One of the best things about publishing a book is being provided with a platform to talk about the books you love, and even to put your own book in such a literary context. In this list, Emily Saso (whose new book is The Weather Inside) champions some of her favourite works that deserve some more time in the spotlight and a place on your bedside table, too.
When it comes to the big prizes, all is not fair in love and CanLit. With stiff competition from our country’s best talent and, in some cases hundreds of books up for one award, even the most brilliant novels can’t walk away winners. The following titles fell into that category—stunning works that, over the last five years, didn’t rack up the shortlist spots or awards, but deserve the spotlight, the acclaim and the readers nonetheless.
Sad Peninsula, by Mark Sampson
How did he do it? How did Mark Sampson climb inside the mind of Eun-young, a Korean wartime “comfort woman” and rip my heart out in the process? Not since She’s Come Undone have I been this affected by a novel and this astounded by a man’s ability to get a female protagonist so right. The other main character, a Canadian ESL teacher, is also wonderfully wrought, and it’s fascinating to see how Sampson brings their two worlds together.
The Society of Experience, by Matt Cahill
This literary time travel thriller set in Toronto was one of my favorite books of 2015. It’s written with such rawness and grace that I made mouse-like squeaks every 10 pages or so. Couldn’t. Put it. Down. The language is lyrical and fresh, and the psychic pain of the main character Derrick van der Lem palpable. I want to zoom into the future to Cahill’s next book, but I can’t drive the stick shift on a DeLorean.
Fathom Lines, by Erin Bedford
Full disclosure: I am friends with Erin Bedford. Fuller disclosure: I am only friends with Erin Bedford because I made it my mission to become friends with her after reading her excellent debut. She writes small-town life and mother-daughter histories beautifully, reminiscent of Alice Munro, and you’ll want to underline every other line. The fact that it’s self-published makes this find all the more exciting.
Algoma, by Dani Couture
Known for her poetry, Couture can helm a novel too, as it turns out. The opening scene is a shiny lure—a bear and a young boy cracking through a frozen lake. It may be a little light on plot for some, but her language is searing and the characters fully formed. The pace picks up about halfway through and you’ll be happy you stuck around.
The Miracles of Ordinary Men, by Amanda Leduc
Sigh. So many feels in this book. And I lingered over every one. The magical realism is dosed with a deft touch, which is a feat considering the powerhouse main characters: a woman entangled in an S&M relationship with her boss and a man who sprouts wings. Leduc is a writer of great depth, admirable restraint, and, well, balls.
Avery Gauthier can't get far enough away from her past: the death of her beloved father, the abuse she suffered as a teen, and the religion that tore her parents apart. A reality-refugee, she's managed to keep the chaos of her former life at bay... until now.
When her husband returns to the Jehovah's Witnesses, her estranged mother wants back in, and the snow (invisible to everyone but Avery) piles up and up and up, Avery is forced to face her greatest fears. She looks to the outside for help, to her mysterious superintendent and the comforts of a local weatherman, only to realize that the solutions lie where the problem does: within.
A twisted, darkly funny and redemptive tale, The Weather Inside will leave you wondering where the line is drawn between what's real and what's imagined, and why Armageddon isn't always the end of the world.
Emily Saso writes fiction and screenplays. She lives in Toronto and blogs at www.egoburn.blogspot.ca. Her debut novel, The Weather Inside, is available now from Freehand Books.