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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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Subversive, captivating and vividly attuned to both the extraordinary and the mundane, Georgia Toews' debut novel Hey, Good Luck Out There is a furious and hilarious journey through the relentless, soul-baring world of addiction and recovery.
After an amazingly unpleasant pizza party intervention, our twenty-two-year-old narrator checks into a women's rehab facility, confined "for her own safety" without meaningful contact with the outside world. For escape, she and her fellow patients have only stilted phone calls with their disappointed and concerned parents, daily meetings in the form of inspirational speeches from wealthy ex-alcoholics and lifestyle gurus, visits to the doctor, and clandestine trips to a dingy internet cafe. For our narrator, a neon-pink journal gifted by her grandmother with gold embossed letters on the front--"Let Them Eat Cake!"--is her only comfort amid an endless carousel of strangeness and unease.
When she is discharged from rehab after thirty punishing days, returned to Toronto's streets without resources, a job, or an apartment, and tasked with staying clean despite a seemingly bottomless urge to give up, the book asks: What next? What happens in the aftermath of your lowest low? Alone, and at war with an intrusive inner creature, at last she begins the process of making a home for herself in the world.
Hey, Good Luck Out There introduces a dynamic new voice in fiction: Georgia Toews is at once unguardedly truthful, gritty, and darkly funny, with a sardonic, wholly original sense of the absurd.
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Winner, 2023 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction
Finalist, 2023 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award
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.
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Shortlisted, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction
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.
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*FINALIST FOR 2022 CANADA READS*
*SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 J.W. DAFOE BOOK PRIZE*
*SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 MANITOBA BOOK AWARDS' MCNALLY ROBINSON BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD*
A gritty and inspiring memoir from renowned Cree environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, who escaped the world of drugs and gang life to take up the warrior's fight against the assault on Indigenous peoples' lands--and eventually the warrior's spirituality.
There have been many Clayton Thomas-Mullers: The child who played with toy planes as an escape from domestic and sexual abuse, enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; the angry youngster who defended himself with fists and sharp wit against racism and violence, at school and on the streets of Winnipeg and small-town British Columbia; the tough teenager who, at 17, managed a drug house run by members of his family, and slipped in and out of juvie, operating in a world of violence and pain.
But behind them all, there was another Clayton: the one who remained immersed in Cree spirituality, and who embraced the rituals and ways of thinking vital to his heritage; the one who reconnected with the land during summer visits to his great-grandparents' trapline in his home territory of Pukatawagan in northern Manitoba.
And it's this version of Clayton that ultimately triumphed, finding healing by directly facing the trauma that he shares with Indigenous peoples around the world. Now a leading organizer and activist on the frontlines of environmental resistance, Clayton brings his warrior spirit to the fight against the ongoing assault on Indigenous peoples' lands by Big Oil.
Tying together personal stories of survival that bring the realities of the First Nations of this land into sharp focus, and lessons learned from a career as a frontline activist committed to addressing environmental injustice at a global scale, Thomas-Muller offers a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility.
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Cats, dogs, people -- funny and heartbreaking stories from a pet veterinarian With insight and humor, Dr. Philipp Schott shares tales from the unlikely path he took into his career of veterinary science and anecdotes from his successful small-animal clinic. Dr. Schott brings to his writing the benefit of many years of expertise. Wisdom he imparts on readers includes the best way to give your cat a pill, how to prevent your very handy dog from opening a fridge, and how to handle your fish when it has half-swallowed another. Through these and other experiences, Dr. Schott also learned that veterinary medicine is as much, if not more, about the people as it is the animals. And he will have you laughing and crying as you embark on this journey of discovery with him.
Young adult softcover
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Eugenia Grimm is a tough girl living in a tough town at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She drinks and fights and pushes against expectations. She is also hurting. After her father died by suicide on her eighth birthday, her older brothers drifted away and her mother up and left when she turned 14, Eugenia has not made the best choices. After a last-straw violent incident and faced with the possibility of incarceration, she is sentenced to time at an Intensive Support and Supervision Program located at a remote mountain ranch. There, she begins to make connections, explore difficult truths, and might even turn things around--until a series of events pull her into a dark spiral she may not have the strength to resist.
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Finalist for 2022 Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction o Co-Winner of 2022 Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book
After years of secrecy and silence, Rowan McCandless leaves an abusive relationship and rediscovers her voice and identity through writing.
She was never to lie to him. She was never to leave him; and she was never supposed to tell.
Persephone's Children chronicles Rowan McCandless's odyssey as a Black, biracial woman escaping the stranglehold of a long-term abusive relationship. Through a series of thematically linked and structurally inventive essays, McCandless explores the fraught and fragmented relationship between memory and trauma. Multiple mythologies emerge to bind legacy and loss, motherhood and daughterhood, racism and intergenerational trauma, mental illness and resiliency.
It is only in the aftermath that she can begin to see the patterns in her history, hear the echoes of oppression passed down from unknown, unnamed ancestors, and discover her worth and right to exist in the world.
A RARE MACHINES BOOK
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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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2023 Canada Reads Longlist Selection National Bestseller Winner of the 2019 OLA Forest of Reading Evergreen Award Shortlisted for the 2019 John W. Campbell Memorial Award Shortlisted for the 2019/20 First Nation Communities READ Indigenous Literature Award 2020 Burlington Library Selection; 2020 Hamilton Reads One Book One Community Selection; 2020 Region of Waterloo One Book One Community Selection; 2019 Ontario Library Association Ontario Together We Read Program Selection; 2019 Women's National Book Association's Great Group Reads; 2019 Amnesty International Book Club Pick January 2020 Reddit r/bookclub pick of the month "This slow-burning thriller is also a powerful story of survival and will leave readers breathless." -- Publishers Weekly "Rice seamlessly injects Anishinaabe language into the dialogue and creates a beautiful rendering of the natural world ... This title will appeal to fans of literary science-fiction akin to Cormac McCarthy as well as to readers looking for a fresh voice in indigenous fiction." -- Booklist A daring post-apocalyptic novel from a powerful rising literary voice With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow. The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve. Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision. Blending action and allegory, Moon of the Crusted Snow upends our expectations. Out of catastrophe comes resilience. And as one society collapses, another is reborn.
This Book Club is free, although pre-registration is required. Register online here.