With new books by Miriam Toews, Dawn Dumont, Douglas Coupland, Marie-Renee Lavoie, Omar El Akkad, Zoe Whittall, Trudy Morgan-Cole, and other literary faves, the season is shaping up beautifully—and there are so many exciting debuts!
There are the books you're going to be loving in the second half of 2021.
Following on the heels of Pastoral, Fifteen Dogs, The Hidden Keys, and Days by Moonlight, Ring (September) completes André Alexis’s quincunx, a group of five genre-bending, and philosophically sophisticated novels. For fans of Nora Ephron and Jennifer Weiner, Her Turn (July) is Katherine Ashenburg’s witty, contemporary new novel about a forty-something newspaper columnist navigating her bold next chapter, set in Washington against the 2015 US presidential primary. A hilarious and profound debut, Everyone in This Room Will One Day Be Dead (July) by Emily Austin, follows a morbidly anxious young woman who stumbles into a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church and becomes obsessed with her predecessor’s mysterious death.
Todd Babiak’s new novel is The Spirits Up (October), a contemporary ghost story about an inventor in need of a miracle and the true cost of being owned by our possessions. The Strange Scent of Saffron (October), by Miléna Babin, translated by Oana Avasilichioaei, is a raw, gut-wrenching novel about the lack and gradual attainment of empowerment, partly through a sensorially rich connection with the world. Gail Anderson-Dargatz returns with a gripping thriller, The Almost Wife (July), about a woman who can’t seem to escape her fiancé’s mendacious ex. Sifton Tracey Anipare’s Yume (September) is a modern-day fantasy novel about demons, dreams, and a young woman teaching English in Japan. Georgina Beaty’s The Party Is Here (September) is a memorable, edgy debut exploring the climate crisis and young women on the verge of transformation.
Renee Belliveau’s The Sound of Fire (October) is based on the true story of the December 1941 fire that destroyed a men’s residence at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, killing four students, and bringing the horrors of war startlingly close to home. In Out of Mind (September), David Bergen delves into the psyche of Lucille Black, mother, grandmother, lover, psychiatrist, and analyst of self, who first appeared in Bergen’s bestselling novel The Matter with Morris. In this Everything Turns Away (September), a domestic thriller set in Toronto, Michelle Berry weaves together the story of two couples whose lives are about to be unravelled by the murder of a neighbour, a babysitter that has gone missing, and the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center.
The Most Precious Substance on Earth (August) is a humorous coming-of-age novel and a sharp-edged look at how silence can shape a life, from Shashi Bhatt, winner of the Journey Prize. Award-winning author Lisa Bird-Wilson’s latest fiction release is Probably Ruby (August), an audacious, brave and beautiful book about an adopted woman's search for her Indigenous identity. Exploring the intergenerational consequences of trauma, Stella's Carpet (October), by Lucy E.M. Black, weaves together the overlapping lives of those stepping outside the shadows of their own harrowing histories to make conscious decisions about how they will choose to live while forging new understandings of family, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Eddy Boudel Tan, whose debut was the celebrated After Elias, returns with The Rebellious Tide (July), where a young man’s search for his father leads him to a ship harbouring a dangerous secret. From Gail Bowen, Arthur Ellis Award–winner, Grand Master of Crime Writers, and “the queen of Canadian crime fiction,” comes the newest installment in the Joanne Kilbourn series, An Image in the Lake (September). Dante’s Indiana (September) is Randy Boyagoda’s standalone sequel to Original Prin, a NYTBR Editor’s Choice, and a darkly comic look at 21st-century spirituality.
Nic Brewer’s debut novel Suture (September) is a highly original meditation on the fractures within us, and on the importance of empathy as medicine and glue. A Gothic collection of stories featuring carnivorous beavers, art-eaters, and family intrigue, the stories in Sydney Warner Brooman's The Pump (September) are perfect for fans of Alice Munro and Shirley Jackson. And a dark, rousing comedy set in and around the Pacific Northwest, Water Proof (October), by Aaron Bushkowsky, is a story about infidelity, film-making, and the search for a missing kayaker.
In Midnight (July), by Brenden Carlson, set in a gritty, tech-noir version of 1930s Manhattan, an ex-cop and his robot partner must stop a killer who’s sending the city into chaos. It's late spring and Gerry Coneybear and her 20 cats are thrilled to finally be able to get out of the house, but her neighbours' marriage isn't quite what it should be, and when the philandering husband is murdered, the wife is the obvious suspect, or ought to be, Gerry watching everything from her garden in Louise Carson's A Clutter of Cats (October). Exploring the ordinary strangeness in the lives of recurring characters and overlapping dramas, Kate Cayley’s Householders (September) combines the intimacy, precision, and clarity of short fiction with the depth and reach of a novel and mines the moral hazards inherent in all the ways we try and fail to save one another and ourselves. Fiercely imagined, deeply haunting, set against the 2010 Haitian earthquake, What Storm, What Thunder (September), by Myrian J.A. Chancy, is a reckoning of the heartbreaking trauma of disaster, and a testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit.
Dusk in the Frog Pond (October), by Rummana Chowdhury, is a collection of eight short stories exploring the lives of immigrants as they deal with the challenges of migration, displacement, identity, nostalgia, loneliness, socio-economic disparity, and cultural assimilation. The latest by Michael J. Clark— whose Clean Sweep won the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book by a Manitoba Author—is The Truth You’re Told (November). With a mixture of real and imagined characters, Joanne Culley provides a glimpse into the show business world of pre-war Europe through the eyes of a spunky heroine in her debut novel Claudette on the Keys. Thirty years after Douglas Coupland broke the fiction mould and defined a generation with Generation X, he is back with Binge (October), sixty stories laced with his observational profundity about the way we live and how we should be living.
Lauren B. Davis’s latest novel is Even So (September), an evocative character-driven novel that explores the challenge and necessity of loving difficult people. Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s third compelling thriller is The Retreat (July), about a woman stranded at an arts retreat after an avalanche and what happens when other guests start mysteriously dying. Tony Vicar: failed rockstar-turned-DJ, small-town curmudgeon, and…miracle worker? He’s also the subject of Vince R. Ditrich’s The Liquor Vicar (August), described as "a rollicking farce."
The second book in Candas Jane Dorsey’s Epitome Apartments Mystery series is What’s the Matter With Mary Jane? (October), in which a wise-cracking, grammar-obsessed, pansexual amateur sleuth is thrust into the world of the uber-rich when her enigmatic, now-famous childhood friend breezes back into her life begging for help with a dangerous stalker. Anna Dowdall's latest mystery is April on Paris Street (October), set in Montreal and Paris, with lots of intrigue.
We’re so excited about The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour (September), a new book by Dawn Dumont whose work is always as poignant as it is hilarious, this time about an unlikely group of Indigenous dancers who find themselves thrown together on a performance tour of Europe. JJ Dupuis follows up Roanoake Ridge with Lake Crescent (July), in which a TV documentary crew exploring murky waters in search of legendary lake monster Cressie dredges up a body instead. The murdered body of Sorcha the prophetess is discovered following a lavish banquet at the Maguire castle in 16th-century Ireland, and in the present day, a dig commences on the land, "Who killed Sorcha?" being the question driving Anne Emery’s new novel The Keening (November). Kieran Egan’s Tenure (September) is a fun blend of crime thriller and campus comedy.
From Omar El Akkad, the widely acclaimed author of American War, What Strange Paradise (July) is a new novel that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child’s eyes. One woman finally learns her family’s own story of the Armenian genocide in Manam (October), by Rima Elkouri, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott. Filled with a sense of hope, the stories in Carey Fagan’s Great Adventures for the Faint of Heart (September) explore the tangled bonds of family and the complex web that holds them together. And from bestselling author Terry Fallis comes Operation Angus (August), the long-awaited follow-up to The Best Laid Plans and The High Road—a comic spy story that heralds the return of Angus McLintock.
A shooting lays bare the secrets harboured by five families in a sleepy suburb in Cul-De-Sac (August), a psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author Joy Fielding. In Naomi Fontaine’s Manikanetish (September), a Governor General’s Literary Award finalist, translated by Luise von Flotow, a young teacher’s return to her remote Innu community transforms the lives of her students through the redemptive power of art, reminding us of the importance of hope in the face of despair. Impetuous, exasperating Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green returns in Barbara Fradkin’s The Devil to Pay (October), and unwittingly puts his daughter, a rookie patrol officer, in the line of fire.
A professor of English literature writes the autobiography of his fantasy alter-ego, wanton movie star Gloria Grahame, while his own sexual desires go frustrated in Sky Gilbert’s novel, I, Gloria Grahame. An inmate near death devotes his remaining weeks to a project of recording his history on cassette tape, describing a curious queer journey that began in rural New England in 1927, and the former prison nurse who receives the inmate's words eventually shapes the jumbled reminiscences into a memoir from which Brett Josef Grubisic’s new novel, My Two-Faced Luck (October) takes its form. Lee Gowan’s new novel The Beautiful Place (September), an audacious sequel to Sinclair Ross’ prairie classic, As for Me and My House, is about a man who is in trouble in love and work—a darkly funny cautionary tale for our times.
In Vile Spirits (September), the follow-up to his mystery The White Angel, John MacLachlan Gray captures the spirit of Vancouver in those gritty, gin-soaked days as the city was remaking itself between wars. Nowadays and Lonelier (September), by Carmella Gray-Cosgrove, is a vibrant debut story collection about loneliness and love, privilege and poverty, addiction and isolation—the search for connection and meaning in a workaday world. From Ian Hamilton, acclaimed author of the internationally bestselling Ava Lee novels, Bonnie Jack (July) is a bold and captivating new novel about a search for lost family and the cost of keeping secrets.
I Am the Earth The Plants Grow Through (September), by Jack Hannan, is a sweeping book about three generations of an unusual family, lesser adventurers all, written in a series of 53 chapters. Robyn Harding’s latest is The Perfect Family (August), exploring what happens when a seemingly perfect family is pushed to the edge by cruel, vindictive, and increasingly dangerous attacks. Paul Headrick's new novel is Losing Shepherd (October), about a literary review that ends a friendship and sets a world crumbling. And oil-soaked and swamp-born, the bruised optimism of David Huebert’s stories in Chemical Valley (October), following the award-winning Peninsula Sinking, offers sincere appreciation of the beauty of our wilted, wheezing world.
Robert Hough transports the reader into the epicentre of an unconventional love story in The Marriage of Rose Camilleri (September), where he draws out captivating details from the fabric of an ordinary shared lifetime to create a story that lives in the moment and takes seriously the small but vital details of everyday life. Brian Thomas Isaac's powerful debut novel All the Quiet Places (October) is the coming-of-age story of Eddie Toma, an Indigenous (Syilx) boy, told through the young narrator's wide-eyed observations of the world around him. Drawing upon his Cree and Scandinavian roots, Harold R. Johnson merges myth, fantasy, and history in The Bjorkan Sagas (October), an epic saga of exploration and adventure.
Wayne Johnston reveals haunting family secrets he’s kept for more than 30 years, unfolding them in The Mystery of Right and Wrong (September), a novel that grapples with sexual abuse, male violence and madness. Meet Depression-era newlyweds Bennie and Stella. He’s reckless, she’s naive. Longing for freedom from tough times, they rob a bank, setting off a series of events that quickly spin out of control in Dietrich Kalteis’s new novel Under an Outlaw Moon (November). 12 years in America and Eziafa has nothing to show for it, and so, desperate to re-write his story, he returns to Nigeria to find a woman he can mold to his taste. 18-year-old Zina has big dreams, and an arranged marriage to a much older man isn't one of them, Yejide Kilanko telling the story of their turbulent marriage in A Good Name (September).
Taylor Jenkins Reid calls The Christmas Swap (October), by Maggie Knox (a pen-name of bestsellers Marissa Stapley and Karma Brown), "An utterly adorable, pitch-perfect romance with just the right amount of Christmas cheer. Pamela Korgemagi’s The Hunter and the Old Woman (August) is an intertwined story of a cougar and a man that portrays the strength, vulnerability, and consciousness of two top predators. Robin and Eleanor meet in 1811 at the British estate of Eleanor’s rich aunt Clara. Robin is about to leave to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, and her aunt rules out a marriage between them. Everyone Eleanor knows, including Robin, believe they’ve always lived in these times, but Eleanor has strange glimpses of other eras, dreams that aren’t dreams but memories of other lives in Lesley Krueger’s new novel Time Squared (September).
Glorious Frazzled Beings (September), the short story collection by Angélique Lalonde, is a love song to the homes we make, keep, and break. The latest novel by award-winner Barbara Langhorst is The Winter-Blooming Tree (October), delving into the dissonance between family members and how sometimes pride is the only thing standing between those we love and the stories we tell ourselves. And the latest psychological thriller from bestseller Shari Lapena is Not a Happy Family (July), a murder mystery in which everyone has a secret.
A Boring Wife Settles the Score (July) is the eagerly anticipated sequel Marie-Renee Lavoie’s Autopsy of a Boring Wife, finding the saucy and ever-appealing Diane, now turning 50, with the wreckage of her marriage behind her, setting off on a new and hilarious journey for romance. Shawna Lemay follows up her acclaimed novel Rumi and the Red Handbag with Everything Affects Everyone (October), a novel about listening, about how women speak to one another, and the power of the question—plus angels. The Winter Wives (August) is a new psychological drama from Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Linden MacIntyre, weaving threads of crime, disability and dementia together into a tale of unrequited love and delusion.
The latest title in Kevin Major’s Sabastian Symard Mystery Series is Three for Trinity (October), in which trying to run a tour business in COVID times is hard enough, but then a murder makes things even more complicated and Symard has to go undercover as an actor to solve the crime. While convalescing in a French army hospital, Rain, a soldier in the Great War now raging across Europe, finds solace in aiding the buildings' groundskeeper in Stephens Gerard Malone’s latest, The History of Rain (September). And in attempting to bring a suspected war criminal to justice, a lawyer wrestles with power, accountability, and her Jewish identity in The Singing Forest (September), by Judith McCormack, whose work has been shortlisted for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Fiction Prize, the Journey Prize and the Amazon First Novel Award.
Calling to mind smart, deadpan and unrepentant novels such as The New Me and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Sophie McCreesh's distinctive and arresting debut novel, Once More, With Feeling (August), is about a young woman veering towards self-destruction. From Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of Canada and bestselling author of Full Disclosure, comes Denial (September) a taut new thriller starring tough-as-nails defence attorney Jilly Truitt in a murder case that makes her question her own truths. And Amber McMillan’s The Running Trees (September) is a humorous collection of stories that considers the quest for truth: how we come to it or alternatively avoid it.
Tessa McWatt’s The Snow Line (August) explores love and endurance in the face of change and violence, and how people find wholeness and belonging when their own identities feel shattered. In The Devil’s Choir (October), an intricate, intense mystery from Martin Michaud, the acclaimed “master of the Quebec thriller”, the ghosts of Victor Lessard’s past come back to haunt him as he investigates a horrific murder-suicide that doesn’t add up. In Melanie Mitzner’s Slow Reveal (October), set in New York City in the 1990s, art, addiction and family dysfunction culminate when Katharine ends her decade long affair with Naomi and, after years of emotional distance, becomes determined to reconcile with her husband and repair relations with her daughters.
With keen insight and biting prose, Premee Mohamed delivers a deeply personal tale in post-apocalyptic hopepunk novella The Annual Migration of Clouds (September), reflecting on the meaning of community, asking what we owe to those who have lifted us up. Colonists come face-to-face with Indigenous Americans, enslaved Africans, and also pirates, while struggling to build a life in North America in Such Miracles and Mischief (September), the second volume of Trudy Morgan-Cole’s Cupids Trilogy. And in the frank and unforgettable autobiographical novel Open Your Heart (September), translated by Aimee Wall, celebrated Québécois writer Alexie Morin becomes the subject of her own story as she places a childhood friendship under a microscope.
Bestseller Roz Nay’s latest thriller is The Hunted (July), about two couples who meet backpacking through Africa and what happens when what begins as friendship quickly turns to obsession—with deadly consequences. When Chris, an unambitious young waiter, walks through the park on his way home from work, he stumbles onto the set of a Hollywood film—and is promptly mistaken for the missing lead actor, which kicks off the latest novel by Hal Niedzviecki, The Lost Expert (October). And We Want What We Want (July) is a collection of 13 darkly funny stories of women testing boundaries, from two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Alix Ohlin.
Hayley Phelan’s Like Me (July) is a propulsive psychological thriller that follows an aspiring model down a social media–fuelled rabbit hole of obsession, narcissism and self-destruction. Award-winning novelist Casey Plett (Little Fish) returns A Dream of a Woman (September), a poignant suite of stories that centrr transgender women. When a small East Coast town falls prey to a series of shocking murders, city homicide detective Kes Morris is called in to lead the case in CS Porter’s Beneath Her Skin (October), signalling the emergence of a bold new voice in crime fiction and a dark and thrilling new series.
Leah Ranada’s debut novel The Cine Star Salon (October) is a graphic and engaging depiction of the importance of women’s work and the loyalties that connect friends across oceans. Darren Ridgely and Adam Petrash follow up Parallel Prairies with a second anthology of speculative fiction from authors across the Canadian Prairies, Alternate Plains (October). Olivia Robinson’s The Blue Moth Motel (October) is a haunting and evocative exploration of the meaning of family and home, and was shortlisted for the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union Fresh Fish Award in 2020.
Award-winning architecture critic Lisa Rochon’s fiction debut is Tuscan Daughter (July), a novel of beauty and inspiration set during the Italian Renaissance about a young and defiant female artist searching for her mother. Firmly rooted in historical events, Atacama, by Carmen Rodríguez, tells the story of the son of a communist miner/union leader and an anarchist organizer of working-class women, and the daughter of a fascist army officer and a socialite. A time-slip novel set in contemporary Los Angeles and 18th century London, Erika Rummel’s The Loneliness of the Time Traveller (October) is a story of love, crime, and adventure combined with fantasy, a little bit of Jane Austen-style irony, and a healthy serving of social criticism. And set in a gentrifying Montreal neighbourhood, Ami Sands Brodoff’s The Sleep of Apples (September) is a novel-in-stories, told in the voices of nine closely-linked narrators, sharing crises that confront madness, illness, loss, and gender identity.
First published in 1997, No Crystal Stair (November), by Mairuth Sarsfield, is an absorbing story of Montreal in the 1940s and an indictment of Canada's "soft" racism, returned to print with an introduction by Dorothy Williams. The Trouper-Royale Orpheum Galaxie Theatre is a jewel in the entertainment crown of Niagara Falls, or at least, that’s what the marquee out front says, but to the Fabulous Trouper Quintuplets, their family’s old theatre is a thorn in the crown of their adolescent memories in The Troupers (October), by Richard Scarsbrook.
Aaron Schneider’s What We Think We Know (August) is a debut collection of short fiction that tests, expands and sometimes explodes the limits of the short story, setting conventional forms alongside fragmented narratives, playing with perspective and incorporating the instruments of data analysis (figures, tables and charts) into literary fiction. Of Theresa Shea's The Shade Tree (October), winner of the 2020 Guernica Prize for Literary Fiction, Joan Barfoot writes, "In its account of almost half a century in the lives of two white Southern sisters and of the African Americans whose experiences are inextricable from their, The Shade Tree is brutally personal, heartbreakingly political—and remarkably written."
A fusion of biography and history, art and politics, told through the lives branching off one family tree, Fear the Mirror (September), by Cora Siré, brings together 13 stories of moments that have marked the dark intersections within her own history. A novel of haunting beauty and ominous suspense, Rebecca Silver Slayter’s The Second History (August) is a post-apocalyptic love story about a young couple embarking on a journey to understand, for the first time, what they've been hiding from all their lives. Theressa Slind’s debut collection Only If We’re Caught (September) takes readers on a tour of the astonishment inside the ordinary—meet the happy wunderkind inside the sad elderly lover, the vulnerable teenager inside the high-powered lawyer, the loving father inside the vampire. Vampire?
Bernardine Stapleton’s love, life (June) is a made-up true fable about coming out, going back in, getting fat, Italian food, and stalking the Piazzo Bernardini. Jordan Tannahill’s new novel The Listeners (August) is a propulsive literary page-turner about a family torn apart by a mother’s obsession with a sound that no one else can hear. Through the linked destinies of a family of characters, Kim Thúy’s Em (September) takes its inspiration from historical events, including Operation Babylift, which evacuated thousands of biracial orphans from Saigon in April 1975, and the remarkable growth of the nail salon industry, dominated by Vietnamese expatriates all over the world. The 14 stories in Exit Strategies (October), by Meg Todd, explore the subtleties of memory and storytelling, masterfully creating the universal picture from the quotidian details.
The latest from Miriam Toews, Fight Night (August) is told in the unforgettable voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. Heather Tucker’s debut novel, The Clay Girl, was an ABA Indie pick and a finalist for the Kobo Emerging Author and the Atlantic Book Awards, and she follows it up with a sequel, Cracked Pots (October). Daniel Scott Tysdal’s short fiction debut Wave Forms and Doom Scrolls (October) breaks the reader’s heart and then puts it back together again filled with compassion for lost souls. And Coyote Takes a Walk (October), by Joseph Urie, is a trickster story of change for the better.
The first novel in nearly a decade from Guy Vanderhaeghe, the three-time Governor General’s Award‒winning author of The Last Crossing, August Into Winter (September) is an epic story of crime and retribution, of war and its long shadow, and of the redemptive possibilities of love. The latest by John Vigna, following the critically-acclaimed Bullhead, is No Man’s Land (September), a sprawling saga set in the Canadian wilderness of the late 19th century, about a teenaged girl named Davey, a charismatic fraudster, and the unbearable weight of fate. And Christine Wright is having a bad day in Katherine Walker’s novel All Is Well (September). She’s an ex-special forces soldier and a recovering alcoholic, and now her new career as an Anglican Minister has started off with the worst kind of bang. Could it be her reflexes are a little too twitchy for this job?
In Death on Darby’s Island (August), her follow-up to Last Lullaby, Alice Walsh gives us another tightly plotted mystery whose small-town charm is just the tip of the iceberg. When Jane’s partner goes missing she needs to find out if he’s in danger while also contending with the politics of a large international film festival: Hollywood power brokers, Russian oil speculators, Chinese propagandists, and a board chair who seemingly has it out for her in Helen Walsh’s novel Pull Focus (September). And The Spectacular (August) is a multi-generational story exploring sexuality, gender and the weight of reproductive freedoms, from Zoe Whitall, author of The Best Kind of People.
In David Whitton’s Seven Down (November), a novel in a series of interviews, seven hotel employees—all, it turns out, sleeper agents—puzzle out the events of a botched assassination attempt. White Resin (September), by Audrée Wilhelmy, translated by Susan Ouriou, is at once a dream-like romance and an homage to gorgeous, feral, and fecund nature as it both stands against and entwined with the industrial world. A new book by Claire Wilkshire is always a treat—The Love Olympics (September) is interconnected stories about various kinds of love set in St. John’s. And Call Me Stan (October), by K.R. Wilson, is the story of a man endlessly struggling to adjust as the world keeps changing around him, a Biblical epic from the bleachers, a gender-bending operatic love quadrangle, and a touching exploration of what it is to outlive everyone you love.
From Giller-shortlisted author Kathleen Winter (author of the bestseller Annabel), the novel Undersong (August) reimagines the lost years of misunderstood Romantic Era genius Dorothy Wordsworth. Letters to Amelia (September) is a stunning, contemporary epistolary novel from Lindsay Zier-Vogel, the creator of the internationally acclaimed Love Lettering Project, underscoring the power of reading and writing letters, and celebrating the unwritten, undocumented parts of our lives. And Andy Zuliani’s Last Tide (October) is a vital debut novel is an edgy glimpse at a world just beyond tomorrow, a sharp reminder of what society deems valuable.