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Literary Fiction

Our favourite recent literary novels and story collections.


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Only Sisters

- Lilian Nattel

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One sister runs away and the other stays behind. But what happens when the dutiful sister has to impersonate the rebel? In her page-turning exploration of familial loyalty, resentment, secrets, and grief, Lilian Nattel explores the meaning and reach of family bonds.

Joan has always done the right thing, both as a palliative care doctor and as a caregiver for her widowed mother, Sheila. Joan's adventurous sister, Vivien, is a different story. She left home as soon as she was able--running from an insecure childhood troubled by an alcoholic father and a mother who constantly threw away all their possessions in order to buy new ones. Vivien's rarely been back, working as a nurse in the world's trouble zones, leaving the heavy burden of family on her sister.
 
Still, when Vivien learns that their mother is seriously ill, she reaches out to Joan. She's heading for a remote village where Ebola is spreading, and she's afraid she may die. If she does, she wants Joan to pose as her online so her dying mother won't have to grieve a daughter. It's a lie, but it's the good kind of lie, designed to spare their mother, and so Joan reluctantly agrees, figuring it will never come to that.
 
But Vivien does die. And even as Joan mourns her sister, she begins to impersonate her online, as promised. It's difficult at first, but to her surprise, posing as Vivien becomes liberating, even addictive. Then she receives a message on her sister's Facebook from a man claiming to be the son Vivien gave up for adoption, and the line between right and wrong, adventure and tragedy, really begins to blur.
 

Jacqueline in Paris

- Ann Mah

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From the bestselling author of The Lost Vintage, a rare and dazzling portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier's college year abroad in postwar Paris, an intimate and electrifying story of love and betrayal, and the coming-of-age of an American icon - before the world knew her as Jackie.

In September 1949 Jacqueline Bouvier arrives in postwar Paris to begin her junior year abroad. She's twenty years old, socially poised but financially precarious, and all too aware of her mother's expectations that she make a brilliant match. Before relenting to family pressure, she has one year to herself far away from sleepy Vassar College and the rigid social circles of New York, a year to explore and absorb the luminous beauty of the City of Light. Jacqueline is immediately catapulted into an intoxicating new world of champagne and châteaux, art and avant-garde theater, cafés and jazz clubs. She strikes up a romance with a talented young writer who shares her love of literature and passion for culture - even though her mother would think him most unsuitable.

But beneath the glitter and rush, France is a fragile place still haunted by the Occupation. Jacqueline lives in a rambling apartment with a widowed countess and her daughters, all of whom suffered as part of the French Resistance just a few years before. In the aftermath of World War II, Paris has become a nest of spies, and suspicion, deception, and betrayal lurk around every corner. Jacqueline is stunned to watch the rise of communism - anathema in America, but an active movement in France - never guessing she is witnessing the beginning of the political environment that will shape the rest of her life--and that of her future husband.

Evocative, sensitive, and rich in historic detail, Jacqueline in Paris portrays the origin story of an American icon. Ann Mah brilliantly imagines the intellectual and aesthetic awakening of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and illuminates how France would prove to be her one true love, and one of the greatest influences on her life. 

Probably Ruby

- Lisa Bird-Wilson

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A CBC BEST CANADIAN FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR
 
Probably Ruby is an audacious, brave, and beautiful book about an adopted woman's search for her Indigenous identity, for readers of Tommy Orange's There There and Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries.

Relinquished as an infant, Ruby is placed in a foster home and finally adopted by Alice and Mel, a less-than-desirable couple who can't afford to complain too loudly about Ruby's Indigenous roots. But when her new parents' marriage falls apart, Ruby finds herself vulnerable and in compromising situations that lead her to search, in the unlikeliest of places, for her Indigenous identity.

Unabashedly self-destructing on alcohol, drugs, and bad relationships, Ruby grapples with the meaning of the legacy left to her. In a series of expanding narratives, Ruby and the people connected to her tell their stories and help flesh out Ruby's history. Seeking understanding of how we come to know who we are, Probably Ruby explores how we find and invent ourselves in ways as peculiar and varied as the experiences of Indigenous adoptees themselves. Ruby's voice, her devastating honesty and tremendous laugh, will not soon be forgotten.

Probably Ruby is a perfectly crafted novel, with effortless, nearly imperceptible shifts in time and perspective, exquisitely chosen detail, natural dialogue and emotional control that results in breathtaking levels of tension and points of revelation.

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm

- Laura Warrell

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Passion and risk, fathers and daughters, wives and single women, jazz and soul: a "gorgeously written debut" (Celeste Ng, best-selling author of Little Fires Everywhere) about the perennial temptations of dangerous love, told by the women who love Circus Palmer--trumpet player and old-school ladies' man--as they ultimately discover the power of their own voices.

"A modern masterpiece." --Jason Reynolds, best-selling author of Look Both Ways

It's 2013, and Circus Palmer, a forty-year-old Boston-based trumpet player and old-school ladies' man, lives for his music and refuses to be tied down. Before a gig in Miami, he learns that the woman who is secretly closest to his heart, the free-spirited drummer Maggie, is pregnant by him. Instead of facing the necessary conversation, Circus flees, setting off a chain of interlocking revelations from the various women in his life. Most notable among them is his teenage daughter, Koko, who idolizes him and is awakening to her own sexuality even as her mentally fragile mother struggles to overcome her long-failed marriage and rejection by Circus. Delivering a lush orchestration of diverse female voices, Warrell spins a provocative, soulful, and gripping story of passion and risk, fathers and daughters, wives and single women, and, finally, hope and reconciliation, in answer to the age-old question: how do we find belonging when love is unrequited?

Best of Friends

- Kamila Shamsie

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"A profound novel about friendship. I loved it to pieces." --Madeline Miller

"A shining tour de force about a long friendship's respects, disrespects, loyalties and moralities." --Ali Smith 

From the acclaimed author of Home Fire, the moving and surprising story of a lifelong friendship and the forces that bring it to the breaking point


Zahra and Maryam have been best friends since childhood in Karachi, even though--or maybe because--they are unlike in nearly every way. Yet they never speak of the differences in their backgrounds or their values, not even after the fateful night when a moment of adolescent impulse upends their plans for the future.
 
Three decades later, Zahra and Maryam have grown into powerful women who have each cut a distinctive path through London. But when two troubling figures from their past resurface, they must finally confront their bedrock differences--and find out whether their friendship can survive.
 
Thought-provoking, compassionate, and full of unexpected turns, Best of Friends offers a riveting take on an age-old question: Does principle or loyalty make for the better friend?
 
 
 

The Furrows

- Namwali Serpell

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How do you grieve an absence? From the award-winning author of The Old Drift, a brilliantly inventive novel that "captures the disorienting nature of grief [and] its brain-scrambling, time-altering power" (The Washington Post).

"A genuine tour de force . . . What seems at first a meditation on family trauma unfolds through the urgency of an amnesiac puzzle-thriller, then a violently compelling love story."--Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn

Named One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2022 by More than a Dozen Publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, People, New York magazine, USA Today, and Time

I don't want to tell you what happened. I want to tell you how it felt.

Cassandra Williams is twelve; her little brother, Wayne, is seven. One day, when they're alone together, there is an accident and Wayne is lost forever. His body is never recovered. The missing boy cleaves the family with doubt. Their father leaves, starts another family elsewhere. But their mother can't give up hope and launches an organization dedicated to missing children. 

As C grows older, she sees her brother everywhere: in bistros, airplane aisles, subway cars. Here is her brother's face, the light in his eyes, the way he seems to recognize her, too. But it can't be, of course. Or can it? Then one day, in another accident, C meets a man both mysterious and familiar, a man who is also searching for someone and for his own place in the world. His name is Wayne. 

Namwali Serpell's remarkable new novel captures the uncanny experience of grief, the way the past breaks over the present like waves in the sea. The Furrows is a bold exploration of memory and mourning that twists unexpectedly into a story of mistaken identity, double consciousness, and the wishful--and sometimes willful--longing for reunion with those we've lost.

We Spread

- Iain Reid

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The author of the "evocative, spine-tingling, and razor-sharp" (Bustle) I'm Thinking of Ending Things that inspired the Netflix original movie and the "short, shocking psychological three-hander" (The Guardian) Foe returns with a new work of philosophical suspense.

Penny, an artist, has lived in the same apartment for decades, surrounded by the artifacts and keepsakes of her long life. She is resigned to the mundane rituals of old age, until things start to slip. Before her longtime partner passed away years earlier, provisions were made, unbeknownst to her, for a room in a unique long-term care residence, where Penny finds herself after one too many "incidents."

Initially, surrounded by peers, conversing, eating, sleeping, looking out at the beautiful woods that surround the house, all is well. She even begins to paint again. But as the days start to blur together, Penny--with a growing sense of unrest and distrust--starts to lose her grip on the passage of time and on her place in the world. Is she succumbing to the subtly destructive effects of aging, or is she an unknowing participant in something more unsettling?

At once compassionate and uncanny, told in spare, hypnotic prose, Iain Reid's genre-defying third novel explores questions of conformity, art, productivity, relationships, and what, ultimately, it means to grow old.

Black Dove

- Colin McAdam

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"I have long been convinced that Colin McAdam is a literary genius. What's extraordinary is that each of the books he writes is a totally distinct type of genius. Every time. He's in a league of his own." --Max Porter, author of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

From Giller Prize finalist Colin McAdam, a chilling tale of a grieving novelist and his son who fall sway to a twilit world of desperate wanderers, mad geneticists, and noble, dangerous beasts.

In a tall and narrow house, on a stained and busy street, live twelve-year-old Oliver and his father, a story-loving writer. Haunted by the ghost of his alcoholic mother, Oliver finds comfort in his father's impromptu tales: the Black Dove, an elusive flower that gives strength; the girl who consumes it as she battles attackers and yearns for happier realms. Stories where lonely souls keep searching despite their losses and grief.
 
Running from a bully one night, Oliver finds refuge in a junk shop owned by an enigmatic man. Soon, instead of hiding in the janitor's closet after school, Oliver spends afternoons in the shop, a cavernous place full of storied oddities and grubby wonders where creatures rise up from the basement. A snake in the shape of a boy. A hunter named Night, part panther, part hound, who proves to Oliver that the world holds invisible wonder.
 
Wanting to forget his mother, afraid of his own genes, constantly harassed by bullies, Oliver decides to follow the shop-owner down the path of genetic editing. As he begins his transformation he meets the girl from across the street, and their friendship grows in a neighbourhood where magic is real, where murderers gather, and where the darker consequences of fantasies play out.
 
A twisting story of grief and revenge, Black Dove is a thrilling read with its own kind of magic. In rich but tightly reined prose, McAdam celebrates the value and shortfalls of storytelling, finding a light in all the darkness to conjure a tender portrait of childhood's end.

The Morning Star

- Karl Ove Knausgaard

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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK * ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

"Knausgaard is among the finest writers alive." --Dwight Garner, New York Times
 
The Morning Star is an astonishing, ambitious, and rich novel about what we don't understand, and our attempts to make sense of our world nonetheless.

One long night in August, Arne and Tove are staying with their children in their summer house in southern Norway. Their friend Egil has his own place nearby. Kathrine, a priest, is flying home from a Bible seminar, questioning her marriage. Journalist Jostein is out drinking for the night, while his wife, Turid, a nurse at a psychiatric care unit, is on a nightshift when one of her patients escapes. 
 
Above them all, a huge star suddenly appears blazing in the sky. It brings with it a mysterious sense of foreboding.
 
Strange things start to happen as nine lives come together under the star. Hundreds of crabs amass on the road as Arne drives at night; Jostein receives a call about a death metal band found brutally murdered in a Satanic ritual; Kathrine conducts a funeral service for a man she met at the airport--but is he actually dead? 

The People Immortal

- Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler

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The first war novel by the author of Life and Fate and a stunningly accurate portrayal of soldierly life written at the beginning of World War II.

Vasily Grossman wrote three novels about the Second World War, each offering a distinct take on what a war novel can be, and each extraordinary. A common set of characters links Stalingrad and Life and Fate, but Stalingrad is not only a moving and exciting story of desperate defense and the turning tide of war, but also a monumental memorial for the countless war dead. Life and Fate, by contrast, is a work of moral and political philosophy as well as a novel, and the deep question it explores is whether or not it is possible to behave ethically in the face of overwhelming violence. The People Immortal is something else entirely. Set during the catastrophic first months of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, this is the tale of an army battalion dispatched to slow the advancing enemy at any cost, with encirclement and annihilation its promised end. A rousing story of resistance, The People Immortal is the novel as weapon in hand.

Cloud Cuckoo Land

- Anthony Doerr

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On the New York Times bestseller list for over 20 weeks * A New York Times Notable Book * A National Book Award Finalist * Named a Best Book of the Year by Fresh Air, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Associated Press, and many more

"If you're looking for a superb novel, look no further." --The Washington Post

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, comes the instant New York Times bestseller that is a "wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that's infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences" (The New York Times Book Review).


Among the most celebrated and beloved novels of recent times, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope, and a book.

In the 15th century, an orphan named Anna lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople. She learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds what might be the last copy of a centuries-old book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the army that will lay siege to the city. His path and Anna's will cross.

In the present day, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno rehearses children in a play adaptation of Aethon's story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege.

And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father.

Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders whose lives are gloriously intertwined. Doerr's dazzling imagination transports us to worlds so dramatic and immersive that we forget, for a time, our own.

The Winners

- Fredrik Backman

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A breathtaking new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anxious People and A Man Called Ove, The Winners returns to the close-knit, resilient community of Beartown for a story about first loves, second chances, and last goodbyes.

Over the course of two weeks, everything in Beartown will change.

Maya Andersson and Benji Ovich, two young people who left in search of a life far from the forest town, come home and joyfully reunite with their closest childhood friends. There is a new sense of optimism and purpose in the town, embodied in the impressive new ice rink that has been built down by the lake.

Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there's something about this place that prevents it. The destruction caused by a ferocious late-summer storm reignites the old rivalry between Beartown and the neighboring town of Hed, a rivalry which has always been fought through their ice hockey teams.

Maya's parents, Peter and Kira, are caught up in an investigation of the hockey club's murky finances, and Amat--once the star of the Beartown team--has lost his way after an injury and a failed attempt to get drafted into the NHL. Simmering tensions between the two towns turn into acts of intimidation and then violence. All the while, a fourteen-year-old boy grows increasingly alienated from this hockey-obsessed community and is determined to take revenge on the people he holds responsible for his beloved sister's death. He has a pistol and a plan that will leave Beartown with a loss that is almost more that it can stand.

As it beautifully captures all the complexities of daily life and explores questions of friendship, loyalty, loss, and identity, this emotion-packed novel asks us to reconsider what it means to win, what it means to lose, and what it means to forgive.

Shrines of Gaiety

- Kate Atkinson

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The #1 internationally bestselling, award-winning author of Life after Life transports us to the dazzling London of the Roaring Twenties in a whirlwind tale of corruption, seduction and debts that have come due.

1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.
 
The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven, whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie's empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho's gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.
 
With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson gives us a window in a vanished world. Slyly funny, brilliantly observant and ingeniously plotted, Shrines of Gaiety showcases the myriad talents that have made Atkinson one of the most lauded writers of our time.

Lucy by the Sea

- Elizabeth Strout

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o From Pulitzer Prize-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout comes a poignant, pitch-perfect novel about a divorced couple stuck together during lockdown--and the love, loss, despair, and hope that animate us even as the world seems to be falling apart.

"No novelist working today has Strout's extraordinary capacity for radical empathy. . . . May droves of readers come to feel enlarged, comforted, and genuinely uplifted by Lucy's story."--The Boston Globe

With her trademark spare, crystalline prose--a voice infused with "intimate, fragile, desperate humanness" (The Washington Post)--Elizabeth Strout turns her exquisitely tuned eye to the inner workings of the human heart, following the indomitable heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton through the early days of the pandemic.

As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it's just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea.

Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace, and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we're apart--the pain of a beloved daughter's suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship, and the comfort of an old, enduring love.

My Phantoms

- Gwendoline Riley

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A hostile mother-daughter relationship stands at the center of this astonishing, blackly humorous novel by the acclaimed author of First Love.

Helen Grant is a mystery to her daughter. An extrovert with few friends who has sought intimacy in the wrong places, a twice-divorced mother of two now living alone surrounded by her memories, Helen (known to her acquaintances as "Hen") has always haunted Bridget.

Now, Bridget is an academic in her forties. She sees Helen once a year, and considers the problem to be contained. As she looks back on their tumultuous relationship--the performances and small deceptions--she tries to reckon with the cruelties inflicted on both sides. But when Helen makes it clear that she wants more, it seems an old struggle will have to be replayed.

From the prize-winning author of First Love, My Phantoms is a bold, heart-stopping portrayal of a failed familial bond, which brings humor, subtlety, and new life to the difficult terrain of mothers and daughters.

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