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CANADIAN FICTION

THE ALMOST ARCHER SISTERS

By Lisa Gabriele, Doubleday Canada, 248 pages, $14

While her older sister, Beth, is living the dream in Manhattan, Peachy is sorting socks in a Belle River laundromat and looking after two little boys. Until the day she catches her husband having sex with Beth. Peachy decides to leave her sister in charge, and takes off for a weekend of shopping and dining in New York, including a blind date with the man Beth loves. Smart and funny.

Joan Thomas

THE DISAPPEARED

By Kim Echlin, Hamish Hamilton Canada, 235 pages, $29

In 1979 Montreal, 16-year-old Anne Greaves falls in love with a Cambodian musician named Serey. Ten years later, she travels to Cambodia during a period of unrest, trying to track down her former lover. When she does find him, the reunion is not what she expects - nor is Cambodia itself. The book builds toward a complex expression of annihilating loss and eternal love that is inevitable and beyond the calculations of reason.

Charles Foran

FALL

By Colin McAdam

Hamish Hamilton Canada, 368 pages, $32

Colin McAdam's second novel, Fall, is set at a tony Ottawa boarding school 12 years in the past, and the subject matter conjures up ghosts of other novels with similar, rarefied settings and, to a lesser extent, plots. There's a smattering of Lord of the Flies, more than a touch of A Separate Peace and an undercurrent of Catcher in the Rye, though McAdam writes for adults, not youth.

William Kowalski

COME, THOU TORTOISE

By Jessica Grant, Knopf Canada, 412 pages, $29.95

Audrey Flowers, the main character of this novel, is brilliant. She's hilarious. I could read about her all day. The same goes for the tortoise. Oh, and the talking fruit fly. Come, Thou Tortoise is a sprawling but well-structured comic novel with many serious messages and much marvellous insight. It's extraordinary, original and simultaneously both deep and lightheartedly charming.

Diane Baker Mason

THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING

By Paulette Jiles, HarperCollins, 350 pages, $22.95

The great horsemen of the Texas plains, the Comanche and the Kiowa, are inscrutable to the whites who slowly begin to encroach on their territory around the time of the Civil War. With the war grinding to a close, the bureaucrats of Washington and Philadelphia decide that the time has come to herd the western Indians onto reservations. But what if these people do not wish be limited to a reservation?

Aritha van Herk

THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD

By Terry Griggs, Biblioasis, 224 pages, $19.95

Chockablock with winks and digs at the literary set, Thought You Were Dead is a gleeful Russian doll of novel. One trips along, revelling in its wordplay, its wit, its puns and allusions, and its jokes. Then there are the characters, the inventors, writers, realtors and reputation-management specialists who people the antic "sleepy town" of Farclas, Ont. The story is equal parts comic murder mystery, hero's journey and layered intellectual puzzle, and it satisfies on every level.

Sally Cooper

THE FACTORY VOICE

By Jeanette Lynes, Coteau, 285 pages, $21

Jeanette Lynes tells a rollicking good tale that shows regular ol' Canadians making the best of the worst of times. It's a fictional slice of Canadian history about a boxcar-manufacturing plant in Northern Ontario that won one of the biggest airplane commissions of the Second World War, the engineering pioneer who ran it, and the motley cast of players who were drawn there for guaranteed employment and shelter.

Carla Lucchetta

THE INCIDENT REPORT

By Martha Baillie, Pedlar Press, 195 pages, $21

The Incident Report is maddening. Inter-textual head nods run a dizzying gamut from Erik Satie to Giuseppe Verdi, the Brothers Grimm to Thomas Bernhard, Marc Chagall to Mark Rothko, Ray Bradbury to A. A. Milne. Baillie is a subtle portraitist and in Miriam Gordon creates an engaging heroine, with rich psychological nuance. Baillie's unsettling dreamscape seems to speak to a host of unsaid violations. But all is not darkness. The Incident Report is also very funny.

Karen Luscombe

FEBRUARY

By Lisa Moore, Anansi, 308 pages, $29.95

February is the account of how one Newfoundland family carries on after the Ocean Ranger disaster, the sinking of the offshore oil rig on Valentine's Day, 1982, that killed all 84 men aboard, including the fictional Cal O'Mara. Cal leaves behind his wife, Helen, and four children. How Helen manages on her own, and doesn't, and the effect the loss of his father has on John, Cal and Helen's firstborn, amounts to a meditation on grief.

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