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Quick Hits: Circus Acts, Prison Love, Middle Age, and More

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

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Weekend, by Jane Eaton Hamilton 

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

What It's About

Prize-winning writer Jane Eaton Hamilton's novel explores the complexities of contemporary queer love.

On her fiftieth birthday, crazy-in-love Ajax visits her mercurial lover Logan, who trails their tarnished reputation like a lapsed halo. Logan has secrets, but so does Ajax, and during their weekend getaway to Ontario's cottage country, some of these secrets will prove explosive.

In the next cottage, long-term couple Joe and Elliot are having their own challenges as the parents of a newborn baby girl. Joe isn't sure if Elliot loves her or even if Elliot wanted a baby at all. Can she make it through a weekend feeling as she does, let alone the rest of her life?

Jane Eaton Hamilton's ninth book is an intimate, sexy queer romance. Weekend is a bold and heartbreaking consideration of the true nature of love at the cusp of middle age—about trust, negotiation, and what's worth keeping in the end.

What People Say

"Hamilton's writing is propulsive, and the story moves at an effortless pace as it explores a multitude of sexualities and identities, as well as the difficulties and even explosive outcomes of navigating them while remaining faithful to and honest with one's partner or partners."—Publishers Weekly

"Weekend is a tour de force, an account of two same-sex couples in crisis, a tender meditation on the nature of love, desire, betrayal, mortality and reconciliation ... This is a remarkable book."—Vancouver Sun

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Welcome to the Circus, by Rhonda Douglas

Genre: Fiction (short story)

Publisher: Freehand Books

What It's About

Rhonda Douglas's debut collection dazzles with its daring and dangerous prose. Welcome to the Circus, where every moment is a tight-rope act, precariously balancing on the edge of destruction.

In these stories, a choir processes its collective grief at the loss of one of its members to cancer; a teenage boy marks himself with the poetry of John Donne; God explains the collapse of the cod fishery; Mata Hari stands trial; and two sisters try to reconcile their respective places in the family porn emporium business before everything blows up.

These ten strikingly original stories explore love and escape—how we escape to love, escape through love, and escape ourselves and hold on to love. Together, the stories of Welcome to the Circus highlight the acrobatic, courageous circus acts we all learn to perform.

What People Say

"[Douglas's stories] bubble with originality and daring... an exhilarating read."—Publishers Weekly

"Rhonda Douglas has a knack for making the bizarre seem reasonable and deeply human. A resurrected Neandertal, a Job Creator of the Year pornographer, a John Donne-obsessed cutter, God—these are just a few of the surprising characters in her circus. This funny, moving debut is a show you won't want to miss."—Caroline Adderson, author of Ellen in Pieces

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This Is Not My Life, by Diane Schoemperlen

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Memoir

What It's About

For almost six turbulent years, award-winning writer Diane Schoemperlen was involved with a prison inmate serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. The relationship surprised no one more than her. How do you fall in love with a man with a violent past? How do you date someone who is in prison? This Is Not My Life is the story of the romance between Diane and Shane—how they met and fell in love, how they navigated passes and parole and the obstacles facing a long-term prisoner attempting to return to society, and how, eventually, things fell apart. While no relationship takes place in a vacuum, this is never more true than when that relationship is with a federal inmate. In this candid, often wry, sometimes disturbing memoir, Schoemperlen takes us inside this complex and difficult relationship as she journeys through the prison system with Shane. Not only did this relationship enlarge her capacity for both empathy and compassion, but it also forced her to more deeply examine herself.

What People Say

"What a brave examination of the entrapment of the heart! Both confessional and confident, This Is Not My Life illuminates the hidden yet incessant desire, at all costs, for love."—Michael Winter, author of Minister Without Portfolio

"With scalding candor, bravery, and a considerable amount of humor, Diane Schoemperlen has written a moving memoir about unexpected love. She reminds us what love is, and how even if it can’t always have a fairy-tale ending, it nonetheless offers redemption."—Susan Swan, author of The Western Light

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Godless but Loyal to Heaven, by Richard Van Camp

Genre: Teen Fiction/stories (Grade 9 and up)

Publisher: Great Plains Publications

What It's About

In Richard Van Camp's fictionalized north anything can happen and yet each story is rooted in a vivid contemporary reality. The stories offer a potent mix of tropes from science fiction, horror, Western, and Aboriginal traditions. The title story pits Torchy against Smith Squad, fighting for love and family in a bloody, cathartic, and ultimately hopeful narrative. Van Camp's characters repeatedly confront the bleakness of sexual assault, substance addiction, and violence with the joy and humour of inspired storytelling.

What People Say

"Gripping, graphic and insightful, Godless but Loyal to Heaven opens up the human heart and lets the reader watch it pumping. Van Camp slips in and out of characters like a shapeshifter, introducing poetry and the fantastic into a brutal landscape."—Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach

"Hard-nosed but thin-skinned, sturdy yet totally off the wall, Richard Van Camp's Godless but Loyal to Heaven is such a vibrant story collection that I'm kicking myself for only getting around to it now."—Edmonton Journal

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Everything Rustles, by Jane Silcott

Publisher: Anvil Press

Genre: Memoir/essays

What It's About

In this debut collection of personal essays, Silcott looks at the tangle of midlife, the long look back, the shorter look forward, and the moments right now that shimmer and rustle around her. Here is love, grief, uncertainty, longing, joy, desire, fury, and fear. Also wandering bears, marauding llamas, light and laundry rooms.

What People Say

“Jane Silcott writes crisp and compelling narratives; as their import emerges, small epiphanies wink into consciousness, and we are taken up into everyday life. Reading this collection of her work we glimpse layers of the real that seem so often to conceal the world from us. A wonderful book, a book of wonders.”—Stephen Osborne, Publisher, Geist Magazine

"Silcott has a strong voice, and like Didion’s it is one that draws the reader in, page after page. In Everything Rustles, the Vancouver-based author examines that slow onset of fears, which are increasingly more pronounced as we age. This collection of short essays is written in an eloquent, poetic and deeply personal manner."—Vancouver Sun

 

 

 

August 13, 2018
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