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Giller Prize 2021

Presenting the complete longlist of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Which, we are pleased to see, includes three Winnipeg authors: Katherena Vermette, Casey Plett, and Miriam Toews the latter two of which were former McNally Robinson booksellers!

The shortlist will be announced October 5th, and then the winner announced on November 8th.


Fight Night

- by Miriam Toews

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

The beloved author of bestsellers Women Talking, All My Puny Sorrows, and A Complicated Kindness returns with a funny, smart, headlong rush of a novel full of wit, flawless writing, and a tribute to perseverance and love in an unusual family.

 
Fight Night is told in the unforgettable voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma takes on the role of teacher and gives her the task of writing to Swiv's absent father about life in the household during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In turn, Swiv gives Grandma an assignment: to write a letter to "Gord," her unborn grandchild (and Swiv's soon-to-be brother or sister). "You're a small thing," Grandma writes to Gord, "and you must learn to fight."

As Swiv records her thoughts and observations, Fight Night unspools the pain, love, laughter, and above all, will to live a good life across three generations of women in a close-knit family. But it is Swiv's exasperating, wise and irrepressible Grandma who is at the heart of this novel: someone who knows intimately what it costs to survive in this world, yet has found a way--painfully, joyously, ferociously--to love and fight to the end, on her own terms.

A Dream of a Woman

- by Casey Plett

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Award-winning novelist Casey Plett (Little Fish) returns with a poignant suite of stories that center transgender women. Casey Plett's 2018 novel Little Fish won a Lambda Literary Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and the Amazon First Novel Award. Her latest work, A Dream of a Woman, is her first book of short stories since her seminal 2014 collection A Safe Girl to Love. Centering transgender women seeking stable, adult lives, A Dream of a Woman finds quiet truths in prairie high-rises and New York warehouses, and in freezing Canadian winters and drizzly Oregon days. In "Hazel and Christopher," two childhood friends reconnect as adults after one of them has transitioned. In "Perfect Places," a woman grapples with undesirability as she navigates fetish play with a man. In "Couldn't Hear You Talk Anymore," the narrator reflects on her tumultuous life and what might have been as she recalls tender moments with another trans woman. An ethereal meditation on partnership, sex, addiction, romance, groundedness, and love, the stories in A Dream of a Woman buzz with quiet intensity and the intimate complexities of being human.

The Strangers

- by Katherena Vermette

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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
 
From the bestselling author of The Break comes a staggering intergenerational saga that explores how connected we are, even when we're no longer together--even when we're forced apart.


Cedar has nearly forgotten what her family looks like. Phoenix has nearly forgotten what freedom feels like. And Elsie has nearly given up hope. Nearly.

After time spent in foster homes, Cedar goes to live with her estranged father. Although she grapples with the pain of being separated from her mother, Elsie, and sister, Phoenix, she's hoping for a new chapter in her life, only to find herself once again in a strange house surrounded by strangers. From a youth detention centre, Phoenix gives birth to a baby she'll never get to raise and tries to forgive herself for all the harm she's caused (while wondering if she even should). Elsie, struggling with addiction and determined to turn her life around, is buoyed by the idea of being reunited with her daughters and strives to be someone they can depend on, unlike her own distant mother. These are the Strangers, each haunted in her own way. Between flickering moments of warmth and support, the women diverge and reconnect, fighting to survive in a fractured system that pretends to offer success but expects them to fail. Facing the distinct blade of racism from those they trusted most, they urge one another to move through the darkness, all the while wondering if they'll ever emerge safely on the other side. 

A breathtaking companion to her bestselling debut The Break, Vermette's The Strangers brings readers into the dynamic world of the Stranger family, the strength of their bond, the shared pain in their past, and the light that beckons from the horizon. This is a searing exploration of race, class, inherited trauma, and matrilineal bonds that--despite everything--refuse to be broken.

We, Jane

- by Aimee Wall

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A remarkable debut about intergenerational female relationships and resistance found in the unlikeliest of places, We, Jane explores the precarity of rural existence and the essential nature of abortion.?? Searching for meaning in her Montreal life, Marthe begins an intense friendship with an older woman, also from Newfoundland, who tells her a story about purpose, about a duty to fulfill. It's back home, and it goes by the name of Jane.?? Marthe travels back to a small town on the island with the older woman to continue the work of an underground movement in 60s Chicago: abortion services performed by women, always referred to as Jane. She commits to learning how to continue this legacy and protect such essential knowledge. But the nobility of her task and the reality of small-town, rural life compete, and personal fractures in the small movement become clear.?? We, Jane probes the importance of care work by women for women. It underscores the complexity of relationships in close circles, and beautifully captures the inevitable heartache of understanding home. From a celebrated translator of cutting-edge fiction, this is Red Clocks meets Women Talking; a quiet, compelling novel about the magnitude of women's friendships and connection--individually and across eras.

Em

- by Kim Thuy

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Kim Thúy approfondit son style si unique en proposant un roman d'une complexité et d'une maturité accrues. Plus audacieux que ses romans précédents, Em, qui en vietnamien désigne le petit frère ou la petite soeur dans une famille, ou encore une amoureuse, emprunte à l'histoire un canevas à la fois tragique et plein d'humanité.À travers les destins imbriqués d'une famille de personnages, le nouveau roman de Kim Thúy aborde autant l'opération Babylift, qui a évacué des milliers d'orphelins de Saigon en avril 1975, que l'industrie du vernis à ongles et des salons de manucure, en passant par les plantations de caoutchouc.

The Listeners

- by Jordan Tannahill

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A propulsive literary page-turner about a family torn apart by a mother's obsession with a sound that no one else can hear One night, while lying in bed next to her husband, Claire Devon suddenly hears a low hum. This innocuous sound, which no one else in the house can hear, has no obvious source or medical cause, but it begins to upset the balance of Claire's life. When she discovers that one of her students can also hear the hum, the two strike up an unlikely and intimate friendship. Finding themselves increasingly isolated from their families and colleagues, they fall in with a disparate group of people who also perceive the sound. What starts out as a kind of neighbourhood self-help group gradually transforms into something much more extreme, with far-reaching, devastating consequences. 
The Listeners is an electrifying novel that treads the thresholds of faith, conspiracy and mania. Compelling and exhilarating, it forces us to consider how strongly we hold on to what we perceive, and the way different views can tear a family apart.  

Swimming Back to Trout River

- by Linda Rui Feng

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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE

A lyrical novel set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution that follows a father's quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter's momentous birthday, which Garth Greenwell calls "one of the most beautiful debuts I've read in years."

How many times in life can we start over without losing ourselves?

In the summer of 1986 in a small Chinese village, ten-year-old Junie receives a momentous letter from her parents, who had left for America years ago: her father promises to return home and collect her by her twelfth birthday. But Junie's growing determination to stay put in the idyllic countryside with her beloved grandparents threatens to derail her family's shared future.

What Junie doesn't know is that her parents, Momo and Cassia, are newly estranged from one another in their adopted country, each holding close private tragedies and histories from the tumultuous years of their youth during China's Cultural Revolution. While Momo grapples anew with his deferred musical ambitions and dreams for Junie's future in America, Cassia finally begins to wrestle with a shocking act of brutality from years ago. In order for Momo to fulfill his promise, he must make one last desperate attempt to reunite all three members of the family before Junie's birthday--even if it means bringing painful family secrets to light.

"A beautifully written, poignant exploration of family, art, culture, immigration, and most of all, love," (Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee) Swimming Back to Trout River weaves together the stories of Junie, Momo, Cassia, and Dawn--a talented violinist from Momo's past--while depicting their heartbreak and resilience, tenderly revealing the hope, compromises, and abiding ingenuity that make up the lives of immigrants.

The Octopus Has Three Hearts

- by Rachel Rose

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The Octopus Has Three Hearts offers dispatches from the margins of human society. These are stories about damaged people who have committed, witnessed or survived terrible acts and who must make their way in an unforgiving world. From a goat farmer to a suburban adulterer, a violent child to a polyamorous marine biologist, Rose's diverse characters have little in common except a life-sustaining connection to the animal world. The octopus, dogs, pigs, chameleons, bats, parrots, rats and sugar gliders in their lives extend a measure of compassion and solace that their human communities lack. Rachel Rose's finely tuned sense of irony is evident in this collection, which embraces the strange and unexpected, exploring the outer limits of empathy and forgiveness. Her flawed and broken characters, who may range far from readers' own lived experiences, reveal universal elements of the human condition and the curious redemption of the human-animal bond.

The Son of the House

- by Onyemelukwe-onuobia

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LONGLISTED for the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2021 o FINALIST for the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2021 o WINNER of the SprinNG Women Authors Prize 2020 o WINNER of the Best International Fiction Book Award, Sharjah International Book Fair 2019

"The Son of the House is a compelling novel about two women caught in a constricting web of tradition, class, gender, and motherhood." -- FOREWORD REVIEWS, starred review

The lives of two Nigerian women divided by class and social inequality intersect when they're kidnapped, held captive, and forced to await their fate together.


In the Nigerian city of Enugu, young Nwabulu, a housemaid since the age of ten, dreams of becoming a typist as she endures her employers' endless chores. She is tall and beautiful and in love with a rich man's son.

Educated and privileged, Julie is a modern woman. Living on her own, she is happy to collect the gold jewellery lovestruck Eugene brings her, but has no intention of becoming his second wife.

When a kidnapping forces Nwabulu and Julie into a dank room years later, the two women relate the stories of their lives as they await their fate.

Pulsing with vitality and intense human drama, Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia's debut is set against four decades of vibrant Nigeria, celebrating the resilience of women as they navigate and transform what remains a man's world.

Glorious Frazzled Beings

- by Angelique Lalonde

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Home is where we love, suffer, and learn. Some homes we chose, others are inflicted upon us, and still others are bodies we are born into. In this astounding collection of stories, human and more-than-human worlds come together in places we call home. Four sisters and their mother explore their fears while teeny ghost people dress up in fragments of their children's clothes. A somewhat-ghost tends the family garden. Deep in the mountains, a shapeshifting mother must sift through her ancestors' gifts and the complexities of love when one boy is born with a beautiful set of fox ears and another is not. In the wake of her elderly mother's tragic death, a daughter tries to make sense of the online dating profile she left behind. And a man named Pooka finds new ways to weave new stories into his abode, in spite of his inherited suffering. A startling and beguiling story collection, Glorious Frazzled Beings is a love song to the homes we make, keep, and break.

What Strange Paradise

- by Omar El Akkad

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
From the widely acclaimed author of American War: a new novel--beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic, and profoundly moving--that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child's eyes.


More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one has made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials but of Vanna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though she and the boy are complete strangers, though they don't speak a common language, she determines to do whatever it takes to save him.

In alternating chapters, we learn the story of the boy's life and how he came to be on the boat; and we follow the girl and boy as they make their way toward a vision of safety. But as the novel unfurls, we begin to understand that this is not merely the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world, it is the story of our collective moment in this time: of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair--and of the way each of those things can blind us to reality, or guide us to a better one.

Astra

- by Cedar Bowers

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What if you could see yourself as others see you? Astra is a beguiling debut novel that reveals the different faces of one woman, as seen through the eyes of ten people over a lifetime.

Born and raised on a remote British Columbia commune, Astra Brine has long struggled to find her way in the world, her life becoming a study of the thin line between dependence and love, need and desire. Over the years, as her path intersects with others--sometimes briefly, but always intensely--she will encounter people who, by turns, want to rescue, control, become, and escape her, revealing difficult yet shining truths about who they are and what they yearn for.
     There is the childhood playmate who comes to fear Astra's unpredictable ways. The stranger who rescues her from homelessness, and then has to wrestle with his own demons. The mother who hires Astra as a live-in nanny even as her own marriage goes off the rails.
The man who takes a leap of faith and marries her.
     Even as Astra herself remains the elusive yet compelling axis around which these narratives turn, her story reminds us of the profound impact that a woman can have on those around her, and the power struggles at play in all our relationships, no matter how intimate. A beautifully constructed and revelatory novel, Astra explores what we're willing to give and receive from others, and how well we ever really know the people we love the most.