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Fiction Literary


by (author) Lisa Alward

Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Literary, Nature & the Environment, Short Stories (single author), Feminist
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

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Winner of the 2023 Danuta Gleed Literary Award • Longlisted for the 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction • Winner of the New Brunswick 2023 Mrs. Dunster’s Award for Fiction • One of the Globe and Mail's "Sixty-Two Books to Read This Fall" • Listed in CBC Books Fiction to Read in Fall 2023 • A Miramichi Reader Best Book of 2023 • A Tyee Best Book of 2023

"A writer to watch."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

A girl receives a bedtime visit from a drunken party guest, who will haunt her fantasies for years. A young mother discovers underneath the wallpaper a striking portrait that awakens inconvenient desires. A divorced man distracts himself from the mess he’s made by flirting with a stranger. These intimate, immersive stories explore life's watershed moments, in which seemingly insignificant details—a pot of hyacinths, a freshly painted yellow wall—and the most chance of encounters come to exert a tidal pull. Set in the swinging sixties and each decade since, Cocktail reveals the schism between the lives we build up around us and our deepest hidden selves.

About the author


  • Long-listed, Carol Shields Prize for Fiction
  • Winner, New Brunswick Mrs. Dunster’s Award for Fiction
  • Winner, Danuta Gleed Literary Award

Contributor Notes

Lisa Alward’s short fiction has appeared in The Journey Prize and twice in Best Canadian Stories. She has won the Fiddlehead Prize as well as the Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award, has been a finalist for The Malahat Review’s Open Season Award, an honourable mention in the Peter Hinchcliffe Award, and been featured on numerous other long lists, including for the CBC Story Prize and Prism International’s Jacob Zilber Prize (three times). She was born and grew up in Halifax and completed an English degree at the University of Toronto and an MA at Queen Mary College in London, England. In the eighties and early nineties, she worked in book publishing in Toronto, before moving with her young family to Vancouver and ultimately to Fredericton, New Brunswick, where at fifty she began to write stories. Cocktail (Biblioasis), which received a starred review in Kirkus Reviews, is her debut collection.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Cocktail

"Lisa Alward’s Cocktail is skillful in its ability to capture the nuance and details of daily life in a way that is striking and deeply felt. With beautiful, precise descriptions and expert pacing, she effortlessly reveals tensions that feel both classic and utterly her own. Exploring the emotional and sexual tensions of couples and families in the Sixties and Seventies, these narratives bring the reader to the core of those unspoken moments, leaving us unsettled. The clarity of sound in Lisa Alward's sentences—word after word after word—makes it impossible to turn your ear away. This is a quiet voice that booms."
—Danuta Gleed Literary Award Jury Citation

"With a coolly dispassionate voice, Alward views the small horrors of domesticity . . . and turns them into stories whose implications reverberate far beyond the walls of any home."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A Canadian writer to watch."
—Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star

"Throughout Lisa Alward’s debut story collection, deceptively unassuming items . . . prompt a diverse cast of characters to reflect on events that have changed their lives . . . Alward’s sure-footed writing ably steers readers through stories about injuries, marriages, new parenthood, and other watershed moments."
—Literary Review of Canada

"This collection of twelve pristine short stories might best be described as small snapshots of lives shadowed by disquietude. The writing is crisp, accomplished and assured, and the characters are vividly and sympathetically drawn, as they experience the emotional convolutions of individuals struggling between that which they believe to be right and that which they desire."
—Miramichi Reader

"Lisa Alward has succeeded in producing a collection that is completely enjoyable"
—Winnipeg Free Press

"Alward’s stories teem with vividly honest portraits of human relationships, and her writerly insight lies in clearly seeing our blind spots."
—The Fiddlehead

"Cocktail, her first book, is a knockout collection of short stories that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. The stories are told with a wise attention to craft and the human condition that upends expectations, holding a mirror to the darkness, despair and desire that live in every person."
—The Tyee

"Lisa Alward’s Cocktail is a memorable collection for its characters, settings, and artistic prowess. From the macro aspects of storytelling like character and setting development to the micro levels of writing poignant lines to capture allegories in unexpected ways, Alward shows off her talent at every turn."
—FreeFall Magazine

"Fireflies glow brightly then extinguish themselves, leaving only the ghost of a trace to mark their passage. The stories in Alward’s collection are similarly evanescent, but their potency lies in their precise style and compactness. This is a collection to savour."
—Steven Beattie, That Shakespearean Rag

"These are stories about houses and the secrets they hold, about fractured families and the limits of family life—the end of childhood, a marriage unravelled."
—Pickle Me This

"Comprised of exceptional works of literary and emotional precision, Cocktail showcases author Lisa Alward's genuine and imaginative flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that is as engaging as it is memorable."
—Midwest Book Review

"Alward sets her protagonists down at personal crossroads so astutely observed that it is impossible to look away. We watch with hope, amusement, and dismay, but also—and this is her uncanny power as a storyteller—with the disquieting sense that we, too, have been caught in the mirror."
—Anne Marie Todkill, author of Orion Sweeping

"The stories in Lisa Alward's Cocktail are small wonderments, marked by their intense focus on the telling interplay between wives and husbands, children and parents, and intimate strangers that recalls the early work of Alice Munro."
—Craig Davidson, author of The Saturday Night Ghost Club

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