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Free Press Book Club

Originally designed to help ease some of the isolation-related boredom, the Winnipeg Free Press runs a monthly book club which will run completely online and is open to anyone and everyone to join.

Each month, the Free Press will choose a book and share it on their website, as well as in an email to those who have registered to participate. They will send a couple of follow up notes to check in on your progress and suggest a few discussion topics and questions to think about as you go.

At the end of the month, participants will gather in a livestream book club meeting, hosted by the Free Press books editor, Ben Sigurdson, or one of us from McNally Robinson, as well as the author of the book.

You’ll be able to submit questions ahead of time, or drop them into one of the live chat boxes during the meeting. (And don’t worry, the Free Press provide an easy-to-access link to the stream, so all you have to do is click.)

Below is a list of recent Book Club picks, including this month's choice. Visit the Winnipeg Free Press' website to find out which is the current pick.

mmm... Manitoba

- Kimberley Moore , Janis Thiessen

Trade paperback $27.95
Reader Reward Price: $25.16

A tasty oral history

In 2018, Janis Thiessen, Kimberley Moore, and collaborator Kent Davies refashioned a used food truck into a mobile oral history lab. Together they embarked on a journey around Manitoba, gathering stories about the province's food and the people who make, sell, and eat it. Along the way, they visited restaurant owners, beer brewers, grocers, farmers, scholars, and chefs in their kitchens and businesses, online, and on board the food truck. The team conducted nearly seventy interviews and indulged in a bounty of prairie delicacies, from Winnipeg's "Fat Boys" to Steinbach's perogies to Churchill's cloudberry jam.

Thiessen and Moore serve up the results of this research in mmm... Manitoba. Mixing recipes, maps, archival records, biographies, and full-colour photographs with fascinating stories, they showcase the province's diverse food histories. Through the sharing and preparing of food, the authors investigate food security and regulation, Indigenous foodways and agriculture, capitalism's impact on the agri-food industry, and the networks between Manitoban food producers and retailers. The book also explores the roles of gender, ethnicity, migration, and colonialism in Manitoba's food history.

Hop on the Manitoba Food History Truck and journey into the province's past with engaging essays and easy-to-follow recipes for kjielkje and schmauntfat, snow goose tidbits, chicken karaage, the Salisbury House flapper pie, duck fat smashed potatoes, Ichi Ban cocktails, pork inihaw, and more. mmm... Manitoba offers a thoughtfully nuanced, deliciously digestible, and wholly unique regional history that is sure to satisfy.

The Twistical Nature of Spoons

- Patti Grayson

Trade paperback $23.95
Reader Reward Price: $21.56

Blisse has guarded the family secret for her entire childhood. No one can know the origin of her unconventional birthday gifts Her mother, Ina, has insisted that Blisse never tell a soul - believing it's the only way to keep her daughter safe from a dire fate. Together, mother and daughter must sift through their own versions of events to understand how the secret has led to the unravelling of their lives. Chock-full of masks and curses, art and magic, seduction and spoons, their stories are both fraught with misdirection and awash in whimsy. Can their revelations negate a tragic prediction? Or is the dissolution of love and family inevitable?

An Ordinary Violence

- Adriana Chartrand

Trade paperback $23.99
Reader Reward Price: $21.59

Terrible things happen side by side with the ordinary.

Dawn hasn't spoken to her brother, Cody, since he was sent to prison for a violent crime seven years ago. But when Dawn's seemingly perfect life in the big city implodes, she is forced to return to her childhood home and the prairie city that still holds so much pain for her and her fractured family. Cody is released from prison with a mysterious new friend by his side, and Dawn must follow increasingly sinister leads to uncover their nefarious plans to access a dangerous supernatural network. As the lines between right and wrong blur and dissolve, Dawn recons with trauma and violence, loss and reclamation in an unsettling world where spirit realms entwine with the living-and where it is humans who carry out the truly monstrous acts.

Moon of the Turning Leaves

- Waubgeshig Rice

Trade paperback $24.95
Reader Reward Price: $22.46

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Twelve years after the lights go out . . .
An epic journey to a forgotten homeland

The hotly anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel Moon of the Crusted Snow.


In the years since a mysterious cataclysm caused a permanent blackout that toppled infrastructure and thrust the world into anarchy, Evan Whitesky has led his community in remote northern Canada off the rez and into the bush, where they've been rekindling their Anishinaabe traditions, isolated from the outside world. As new generations are born, and others come of age in a world after everything, Evan's people are stronger than ever. But resources around their new settlement are drying up, and elders warn that they cannot stay indefinitely.
    Evan and his teenaged daughter, Nangohns, are chosen to lead a scouting party on a months-long trip down to their traditional home on the shores of Lake Huron--to seek new beginnings, and discover what kind of life--and what danger--still exists in the lands to the south.

Waubgeshig Rice's exhilarating return to the world first explored in Moon of the Crusted Snow is a brooding story of survival, resilience, Indigenous identity, and rebirth.

Valley of the Birdtail

- Andrew Stobo Sniderman , Douglas Sanderson

Trade paperback $24.99
Reader Reward Price: $22.49

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Winner - 2023 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize

Winner - 2023 John W. Dafoe Book Prize

Winner - 2023 High Plains Book Award for Indigenous Writer

Winner - 2022 Manitoba Historical Society Margaret McWilliams Book Award for Local History

Winner - 2023 Quebec Writers' Federation Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction and Concordia University First Book Prize

Finalist - 2023 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

Finalist - Writers' Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

Finalist - 2023 Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading Evergreen Award

Finalist and Honourable Mention - Canadian Law and Society Association Book Prize

Longlisted - 2023-2024 First Nations Communities Read

A heart-rending true story about racism and reconciliation

Divided by a beautiful valley and 150 years of racism, the town of Rossburn and the Waywayseecappo Indian reserve have been neighbours nearly as long as Canada has been a country. Their story reflects much of what has gone wrong with relations between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. It also offers, in the end, an uncommon measure of hope.

Valley of the Birdtail chronicles how two communities became separate and unequal--and what this means for the rest of us. In Rossburn, which was once settled by Ukrainian immigrants fleeing poverty and persecution, family income is near the national average and more than a third of adults have graduated from university. In Waywayseecappo, the average family lives below the national poverty line and less than a third of adults have graduated from high school, with many haunted by their time in residential schools.

This book follows multiple generations of two families, one white and one Indigenous, weaving their lives into the larger story of Canada. It is a story of villains and heroes, irony and idealism, racism and reconciliation. Valley of the Birdtail has the ambition to change the way we think about our past and light a path to a better future.

Hold Your Tongue

- Matthew Tétreault

Trade paperback $22.95
Reader Reward Price: $20.66

Upon learning his great-uncle Alfred has suffered a stroke, Richard sets out for Ste. Anne, in southeastern Manitoba, to find his father and tell him the news. Waylaid by memories of his stalled romance, tales of run-ins with local Mennonites, his job working a honey wagon, and struck by visions of Métis history and secrets of his family's past, Richard confronts his desires to leave town, even as he learns to embrace his heritage.

Wild Hope

- Joan Thomas

Trade paperback $25.99
Reader Reward Price: $23.39

A CBC Books and Winnipeg Free Press Best Book of the Year

From the Governor General's Award-­winning author of Five Wives, a thrilling contemporary novel about how the past never lets us go  

Isla and Jake are a couple drifting apart. She is a chef and co-owner of a farm-to-table restaurant on the brink of closing; he is a visual artist tormented by the oil-and-gas legacy of his late father. A looming figure in both their lives is Reg Bevaqua, Jake's childhood friend-turned-enemy, turned bottled-water baron. 

Reg is a demanding regular at Isla's restaurant and a man with a seething resentment toward Jake. With good reason, the feeling is mutual, but Jake keeps their past from Isla as he follows a devastating trail to the source of Reg's wealth. When Jake disappears following a winter camping trip, Isla starts to connect the dots, with all roads leading to Reg and his magnificent property on Georgian Bay. 

Seamlessly weaving together observations on the entitlements of the wealthy, the monetization of water and the politics of art, Joan Thomas has created a layered, page-turning read about how far we will go to hold on to power and what we will do to avenge old wounds.

The Russian Daughter

- Sarah Klassen

Trade paperback $22.00
Reader Reward Price: $19.80

With the Czarist empire in turmoil, a young Mennonite couple in what is now Ukraine adopt a Russian baby. This historical novel explores themes of belonging, responsibility, and the places we call home.

Shelterbelts

- Jonathan Dick

Trade paperback $20.00
Reader Reward Price: $18.00

Progress isn't always a straight line.

When a non-denominational megachurch opens on the edges of a rural Mennonite community, a quiet--but longstanding battle--begins to reveal itself. For years, the traditionalists in the community have held fast to the values and beliefs they grew up with, while other community members have begun raising important questions about LGBTQ+ inclusion, Indigenous land rights, and the Mennonite legacy of pacifism.

Through a series of vignettes, Shelterbelts explores the perspectives, experiences and limitations of a wide range of characters who find themselves increasingly at odds with their surroundings. A pastor and his queer daughter learn that a family has left their church because of the "LGBT issue." Young activists butt heads with a farmer over the construction of a pipeline happening onhis fields. A librarian leaves suggestive notes for readers inside popular library books. By pulling these threads together, artist Jonathan Dyck has woven a rich tapestry--one that depicts a close-knit community in the midst of defining its future as it reckons with its past.

A Safe Girl to Love

- Casey Plett

Trade paperback $21.95
Reader Reward Price: $19.76

A new edition of the acclaimed debut story collection by two-time Lambda Literary Award winner Casey Plett.

By the author of Little Fish and A Dream of a Woman:eleven unique short stories featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love in settings ranging from a rural Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn. These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but never will it be predictable.

A Safe Girl to Love, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for transgender fiction, was first published in 2014. Now back in print after a long absence, this new edition includes an afterword by the author.

The Woo-Woo

- Lindsay Wong

Trade paperback $21.95
Reader Reward Price: $19.76

2019 CANADA READS FINALIST

Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Nonfiction; Winner, Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize; Longlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour

In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family who blame their woes on ghosts and demons when they should really be on anti-psychotic meds.

Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the "woo-woo" -- Chinese ghosts who come to visit in times of personal turmoil. From a young age, she witnessed the woo-woo's sinister effects; when she was six, Lindsay and her mother avoided the dead people haunting their house by hiding out in a mall food court, and on a camping trip, in an effort to rid her daughter of demons, her mother tried to light Lindsay's foot on fire.

The eccentricities take a dark turn, however, and when Lindsay starts to experience symptoms of the woo-woo herself, she wonders whether she will suffer the same fate as her family.

At once a witty and touching memoir about the Asian immigrant experience and a harrowing and honest depiction of the vagaries of mental illness, The Woo-Woo is a gut-wrenching and beguiling manual for surviving family, and oneself.

Fishing With Tardelli

- Neil Besner

Trade paperback $21.95
Reader Reward Price: $19.76



A literary meditation on memory, time, love, and loss

Fishing With Tardelli contemplates the relations among four parents -- mother, father, stepfather, and a Brazilian fishing companion -- and the author. Over marriages and remarriages, fathers and mothers become stepfathers and stepmothers, and brothers gain and lose stepbrothers and half-brothers, sisters and half-sisters across two continents. The various homes become part of Besner's internal geography; memory, dream, story, fable become permeable layers folded over bald facts baldly stated.

Beginning with an older man's recollections of himself as a young teenager fishing with Tardelli in the bay in Rio de Janeiro, the memoir reflects on time lost and time regained. The narration ranges across the mid-'40s in Montreal, where two couples marry, divorce, and remarry in a new configuration; proceeds to Rio de Janeiro in the mid-'50s, when one of these newly formed families emigrates; and returns to Montreal in the late '60s and early '70s. After a 50-year interlude, Besner returns from Western Canada to the pandemic moment in Toronto.

Out of Mind

- David Bergen

Trade paperback $22.95
Reader Reward Price: $20.66

Manitoba Book Award winner

Winner, McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award
One of 49th Shelf's Books of the Year


In Out of Mind, David Bergen delves into the psyche of Lucille Black, mother, grandmother, lover, psychiatrist, and analyst of self, who first appeared in Bergen's bestselling novel The Matter with Morris. Although adept at probing the lives of others, Lucille has become untethered, caught between duty and desire, between the demands of family and her own longing.

Her ex-husband Morris betrays her by publishing a memoir about the aftermath of their son Martin's death in Afghanistan. She travels to Thailand to attempt to extricate her youngest daughter from the clutches of an apparent cult leader. And she is invited to the south of France to attend the marriage of a man whom she rejected a year earlier. Negotiating with herself about her altered role in the lives of her family and friends, Lucille circles the globe -- and herself.

In this brilliant and subtle evocation of vulnerability and loss, Bergen traces one woman's quest to reform her identity, reminding us that the unexpected is always lying in wait.

Permanent Astonishment

- Tomson Highway

Trade paperback $22.00
Reader Reward Price: $19.80

WINNER OF THE HILARY WESTON WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE FOR NONFICTION * NOMINATED FOR THE EVERGREEN AWARD * NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GLOBE AND MAIL, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, AND CBC
 
Capricious, big-hearted, joyful: an epic memoir from one of Canada's most acclaimed Indigenous writers and performers

Tomson Highway was born in a snowbank on an island in the sub-Arctic, the eleventh of twelve children in a nomadic, caribou-hunting Cree family. Growing up in a land of ten thousand lakes and islands, Tomson relished being pulled by dogsled beneath a night sky alive with stars, sucking the juices from roasted muskrat tails, and singing country music songs with his impossibly beautiful older sister and her teenaged friends. Surrounded by the love of his family and the vast, mesmerizing landscape they called home, his was in many ways an idyllic far-north childhood. But five of Tomson's siblings died in childhood, and Balazee and Joe Highway, who loved their surviving children profoundly, wanted their two youngest sons, Tomson and Rene, to enjoy opportunities as big as the world. And so when Tomson was six, he was flown south by float plane to attend a residential school. A year later Rene joined him to begin the rest of their education. In 1990 Rene Highway, a world-renowned dancer, died of an AIDS-related illness.

 
Permanent Astonishment is Tomson's extravagant embrace of his younger brother's final words: "Don't mourn me, be joyful." His memoir offers insights, both hilarious and profound, into the Cree experience of culture, conquest, and survival. 

Even That Wildest Hope

- Seyward Goodhand

Trade paperback $19.95
Reader Reward Price: $17.96

Finalist for the Manitoba Book Awards' Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction and the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book
Longlisted for the Sunburst Award for Adult Fiction

The highly anticipated debut short story collection by Journey Prize finalist Seyward Goodhand.

Even That Wildest Hope bursts with vibrant, otherworldly characters--wax girls and gods-among-men, artists on opposite sides of a war, aimless plutocrats and anarchist urchins--who are sometimes wondrous, often grotesque, and always driven by passions and yearnings common to us all. Each story is an untamed territory unto itself: where characters are both victims and predators, the settings are antique and futuristic, and where our intimacies--with friends, lovers, enemies, and even our food--reveal a deeply human desire for beauty and abjection. Stylistic and primordial, Even That Wildest Hope is a chaotic and always satisfying fabulist journey in the baroque tradition of Angela Carter, Carmen Maria Machado, and Ted Chiang.

"Read any sentence in this collection and you will know that Seyward Goodhand is a rare and original talent."--David Bezmozgis

"It's a relief to find this kind of daring in Canadian fiction."--CNQ

"Seyward Goodhand can whip up a hell of a story... Yes read it."--Lolly K Dandeneau

This Book Club is free, although pre-registration is required. Register online here.


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