A guide to the latest and best from Canada's independent publishers.
By Corinna Chong (NeWest Press, 259 pages, $19.95)
The story of a mother running out on her family is nothing new in CanLit, nor are portraits of a zany and off-kilter families. But Corinna Chong's treatment of these archetypes has produced something as vibrant as it is original. In Belinda's Rings, Chong marries the story of an impulsive mother who flees her family to study crop circles to the coming-of-age story of her lively daughter, Grace, who is obsessed with marine biology. These esoteric interests serve up richly rendered characters, and build the story's authenticity and off-kilter edge. Wackiness aside, the story succeeds in capturing family tensions, and the bonds that trump those tensions. The cast and folly in Belinda's Rings is a great recipe for an offbeat summer read.
By Ailsa Kay (Goose Lane, 256 pages, $19.95)
Ailsa Kay's engrossing debut novel takes readers on a gritty tour of Budapest's seedy underbelly, where murder, assault, shady police and a scandalous affair are mere parts of a larger, historically rich plot. Buried deep beneath the city, in Budapest's fabled tunnels, lie the secrets of a city to which all of the novel's main characters are unknowingly tied. This is not another quiet Canadian novel set in a far away country. It's an ambitious, multi-faceted plot, and a fast-paced ride through the dark side of Hungary that will leave you hungry for more of Kay's work.
Eat Your Heart Out
By Katie Boland (Brindle & Glass, 232 pages, $19.95)
Actress-turned-writer Katie Boland is a notable new voice in Canadian fiction. Eat Your Heart Out is a vibrant collection, populated by well-drawn characters who are broken but bursting with life. Largely, it's a book of chance encounters and reunions that tackles the ways people need, help and hurt each other, intentionally and unintentionally. Reminiscent of Hemingway's sharp minimalism, paired with Kerouac's verve, Eat Your Heart Out tackles being alive in the here and now, with sterling writing and stellar voices. Boland is a bold new old-soul in CanLit.
By Claire Wilkshire (Breakwater Books, 320 pages, $19.95)
Many will recognize Wilkshire's name as a member of Newfoundland's famed Burning Rock fiction group. Of her Burning Rock kin, Claire is most reminiscent of witty wordsmith Jessica Grant. This book's stand-out strength is Wilkshire's knack for laugh-out-loud moments that endear you to Maxine, the protagonist. Maxine has been jolted by the sudden death of her best friend and decides to write a novel (excerpts of which become part of the book). But she can't get much writing done on account of her needy, clingy neighbour. This novel is a serious contender for the funniest fiction release of spring 2013. Alongside the humour is a clean, crisp diction, and bountiful humanity.