This summer will certainly be one to remember – probably for all the wrong reasons. There will be no cross-country road trips, no beach vacations, no jaunts to Europe or lazy bike rides through wine country. But you can still get away over the next couple of months, if only in the pages of a book.
All the friendship, adventure and mystery you need to fill your summer days is stuffed between these pages, from edge-of-your-seat page-turners to stories set in vacation-worthy locales.
Indians on Vacation
Thomas King (HarperCollins, August)
“Why would we want to travel, when we can stay home?” asks Bird at the beginning of this sly, witty novel from the author of The Inconvenient Indian and The Truth About Stories. For readers in pandemic times staring down a summer of not too much, that question might become: “Where might we armchair travel, when we are told to stay home?”
The answer? On a jaunt through Europe’s famous capitals with Bird and Mimi. Their mission, inspired by a handful of postcards sent nearly 100 years earlier by Mimi’s Uncle Leroy, turns up a complicated personal and political history.
Every Step She Takes
K.L. Armstrong (Doubleday, June)
After losing herself in a new life in a new city, a woman comes home one day to discover her door unlocked and her apartment untouched but for a package addressed to a name she hasn’t used in years. Explore Rome in this thriller from the author of Wherever She Goes.
All I Ask
Eva Crocker (House of Anansi, August)
Billed as a defining novel of a generation, this story begins with a pounding at the door and police confiscating a woman’s phone and computer. She turns to her friends to try to unravel what happened and regain the privacy and freedom she feels has been taken.
The Only Good Indians
Stephen Graham Jones (Gallery/Saga Press, July)
In this buzzy summer novel that blends horror, narrative and social commentary, four American Indian men –childhood friends – are tracked by an entity bent on revenge.
A Woman Alone
Nina Laurin (Grand Central Publishing, June)
After a home invasion shattered her previous life, a woman is finally back on track with her perfect family and high-security home. Then she starts to feel spied on in her house, and nobody believes her.
Death in Her Hands
Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press, June)
Playing with elements of crime fiction and horror, the latest from the author of My Year of Rest and Relaxation is centred around an alluring unreliable narrator: a 72-year-old widow who finds a note about a dead body and becomes obsessed.
Morgan Murray (Breakwater Books, July)
In late 2008, as the world’s economy crumbles, Milton Ontario leaves his parents’ Saskatchewan basement and heads to the bright lights of Montreal. Billed as a quest novel for the 21st century, this coming-of-age rom-com is about finding purpose, art, money, crime … and sleeping in.
The Goliath Run
Brad Smith (At Bay Press, May)
In the aftermath of a school shooting, a right-wing TV talking head with flagging ratings finds fuel for his viewership and is buoyed to run for Congress. Incensed, a woman decides to take action by kidnapping the man’s 10-year-old daughter.
Katie Tallo (HarperCollins, June)
In this page-turning debut, a young woman, Gus, returns to her hometown and starts to follow the clues that link the death of her mother – a disgraced police officer – with her mom’s final cold case.
Heidi Wicks (Breakwater Books, June)
Following two women’s friendship from their teenage years into their 30s, this debut explores the relationships we have with our lifelong friends and with our pasts. Bonus: The beachy cover will make you feel you’re already on vacation.
Back in time
Let high-seas adventure, complicated 20th-century lives, and kindness amid a pandemic transport you back in time this summer.
The Pull of the Stars
Emma Donoghue (HarperCollins, July)
Pandemic fiction and historical fiction find a home together in this eerily well-timed novel from the author of Room and The Wonder. In 1918, Ireland is ravaged by the Great Flu and the Great War, and over three days in a Dublin maternity ward, female caregivers and quarantined mothers change each other’s lives in unexpected ways as they bring new life and hope into the world. Originally scheduled for spring 2021, this prescient story was bumped up in a flurry of work-from-home editorial and promotional activity after Donoghue delivered the manuscript in March.
Rabbit Foot Bill
Helen Humphreys (HarperCollins, August)
Based on a true story, this page-turner reunites a newly graduated doctor of psychiatry with a homeless man he had befriended, and who he witnessed commit a sudden, violent act, in Saskatchewan in 1947. The doctor becomes fixated on finding out what really happened all those years before.
The Braver Thing
Clifford Jackman (Random House Canada, August)
Swashbuckling adventure ahoy! Treasure Island meets Lord of the Flies in this seafaring story of pirates, plundered loot and mutiny that is both a high-stakes story of piracy’s golden age and a political allegory for our times.
Kate Pullinger (Doubleday, August)
In her 10th novel, Pullinger, a winner of the Governor-General’s Literary Award, retraces the life of a homeless man through the Great Depression, the Second World War and the root of a trauma that haunts and shapes him.
The Woman before Wallis: A Novel of Windsors, Vanderbilts and Royal Scandal
Bryn Turnbull (MIRA, July)
For fans of Jennifer Robson’s The Gown and celebrity gossip in general, this journey back to 1920s New York tells the lesser-known story of Thelma Morgan Furness who, while herself a married woman, captured the heart of Edward, Prince of Wales, before divorcee Wallis Simpson.
David Berry (Coach House Books, July)
In non-fiction, cultural critic Berry examines the potent force of our infatuation with the recent past: how our yearning for something to which we can never return shapes our memories of the past and augments our politics and media consumption.
These compelling novels – explorations of mental illness, memory, infidelity and becoming (literally) a ghost in your own home – tackle the many complications of family ties.
Good Mothers Don’t
Laura Best (Nimbus Publishing, June)
In her first novel for adults, Best explores the ripple effects of a woman’s mental illness. In 1960s Nova Scotia, Elizabeth seems to have a nice life – a husband who takes care of her, two healthy children, a farm – but her mind is unravelling and, eventually, she is taken away. Unfolding in two time periods – 1960 and 1975 – and mostly through the alternating perspectives of mother and daughter, Good Mothers Don’t is the story of a woman in crisis and her quest, 15 years later, to apologize to her children and fill in the blanks of her mind.
The Butterfly Lampshade
Aimee Bender (Doubleday, July)
A woman tries to make sense of three incidents from her childhood that happened after her mother was taken away to a mental hospital. The first novel in a decade by the author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a story about childhood perception and memory, and a fractured bond between mother and child.
A Family Affair
Nadine Bismuth (House of Anansi, August)
In this story of messy relationships and 21st-century life, translated from French by Russell Smith, a married woman who is cheated on decides to cheat herself, and encounters a world filled with unrequited yearning.
The Ghost in the House
Sara O’Leary (Doubleday, July)
Fay has a seemingly perfect life. Except she also now seems to be haunting her own home, replaced by a new woman who sleeps in her husband’s bed. This darkly comic ghost story explores the domestic and the existential in an examination of life.
All the world’s a stage
Love, loss and longing are bound up with art in these three highly anticipated novels.
Hamnet & Judith
Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf Canada, July)
The author of one of the most celebrated plays ever written is never mentioned by name in this novel about a 16th-century family’s grief. Instead, O’Farrell (I Am, I Am, I Am) hands the leading roles to history’s bit players, and imagines the tale of a twin lost to bubonic plague and the mother and sibling who grieve him. A story of a marriage and sibling connection, this Shakespearean tragedy (published in Britain as simply Hamnet), is on the shortlist for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.
A Russian Sister
Caroline Adderson (Patrick Crean Editions, August)
Art, sisterhood and women as prey for male needs and inspiration encircle this tragi-comedy set in 19th-century Russia about the woman immortalized as Nina in Chekov’s The Seagull and the webs of unrequited love, jealousy and scandal that characterized her relationship with the author.
Raven Leilani (Bond Street Books, August)
In this internationally anticipated debut, Edie, a Black woman stumbling through her 20s in New York, falls into art and her lover’s open marriage. This story about believing in your talent and understanding your heart is “exacting, hilarious, and deadly,” Zadie Smith says.
Fame and misfortune
Live vicariously through the fame and antics of others in four novels and one big-buzz memoir.
The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life
Alex Trebek (Simon & Schuster, July)
Answer: It’s bound to be a bestseller. Question: What is the memoir of Alex Trebek?
After 36 seasons on Jeopardy!, the beloved game-show host seems like a family member to many. So when, last year, he revealed he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the outpouring of affection was immense.
Moved by this show of support, Trebek felt compelled to finally share his story, which he does here with personal anecdotes on everything from philanthropy and parenthood to education and success. Featuring dozens of never-before-seen photos, the book takes its structural cue from Jeopardy!, with each chapter titled as the answer to a question.
Memoirs and Misinformation
Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon (Random House Canada, July)
In this semi-autobiographical novel, movie star Carrey and novelist Vachon have fashioned a tale of Hollywood, celebrity, “addiction to relevance,” Canada and … some other stuff. The fictional Jim Carrey is offered an Oscar-worthy role in a new, boundary-pushing vehicle by Charlie Kaufman. The real Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) also has a debut novel out this summer: Antkind (Random House, July).
The Margot Affair
Sanaë Lemoine (Hogarth Press, June)
The seams between public and private lives unravel in this debut as a young woman, the daughter of a well-known actor and – secretly – a prominent, married politician with presidential ambitions, decides to bring down her parents’ house of cards.
David Mitchell (Knopf Canada, July)
From the author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, this is the story of riots, revolutions and a band – Utopia Avenue – that emerges from London’s psychedelic scene in the late sixties to blaze briefly within an age that captured it all.
In someone else’s shoes
Put your feet up with a good book and walk a mile in another’s shoes with these biographies and memoirs about life, living and passing experience on to the generations to come.
This Is Not the End of Me: Lessons on Living from a Dying Man
Dakshana Bascaramurty (McClelland & Stewart, August)
You will need Kleenex for this story – told by Globe and Mail reporter Bascaramurty – of a young man’s resolve, after a terminal cancer diagnosis, to prepare his wife and young son for life without him. Cancer shocks Layton Reid out of a globe-trotting bachelor life and back home to Halifax to work as a wedding photographer. Remission launches him into life as a husband and father-to-be. Then the cancer returns, Stage 4, when he is 33. For the remaining years of his life, Reid pursues a punishing alternative therapy and goes about preparing his young son for a world after he is gone.
This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart: A Memoir in Halves
Madhur Anand (Strange Light, June)
On one side of the line that divides this book about the Partition of India, immigration and generational storytelling, a country is split in two and a man and a woman are drawn together and move to Canada to raise a family. On the other, the daughter’s story reveals how the traumas experienced by one generation make their way to the next.
A History of My Brief Body
Billy-Ray Belcourt (Hamish Hamilton, August)
In his eye-opening and emotional debut memoirs, the youngest ever winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize (for This Wound Is a World) situates his personal experiences within seminal queer texts as he examines a legacy of colonial violence and the promise of a joyful future.
TIFF: A Life of Timothy Findley
Sherrill Grace (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, August)
Drawing on interviews, archival research and Findley’s private journals, the first full biography of the eminent Canadian writer explores the life, art and passions of the author of such canonical works as The Wars and Not Wanted on the Voyage.
Into the wild
Stuck at home for the summer? Travel the world’s forests, oceans and skies, or take a healing trip to your own backyard with these books about the wonder and power of nature.
The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent and Think
Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin Press, May)
Unlock a new way of seeing the world and of hearing the dawn chorus. In communication, conflict and culture, birds have more in common with us than you might think. For seasoned birders and curious newcomers alike, best-selling science and nature writer Ackerman delves into the fascinating behaviours of our feathered friends, from avoiding predators to inflight navigation, from finding food to finding a mate. Discussing birds from across the continents, including emu, vultures and robins, Ackerman marries scientific research with an endearing curiosity and wonder.
The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature
Sue Stuart-Smith (Scribner, July)
For everybody inclined to turn to their garden for its calm, restorative influence in stressful times, this work by a psychiatrist and avid gardener offers a consoling look at how flexing our green thumbs can benefit our health and well-being.
The Journeys of Trees: A Story About Forests, People, and the Future
Zach St. George (WW Norton, July)
Combining science reporting and travel writing, St. George criss-crosses the world to meet people on conservation’s front lines as he examines the changing migration of forests and its impact on our environmental future.
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