Hello all! While the merry month of May is special for Mother’s Day and the Victoria Day weekend, it also boasts a vibrant selection of new titles from every book genre. So, whether you’re on the lookout for a literary highlight for mom or for something intriguing to pack with you for the upcoming long weekend, you’re sure to find something that fits the bill at your local Book City.
The Female Persuasion
By Meg Wolitzer
Released last month, Wolitzer’s follow-up to her New York Times bestseller The Interestings is a symphonic, multi-layered excursion through the complexity of the female experience that mines the author’s considerable insights into gender, power, ambition and the weight of romantic ideals. Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman in love with her boyfriend Corey when she meets Faith Frank, an iconic feminist leader. When Faith offers her an opportunity for a larger role within the movement, Greer’s views of herself and her ambitions take on a sense of expansive potential she hadn’t previously considered. The shifting sands of power, influence, ego, identity, loyalty, womanhood and ambition all play their role in determining where this heady journey ultimately leads.
By Ellen Keith
Amsterdam 1943 and Buenos Aires 1977 are woven together in this intriguing study of how people cope and survive oppressive regimes. The different forms of resistance deployed by Marijke de Graaff, SS Officer Karl Muller and Luciano Wagner during these dark periods in the Nazi occupied Netherlands and Argentina during the Dirty War illuminate how ordinary people persevere in the face of extraordinary brutality. See also The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck for an exceptional fictional study that traces the lives of the women and children who survived the plot to assassinate Hitler during the late stages of WWII.
By Liz Harmer
This recently published post-apocalyptic saga has a time travel element that explores the overwhelming lure of technology when it feeds upon nostalgia and desire. The world’s largest tech company PINA (think of a conglomerate of Apple, Huawei and Google) has come up with a little “Port” device that allows one to travel through time – back to the perceived “golden age” of one’s youth, some other fabled past ,or even into the far future. In the early days of Port, it becomes quite a popular phenomenon with a significant portion of the population being drawn to its siren song of boundless adventure. A certain disturbing glitch with this device becomes apparent after a time and a much reduced population struggles to survive when the grid goes down for the count. See what’s in store for the much reduced human population when they attempt to carry on.
By Susanna Kearsley
The author, a former museum curator, has proven herself a gifted historical fiction and suspense writer with her previous works – Mariana, Winter Sea and Every Secret Thing amongst others. This time round she delves into both the past and present as she reveals the life and times of Lydia Wilde, an American woman who becomes a reluctant housekeeper to captured French officers billeted at her Long Island home in 1759. The doomed love affair between Lydia and one of the French officers becomes a local legend that lives into the present as the new curator of the Wilde House Museum discovers long held secrets of the story behind this legendary romance.
By Beverley McLachlin
With Full Disclosure, Beverley McLachlin, the first woman Chief Justice of Canada, tries her hand at the legal thriller. Jilly Truitt is a young defense attorney trying to establish her career when she faces off against her former mentor, a formidable crown prosecutor. Her client is an affluent and secretive businessman who is accused of his wife’s murder. Even though her friends attempt to warn her off taking this hazardous case, Truitt is determined to take it on and raise her profile. As she builds her defense she faces a series of daunting impediments that threaten to torpedo the entire case…until a hard won revelation turns everything – including her own life – upside down.
By Arundhati Roy
From the author of The Man Booker Prize winning God of Small Things comes a multi-voiced epic that dives deep down into the resilient core of the human spirit. Roy’s characters come from places that challenge their abilities to cope, but her skill as a storyteller intimately renders their battles to find love and belonging in sharp vivid moments that capture a wide breadth of human experience. Roy delivers a classic narrative of transcendent transformation that challenges our notions of what it takes to survive in harrowing conditions. A perfect choice for fans of Rohinton Mistry, Anosh Irani and Khaled Hosseini.
By John Le Carré
Espionage fans are in for a real treat as Le Carré returns with his first Smiley novel in 25 years. As the Cold War morphs into the brave new world of cyber-espionage and fake news, Peter Guillam, former colleague and confidante of George Smiley, is retired in remote Brittany. He’s surprised to be summoned to the Secret Service’s massive new installation where he is asked to explain his role in past covert operations. He quickly learns he’s the subject of a witch-hunt aiming to make him personally responsible for certain expedient decisions made long ago. Told with Le Carré’s signature tension-suffused dark humour and trenchant moral ambivalence, this new work will be a must read for old fans…and will have new ones heading for his backlist.
By Louise Penny
This is the 13th installment of the Superintendent Gamache series. Now that he’s been promoted to Chief Superintendent, Gamache’s expanded responsibilities take on a crushing weight. Sins of omission come home to roost when a murder occurs right under his nose in his very own home of Three Pines. He realizes too late his failure to act has a range of dire implications. Not least of which is – even if he is able to bring the killer to justice, how is he going to deal with his own conscience?
By David Chariandy
Chariandy first came to readers’ attention with the publication of his debut novel – the multi-award nominated Soucouyant. This second novel won the 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and tells the tale of two brothers, the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, who grow up in a Scarborough housing complex in the early 1990s. Their lives are fully rendered in an environment of casual racism, fear from their neighbours and the low expectations placed upon them by their educational system. Their hopes and dreams are linked to their love of music and the relationships they forge with others who are also focused on a bright future outside these pernicious& undermining circumstances. Then a senseless act of violence upends their world.
By Rachel Kushner
Nominated for National Book Awards for two of her previous novels (Telex From Cuba and Flamethrowers), Rachel Kushner is back with this mesmerizing layer of narratives focusing on the life of Romy Hall, a young woman facing two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional facility in California’s Central Valley, circa 2003. Like other women facing institutional time, she has to deal with being cut-off from her outside life; in her case, the vibrant San Francisco of her youth and her young son Jackson. Hall’s new reality has her fending for herself in an environment where thousands of women are doing the same. This brings absurdity, sporadic violence, humour, posturing and pageantry – all of which are captured with Kushner’s trademark observational genius that has entranced her considerable readership.
By Haruki Murakami
Murakami follows up his novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage with a new collection of 7 short tales. The common theme is the lives of men who for one reason or another find themselves alone. While Irina Dunn and Gloria Steinem‘s feminist rallying cry “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” could be a counterpoint to this predicament, suffice to say that Murakami has a field day in exploring various scenarios where men find themselves isolated and at weirdly loose ends. Of course it’s Murakami we’re talking about here, so it shouldn’t come as a total shock that vanishing cats, smoky bars, twisted hearts, mysterious women, baseball and The Beatles all find themselves in the mix.
By Jess Kidd
This young Irish novelist burst upon the literary scene last year with Himself, her dark and hilarious portrayal of a small Irish village and the unsolved murder that haunts it. Kidd’s follow up explores the uneasy alliance between Maud, a sunny dispositioned, no-nonsense caretaker, and her new charge, the irascible Mr. Flood, hoarder extraordinaire. Flood is destined to be turfed out of his decrepit family home and exiled to an old-age residence by his overbearing son unless he can get his house and belongings in order. This last ditch attempt to hold onto what’s near and dear has both Maud and Mr. Flood facing their inner demons. If you read Plum Johnson’s memoir They Left Us Everything, you may enjoy this fictional variant on a similar theme.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
By Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward has now won two National Book Awards: one in 2011 for Salvage the Bones and one in 2017 for her latest now out in trade paperback this month. Jojo is 13 years old; his mother, Leonie, is black and his father, Michael, is white. When Leonie takes Jojo and his toddler sister on a road trip across rural Mississippi to pick up Michael from prison, the weight of the south’s racialized history is revealed in all its brutality. Ward depicts three generations of the same family here and her distinctively lyrical prose vividly renders a legacy of violence, love and a struggle to belong.
By Michael Ondaatje
It’s been seven long years since the last Michael Ondaatje novel, but the wait for a new one is finally over! The tension between the seemingly transparent and knowable present with the mysterious physics of memory is the template upon which Ondaatje builds this latest narrative sleight of hand. Two teenagers, Rachel and Nathaniel, are left in London after WWII when their parents move to Singapore. Their caretaker, who goes only by the moniker “The Moth”, is someone they assume is a friend of the family. The Moth and his associates seem somewhat shady but Rachel and Nathaniel soon realize they have their best interests at heart. When the teenagers’ mother returns without their father many months later, the family picks up where it left off. It’s only years later that Rachel and Nathaniel are slowly able to piece together the beguiling truths of this most curious time.
By Sarah Selecky
Sarah Selecky’s very funny short story collection, This Cake is for the Party, was a finalist for the Giller prize. Here she tackles her first novel, exploring the joys and pitfalls of female friendship. Lilian Quick has always admired her uber-confident and successful cousin Florence. After being out of touch for many years due to a family rift, Lilian makes the first move and contacts her cousin. Florence is now a huge internet sensation using the name Eleven Novak to front her brand of feminine empowerment. Florence/Eleven comes to town as part of her sales tour and offers Lilian a job at the “Temple”, her Manhattan office. Lilian enrols in the Temple’s “Ascendancy” program to further her self-actualization and marketing potential. See what happens when Lilian and Florence/Eleven continue on their new improved path.
By Sarah Winman
Shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Novel Award in the UK, Sarah Winman’s tale revolves around the relationship between two boys and how their lives diverge. Ellis and Michael are 12 year-old boys who cycle all over Oxford while teaching themselves how to swim. They each discover their love of poetry while dealing with violent fathers. When their friendship suddenly turns intimate, the story jumps a decade ahead – Ellis has married Annie and Michael has disappeared. The question of what happened during the intervening years is explored in deft prose that mines the complicated human heart and how it handles friendship and loss.
By Elizabeth Renzetti
Subtitled A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls, this recent collection of essays from veteran arts reporter and journalist Elizabeth Renzetti zeroes in on the current state of feminism from a perspective that’s as smart and funny as it is timely. From examining the real reasons why there are so few women politicians to why public spaces are still so inhospitable to women and why a marriage ceremony is Satan’s playground, Renzetti provides a sharp perspective on where feminism is now and where it has to go.
By Sherman Alexie
From the author of the National Book Award-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, this stunning memoir about Alexie’s turbulent relationship with his mother sheds light on how the writing process clarifies complicated emotions. Sherman Alexie’s mom, Lilian, was an alcoholic who survived and hid a violent past. While she was capable of showing great concern for strangers, she was unable to show affection for her own children – a predicament that Alexie and his siblings found both confusing and infuriating. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her that he was able to achieve any success. These elements are woven into a portrait of a complicated family that revolved around a strong, intelligent woman struggling with a fraught past and uncertain future.
By Roxane Gay ed.
Edited and with an introduction by Roxane Gay, this collection of first person essays addresses rape culture in a candid and brutally honest fashion. A mixture of original and previously published pieces by both well established and new writers, performers and social critics, this provocative collection reflects our current social environment. It presents strong voices that challenge the notions that today’s climate of harassment is “not that bad” and that the days of quietly tolerating sexual abuse & intimidation is over.
By Sheila Heti
For some, the decision to have children is relatively straightforward; for others, it’s not so much. With the same originality, wit and wisdom found in How Should a Person Be?, Sheila Heti works the line between fiction and essay to explore the decision to procreate given all its attendant societal and familial pressures. The narrator, surrounded by peers who are energetically having or planning families, is just as energetically considering not to. The struggle to make a moral and meaningful choice is played out over time in the relationships she has with her partner, her body, her family, friends, mysticism and – that old rascal – chance. In this journey to the heart of motherhood, questions about womanhood, parenthood, and how (and, ultimately, for whom) to live are radically and openly discussed. See also- And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready/Meaghan O’Connell for another insightful perspective on motherhood.
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Now in trade paperback, this is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s expansion of the ideas on gender equality, inclusiveness and respect she presented in We Should All Be Feminists. The idea for this follow-up came about quite by accident: a childhood friend contacted her asking advice on how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. While Adichie has written and lectured on feminism, this request made her reframe her thoughts into a more practical hands-on approach. She suggests specific ways to empower our daughters to become strong, independent women and to raise both daughters and sons to define themselves beyond culturally rigid gender roles. In the process she presents very timely and practical tools for creating a just society from the ground up.
By Rachel Giese
As basic first steps towards gender equality are slowly being adopted in some areas of society, traditional restrictive feminine stereotypes are being challenged. However, men – and boys in particular – continue to be defined by, and expected to conform to, two-dimensional masculine gender roles. The highly competitive, non-emotional tough guy is still the unspoken preferred template of manliness. Cultural indoctrination into entrenched masculine norms can lead to boys having stunted emotional lives, being humiliated by failure, relying on threats and physical violence to solve conflict and being less positive and resilient in the face of life’s setbacks. Liberating boys from these unhealthy behavioural codes is essential to achieve meaningful gender equality. Giese has marshalled extensive research and interviews with educators, activists, psychologists, sociologists and young men (as well as her own experience raising her son) to examine the myths of masculinity and the challenges facing boys. Her research makes it clear that only by understanding the dynamics underlying the evolution of empathy and learning to respect inherent differences can we make any real progress towards true gender equality.
By Robert Wright
The author of The Moral Animal and the creator of the popular online course Buddhism and Modern Psychology presents a well-grounded and approachable exposition of how understanding Buddhist principles enhances moral clarity and leads to enduring happiness. While this sounds like a tall order, Wright’s understanding of how evolution has taught our brain to dwell in delusion underlines these effective principles of meditation that recalibrate our brain to see the world more clearly. Simply put, it does this by breaking the dominant cycle of our perceptions. This guided tour through the philosophy and psychology of meditation by an engagingly sceptical and open enquirer is a great introduction to a practice that has the potential to save us from ourselves at a time when we sorely need it.
This powerful family memoir and cultural critique of the decline in the fortunes of white working class Americans over the past half-century was a bestseller in both the US and Canada when it was released in hardcover in 2016. Vance’s family’s story offers a clear view of the dire disillusionment of a large segment of the American white working class. While his family’s struggle to climb the social ladder helped Vance graduate from Yale Law School, the demands of middle-class life took their toll on a culture steeped in poverty, deprivation, abuse, alcoholism and trauma. The ensuing realities of Rust Belt job loss and community disintegration dampened the American Dream of upward mobility for many. Working class whites perceived the advancement of other segments of society as occurring at their expense and blamed those they defined as establishment elites. This sentiment may help to explain the results of the 2016 American election and may therefore seem remote to us Torontonians, but one has only to listen to Doug Ford’s populist speeches to realize how loudly this perception resonates and how remarkably susceptible it is to narrow over-simplified short-term solutions to complex socio-economic issues.
By Terry and Eric Fan
From the talented brothers who brought us The Night Gardener comes a beautiful revelatory tale about the magical place where the ocean meets the sky. Finn lives by the sea and his grandfather once told him about a special place where whales and jellyfish soar and castles majestically float. Now that Finn’s grandfather is gone he’s determined to find this place. He just has to build his boat and his fantastic journey begins. What he finds is a secret he didn’t know he was looking for. If you like this, look for other amazing picture books the Fan brothers have collaborated on: The Darkest Dark with Chris Hadfield and The Antlered Ship with Dashka Slater.
By Oliver Jeffers
What better way to introduce the very young to the joys of reading than by having members of the alphabet play starring roles? Now in paperback, these stories let Jeffers’ uniquely childlike and enchanting style work their magic in spelling out how the alphabet works. His picture books always raise a question: who has more fun reading them – the kids or the adults…?
By Hope Larson
This middle-grade novel will help start off your kids’ summer reading fun. 13 year old Bina and her best friend Austin have to go their separate ways this summer when Austin goes off to soccer camp for a month. Austin has been acting strangely of late but Bina gets bored on her own. Luckily, Austin’s older sister shares her love of music and they start hanging out together. When Austin returns for the rest of the summer, he’s acting even weirder…so is their friendship ever going to get back on track?
By Danielle Younge-Ullman
Now in paperback, this powerful young adult novel was a finalist for the 2017 Governor General’s Award. When Ingrid was younger she and her opera star mother travelled all over Europe and had a truly remarkable time. Now she’s struggling on a summer wilderness survival trek with other at-risk teens. She remembers when her mother’s singing career ended and they had to settle for a much simpler lifestyle. Ingrid didn’t want the music and the magic to end. Now all she can do is try and figure out what happened to her and her mother.