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Prairie Writers

A selection of recent books by writers from the Canadian Prairies.


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The Apothecary's Garden

- by Jeanette Lynes

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National Bestseller

Canadian Indies Bestseller

Indigo Top Ten Canadian Reads

Indigo's Most Anticipated Books of 2022

Victorian Canada: Touring circuses, seances, and a world powered by steam engines. But in Belleville, Ontario, a twenty-eight-year old spinster, Lavender Fitch, barely scrapes by, selling flowers from her garden at the train station, her position in life greatly diminished after the death of her father, the local apothecary.

Then, one day, a glamorous couple step off the train. The lady is a famed spirit medium, Allegra Trout, who has arrived for a public show of her mediumship, accompanied by her handsome but disfigured assistant, Robert. With her striking beauty and otherworldly charms, Allegra casts a spell over Belleville from the moment she arrives.

Lavender is captivated by the medium as well. She's been searching for a secret cache of money and hopes Allegra might be able to contact her dead mother for clues to its hidden location.

As the Trouts remain in town, preparing for their Mystical Extravaganza, Robert and Lavender grow close, much to Allegra's disapproval. Will Robert and Lavender's relationship blossom or will it be abandoned when he leaves for the next town? Will Lavender find her mother's gift or be forced from her home and beloved garden?

The Apothecary's Garden is a magical story about the mysteries of life, the enchantment of flowers, and wonders of love

Glimmer

- by Steven Ross Smith

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Glimmer is an incredibly off-beat and unconventional collection about the human experience - in long short stories alternating with twelve 'experimental one sentence novels'. The stories are diverse, and deal with strange and surreal relationships.

Pond and Beyond, The

- by Audrey Lute

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Just beneath the water's surface exists a fragile and delicate ecosystem, yet is a place often overlooked and taken for granted. The Pond and Beyond explores the tiny worlds right beneath our feet and the beautiful creatures that inhabit them. This sensitive and poignant book calls out our arrogance as the dominant species and the risks of continuing to ignore the complex environments and social systems thriving right alongside our own.

The Full Catastrophe

- by Meira Cook

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A compassionate and funny novel about defining yourself, the communities that support us, and the journeys that secrets propel.
Charlie Minkoff, a thirteen-year-old boy born with intersex traits, would be happy to be left alone. Living with his artist mother in a derelict loft in downtown Winnipeg, perpetually wondering about the father who abandoned him, and tormented in school because of his differences, Charlie navigates the assorted catastrophes of his life. He's helped along by the love of his beloved grandfather, Oscar, and the makeshift family who surround him: his mother's best friend; a couple of elderly shut-in neighbours; a mysterious girl in his class who has secrets of her own; and his desperately needy and perpetually hungry dog, Gellman.
When a school project leads him to discover that Oscar never had a bar mitzvah, Charlie decides to right the historical wrong and arrange a belated ceremony. But this quest will be more than he bargained for, and meanwhile everyone from his doctor to his Ancestry Studies teacher keeps insisting that Charlie needs to learn to tell his own story.
Margaret Laurence Award winner Méira Cook's The Full Catastrophe is a story of psychological complexity, tenderness, and humour.

Shelterbelts

- by Jonathan Dyck

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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 on his 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.

Snake in the Raspberry Patch, A

- by Joanne Jackson

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It is the summer of 1971 and Liz takes care of her four sisters while waiting to meet the fifth Murphy child: a boy. And yet, something is not right. Adults tensely whisper in small groups, heads shaking. Her younger sister, Rose seems more annoying, always flashing her camera and jotting notes in her her notepad. The truth is worse than anyone could imagine: an entire family slaughtered in their home nearby, even the children. The small rural community reels in the aftermath. No one seems to know who did it or why. For Liz, these events complicate her already tiring life. Keeping Rose in line already feels like a full time job, and if Rose gets it in her head that she can solve a murder... The killer must be someone just passing through, a random horror. It almost begs the question: where do murderers live?

Flyway

- by Sarah Ens

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This Meditation on the impact of human and ecological trauma explores the cost of survival for three generations of women living between empires. Writing from within the disappearing tallgrass prairie, Sarah Ens follows connections between the Russian Mennonite diaspora and the disrupted migratory patterns of grassland birds. Drawing on family history, eco-poetics, and the rich tradition of the Canadian long poem, Flyway migrates along pathways of geography and the heart to grapple with complexities of home.

What Is Written on the Tongue

- by Anne Lazurko

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For readers of Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, a transportive historical novel about finding morality in the throes of war and colonization Released from Nazi forced labor as World War II ends, 20-year-old Sam is quickly drafted and sent to the island of Java to help regain control of the colony. But the Indonesian independence movement is far ahead of the Dutch, and Sam is thrown into a guerilla war, his loyalties challenged when his squad commits atrocities reminiscent of those he suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Sam falls in love with both Sari and the beautiful island she calls home, but as he loses friends to sniper fire and jungle malady, he also loses sight of what he wants most -- to be a good man.

The Gunsmith's Daughter

- by Margaret Sweatman

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1971. Lilac Welsh lives an isolated life with her parents at Rough Rock on the Winnipeg River. Her father, Kal, stern and controlling, has built his wealth by designing powerful guns and ammunition. He's on the cusp of producing a .50 calibre assault rifle that can shoot down an airplane with a single bullet, when a young stranger named Gavin appears at their door, wanting to meet him before enlisting for the war in Vietnam. Gavin's arrival sparks an emotional explosion in Lilac's home and inspires her to begin her own life as a journalist, reporting on the war that's making her family rich.

The Gunsmith's Daughter is both a coming-of-age story and an allegorical novel about Canada-US relations. Psychologically and politically astute, and gorgeously written, Margaret Sweatman's portrait of a brilliant gunsmith and his eighteen-year-old daughter tells an engrossing story of ruthless ambition, and one young woman's journey toward independence.

Fifty-Four Pigs

- by Philipp Schott

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"A delicious read." -- Iona Whishaw, author of the Lane Winslow mystery series For readers of The Thursday Murder Club comes a lighthearted mystery with an incredible sense of place A swine barn explodes near a lakeside town, putting veterinarian Dr. Peter Bannerman on a collision course with murder and a startling conspiracy. Peter is an odd duck, obsessed with logic and measurable facts, an obsession he puts to good use in his veterinary practice. When a murder is connected to the swine barn explosion and his friend Tom becomes the prime suspect, Peter feels compelled to put his reasoning skills, and his dog Pippin's remarkable nose, to use to help clear him. The situation darkens with a second murder and a series of break-ins, including at Peter's house and clinic, but Peter has a hard time knowing when he is out of his depth, despite warnings from his brother-in-law Kevin, an RCMP officer. Ultimately Peter finds himself out in the middle of a frozen lake during a blizzard, fighting for his life and confronting a horrifying realization he had been blind to all along.

Synaptic

- by Alison Calder

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An award-winning poet attempts to map the brain's neural connections, raising fundamental questions about identity and interiority.

This intricate, yearning work from award-winning poet Alison Calder asks us to think about the way we perceive and the ways in which we seek to know ourselves and others.
 
In Synaptic, each section explores key themes in science, neurology, and perception. The first, Connectomics, riffs on scientific language to work with and against that language's intentions. Attempting to map the brain's neural connections, it raises fundamental questions about interiority and the self. The lyric considerations in these poems are juxtaposed against the scientific-like footnotes which, in turn, invoke questions undermining authority and power. The second section, Other Disasters, explores ways of seeing or and being seen, from considerations of folklore to modern art to daily life. 
 
The speakers in these poems are searching for knowledge. Everyone is looking for a miracle.
 

Bombing the Moon

- by Nancy Chislett

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At 24, Devin Rush's future is unknown and his parents don't support his dream of becoming a songwriter. Jobless and antagonistic, Devin feels like the world is rigged against him, and his parents, wondering if he'll ever man up, fear he'll depend on them for life. But when Devin's grandfather gives him a one-way ticket to Nairobi, Kenya, Devin believes it's his family that wants him gone; outraged and seeing no alternative, he leaves abruptly, and is thrust into a world unlike any he's ever seen.

Stunned by his sudden departure, Devin's parents and sister are pushed further afield of the control they crave. Resentment and guilt nudge his parent's marriage closer to collapse, and abandonment triggers his sister's long-buried shame. Meanwhile, when Nairobi's election approaches and tensions erupt, Devin is faced with choices and consequences that are all too real. Beautifully written, often subversive and darkly funny, Bombing the Moon is an honest, intimate exploration of the promises and limitations of tough love.

Best of the Bonnet, The

- by Andrew Unger

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Since its debut, the internet's most trusted source for Mennonite satire has drawn the attention of everyone from the Canadian Prairies to the high-rises of New York, keeping readers laughing with hundreds of hysterical headlines and tongue-in-cheek editorials where (almost) no topic is off-limits. The Best of the Bonnet brings together some of the funniest, most loved posts from The Daily Bonnet, a website that Miriam Toews calls "fantastic" and "hilarious." This collection also includes new and updated articles, scholarly commentary, a glossary of Low German words, and an afterword by author Andrew Unger commenting on the nature of satire and the importance of community.The Best of the Bonnet is an absolute must-have for fans of The Daily Bonnet or anyone in love with the absurdity of day-to-day life.

Alternate Plains

- by Darren Ridgley

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A man runs for his life from the promise of death held by trees; a lost VHS tape offers footage of a lost, grisly history; a diaspora clings to magical shards of home and more in this collection of genre fiction by authors from across the Canadian Prairies. A follow-up to 2018's hit, Parallel Prairies.

The Strangers

- by Katherena Vermette

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#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE ATWOOD GIBSON WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE FOR FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 MANITOBA BOOK AWARDS' CAROL SHIELDS WINNIPEG BOOK AWARD, MARGARET LAURENCE AWARD FOR FICTION, AND MCNALLY ROBINSON BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
A GLOBE & MAIL BEST BOOK


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.

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