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The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, Picador USA, 230 pages, $18 Don't let the movie tie-in cover put you off this book. This novel (which deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize) is the story of three women in three different eras. What connects them is Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway. One is a contemporary Mrs. Dalloway, who, like the original, spends her day planning a party for a dying friend. Another is a woman trapped in a stifling marriage, whose chosen escape is to read the Woolf novel. The third is a fictional Woolf writing Mrs. Dalloway. Cunningham manages to pay homage to Woolf while creating a seamless, haunting story of his own. Heave, by Christy Ann Conlin, Anchor Canada, 322 pages, $19.95 This debut novel made it to our 100 notable books of the year. Conlin comes with great credentials -- her first short story was a prize-winner, she has a MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. Heave begins as the narrator, 21-year-old Serie Sullivan, is fleeing her own wedding, abandoning her groom at the altar and trying to understand what has brought her to this point in her her life. She also temporarily flees her home in rural Nova Scotia. Full of eccentric characters, this is a tender, edgily hilarious, stunning novel. Mavericks: The Incorrigible History of Alberta, by Aritha van Herk, Penguin Canada, 434 pages, $22
"Few people actually dare to come out and say, 'I am from Alberta.' The very admission is a social gaffe," begins van Herk's compelling history of her province. She may be right, but she may also have changed that gaffe to a gloat. Van Herk turns her novelist's eye to her macho province, from the Badlands to the Rockies. Her lively book offers not just a lesson in geology, but reminders of things Albertan those outside of the province (or too focused on Ralph Klein's politics) may have forgotten, such as the contributions of the Social Credit party. This is a fascinating story of a place told through the mavericks who built it.