona Tinwei Lam and Jane Silcott, 27 creative nonfiction writers and 16 poets explore how marriage and committed relationships have challenged, shaped, supported and changed them, delving deep into the mysteries of long-term bonds.
Lesley Buxton's essay from the collection, "Are You Still Married?" is devastating, sad, glorious and beautiful, and we're so glad to be able to share it with you.
Please note that Love Me True is on our giveaways page until February 18.
“Are you still married?” the customer asks.
I look up from her bill and glance towards my section on the patio, hoping to find an excuse to leave. Nobody needs me. I’m stuck.
This customer and I share an unwanted and one-sided intimacy. For the last months of my sixteen-year-old daughter India’s life, this customer was our social worker. Her job was to navigate us through the medical system. She was neither exceptionally good at her job nor bad. This is the first time I’ve seen her since my daughter died ten months ago and I can’t remember her name.
Finally I say, “Yes, …
Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
The unique exchange between grandchild and grandparent stays true throughout these stories, some of which deal with big themes, such as Alzheimer's, widowhood, remarriage and loss.
In My Two Grandmothers, by Diane Carmel Leger, illustrated by Jean-Luc Trudel, Memere Hermance is as different from Nannie Henrietta as a bee from a hen. Two distinct portraits are constructed: an Acadian, stylish store owner vs. a Scottish, protective, practical grandma. What makes them angry? Where do they take their grandchildren on adventures? Even their dogs are polar opposites. This delightful tale demonstrates character to the age 6+ crowd. It's punctuated with French sayings and Scottish slang with translations at the back.
Fox Song by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Canadian Paul Morin, is a beautiful story about loss. Jamie wakes in the morning, but doesn't open her eyes. Instead, she basks in the memory of her Abenaki grandma. Jamie remembers all Great Great Gra …
As fascinating as books themselves (and oh, are books ever fascinating) are the connections between books, the curious ways in which books inform and echo each other, creating strange synergies completely outside of their authors' purview. In celebration of these connections, we've made great pairings of recent Canadian books of note, creating ideal literary companions.
Carson Ellis's smash-hit picture book explores the meaning of home as it considers all kinds of homes—a ship, a shoe, a home on the moon?—and shares the same preoccupations as Avi Friedman's new collection of essays.
Influential artist Carson Ellis makes her solo picture-book debut with a whimsical tribute to the many possibilities of home.
Home might be a house in the country, an apartment in the city, or even a shoe. Home may be on the road or the sea, in the realm of myth, or in the artist’s own studio. A meditation on the concept of home and a visual treat that invites many return visits, this loving look at the places where people live marks the picture-book debut of Carson Ellis, acclaimed illustrator of the Wildwood series and artist for the indie band the Decemberists.