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Literary Fiction

Our favourite recent literary novels and story collections.


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Nightbitch

- by Rachel Yoder

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One day, the mother was a mother, but then one night, she was quite suddenly something else...

In this blazingly smart and voracious debut, an artist turned stay-at-home mom becomes convinced she's turning into a dog.


An ambitious mother puts her art career on hold to stay at home with her newborn son, but the experience does not match her imagination. Two years later, she steps into the bathroom for a break from her toddler's demands, only to discover a dense patch of hair on the back of her neck. In the mirror, her canines suddenly look sharper than she remembers. Her husband, who travels for work five days a week, casually dismisses her fears from faraway hotel rooms.

As the mother's symptoms intensify, and her temptation to give into her new dog impulses peak, she struggles to keep her alter-canine-identity secret. Seeking a cure at the library, she discovers the mysterious academic tome which becomes her bible, "A Field Guide to Magical Women: A Mythical Ethnography," and meets a group of mommies involved in a multi-level-marketing scheme who may also be more than what they seem.

An outrageously original novel of ideas about art, power and womanhood wrapped in a satirical fairy tale, Nightbitch will make you want to howl in laughter and recognition. And you should. You should howl as much as you want.

The Man with the Silver Saab

- by Alexander M. Smith

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Perplexing, unfathomable, and perhaps unimportant, the cases that Malmo's Department of Sensitive Crimes take on will test them to their limits.

Life--and crime--is not always as it seems for Ulf Varg and the other fearless detectives in Malmo's Department of Sensitive Crimes. There are always surprising new cases to take on, and the latest batch is no exception. And that's not to mention Ulf's struggle to contain his feelings for his colleague Anna Bengsdotter. All in all, things are distinctly difficult in Malmo, and it seems up to Ulf and the Department to set them right.

Intimacies

- by Katie Kitamura

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ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE SUMMER READS

"One of the best novels I've read in 2021." - Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"A perfect novel--taut and seductive." --Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life and Filthy Animals

"Intimacies is a haunting, precise, and morally astute novel that reads like a psychological thriller.... Katie Kitamura is a wonder." --Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward and Eat the Document

A novel from the author of A Separation, an electrifying story about a woman caught between many truths.


An interpreter has come to The Hague to escape New York and work at the International Court. A woman of many languages and identities, she is looking for a place to finally call home.
 
She's drawn into simmering personal dramas: her lover, Adriaan, is separated from his wife but still entangled in his marriage. Her friend Jana witnesses a seemingly random act of violence, a crime the interpreter becomes increasingly obsessed with as she befriends the victim's sister. And she's pulled into an explosive political controversy when she's asked to interpret for a former president accused of war crimes.
 
A woman of quiet passion, she confronts power, love, and violence, both in her personal intimacies and in her work at the Court. She is soon pushed to the precipice, where betrayal and heartbreak threaten to overwhelm her, forcing her to decide what she wants from her life.

What Strange Paradise

- by Omar El Akkad

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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.

Ridgerunner

- by Gil Adamson

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Writers' Trust Fiction Prize Winner Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalist Part literary Western and part historical mystery, Writers' Trust Fiction Prize winner Ridgerunner is now available as a paperback. November 1917. William Moreland is in mid-flight. After nearly twenty years, the notorious thief, known as the Ridgerunner, has returned. Moving through the Rocky Mountains and across the border to Montana, the solitary drifter, impoverished in means and aged beyond his years, is also a widower and a father. And he is determined to steal enough money to secure his son's future. Twelve-year-old Jack Boulton has been left in the care of Sister Beatrice, a formidable nun who keeps him in cloistered seclusion in her grand old house. Though he knows his father is coming for him, the boy longs to return to his family's cabin, deep in the woods. When Jack finally breaks free, he takes with him something the nun is determined to get back -- at any cost. Set against the backdrop of a distant war raging in Europe and a rapidly changing landscape in the West, Gil Adamson's follow-up to her award-winning debut, The Outlander, is a vivid historical novel that draws from the epic tradition and a literary Western brimming with a cast of unforgettable characters touched with humour and loss, and steeped in the wild of the natural world.

Ghost Forest

- by Pik-shuen Fung

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A graceful and indelible debut about love, grief, and family welcomes you into its pages and invites you to linger, staying with you long after you've closed its covers.

How do you grieve, if your family doesn't talk about feelings?

This is the question the unnamed protagonist of Ghost Forest considers after her father dies. One of the many Hong Kong "astronaut" fathers, he stayed in Hong Kong to work, while the rest of the family immigrated to Vancouver before the 1997 Handover, when the British returned sovereignty over Hong Kong to China.

As she revisits memories of her father throughout the years, she struggles with unresolved questions and misunderstandings. Turning to her mother and grandmother for answers, she discovers her own life refracted brightly in theirs.

Buoyant, heartbreaking, and unexpectedly funny, Ghost Forest is a slim novel that envelops the reader in joy and sorrow. Fung writes with a poetic and haunting voice, layering detail and abstraction, weaving memory and oral history to paint a moving portrait of a Chinese-Canadian astronaut family.

China Room

- by Sunjeev Sahota

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From the Booker Prize finalist, a captivating novel about two unforgettable characters seeking to free themselves--one from the expectations placed on women in early twentieth-century Punjab, and the other from the weight of life in the contemporary Indian diaspora.

1929. Fifteen-year-old Mehar is one of three wives married to three brothers on a farm in small-town Punjab. The problem is, she doesn't know which of them is her husband. She and her "sisters" spend their days hard at work, sequestered from the men--except when their domineering mother-in-law, Mai, summons them to a darkened chamber at night. Curious and headstrong, Mehar can't help but try to piece together what Mai doesn't want her to know. From beneath her veil, she studies the sounds of the men's voices, the calluses on their fingers as she serves their tea. When at last, through the slats of the family's china room, she glimpses something that seems to confirm her husband's identity, a passion is ignited that will put more than one life at risk.

1999. A British Sikh man drops out of university and travels to Punjab, hoping to shake an addiction that has held him in its grip for over a year. Growing up in small-town England, the son of an immigrant shopkeeper, his experiences of racist ostracism and violence led him to seek a dangerous form of escape. Now, as he rides out his withdrawal at an old farmstead belonging to the family, he meets a woman, an outcast who offers him friendship.

At once sweeping and intimate, vivid and gripping, China Room is a deeply moving story of oppression, love, trauma, and resilience--the perfect book for our times.

Tuscan Daughter

- by Lisa Rochon

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A novel of beauty and inspiration set during the Italian Renaissance about a young and defiant female artist searching for her mother.

Florence, 1500--a city that glitters with wealth and artistic genius is also a place of fierce political intrigue, walled off from the unrest in the surrounding Tuscan countryside. In this moment, a peasant girl finds herself alone after her father is killed and her mother disappears. Young Beatrice must dare to enter the city to sell her family's olive oil in order to survive, but also to search the streets and opium dens for her missing, grieving mother. 

Walking barefoot from her outlying village, Beatrice is given grudging permission to pass through the city gates to sell olive oil to the artists--Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli--who toil to elevate the status of the Florentine Republic. Lonely yet defiant, the peasant girl draws on the stone walls of Florence in secret as a way to express her pain. While desperately searching the city for her mother, Beatrice befriends the upstart Michelangelo as he struggles to sculpt the David. She also comes to know a cloth merchant's wife who is having her portrait painted by the aging Leonardo da Vinci, renowned through the land as Master of the Arts. Bonds deepen even while Michelangelo and Leonardo are pitted against each other. 

Set during five epic years in the early 1500s when Florence was rebranding itself through its creative geniuses, Tuscan Daughter reveals the humanity and struggles of a young woman longing to find the only family she has left and be an artist in her own right, and the way she influences the artistic masters of the time to stake everything on the power of beauty to transform and heal.

The Girl Behind the Wall

- by Mandy Robotham

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From the USA Today and internationally bestselling WWII novelist of The German Midwife, The Secret Messenger and The Berlin Girl comes a story set at the dawn of the Cold War in Berlin. A city divided.When the Berlin Wall goes up, Karin is on the wrong side of the city. Overnight, she's trapped under Soviet rule in unforgiving East Berlin and separated from her twin sister, Jutta.Two sisters torn apart.Karin and Jutta lead parallel lives for years, cut off by the Wall. But Karin finds one reason to keep going: Otto, the man who gives her hope, even amidst the brutal East German regime.One impossible choice...When Jutta finds a hidden way through the wall, the twins are reunited. But the Stasi have eyes everywhere, and soon Karin is faced with a terrible decision: to flee to the West and be with her sister, or sacrifice it all to follow her heart? A timely reminder that, even in darkness, love will always guide you home, this gripping and emotional tale is perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and The Last Correspondent by Soraya M. Lane. Why readers love The Girl Behind the Wall: 'I was captivated from the very first chapter. It was so well written, I felt like I was really there... A must read.' NetGalley Reviewer 'Oh my goodness, what a page-turner. My heart was in my mouth for most of this book.' NetGalley Reviewer 'Such a fast-paced read! Historical fiction at its best! Highly, highly recommend.' NetGalley Reviewer 'Another fabulous read from the super talented Mandy Robotham who never fails to give us a satisfying story... she has the ability to mix a damn good story with historical facts... you want to read and read... I raced through this one.' NetGalley Reviewer 'What a truly gripping read! I didn't want to stop reading, I was mesmerised...' NetGalley Reviewer 'I couldn't put this book down... well-researched and a heartbreakingly accurate portrayal of the families separated by the wall. Keep the tissues handy because you might need them.' NetGalley Reviewer 'What a read. I found myself thinking of the family in the book as real people I loved. If you read only one book this year, make sure it's this one!' NetGalley Reviewer 'Mandy Robotham has a gift for making history come alive. Amazing read. I simply could not put it down.' NetGalley Reviewer 'Beautifully written and heartfelt... I loved it... A story that will stay with you. Well worth a read.' NetGalley Reviewer 'Another winner from Mandy Robotham!' NetGalley Reviewer

Island Queen

- by Vanessa Riley

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"Riveting and transformative, evocative and immersive...by turns vibrant and bold and wise, discovering Dorothy's story is a singular pleasure."--The New York Times

A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies. 

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom--and that of her sister and her mother--from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.

Vanessa Riley's novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.

From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London's elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

A Boring Wife Settles the Score

- by Marie-renee Lavoie

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The eagerly anticipated sequel to the critically beloved and bestselling Autopsy of a Boring Wife finds the saucy and ever-appealing Diane, now turning fifty and with the wreckage of her marriage behind her, setting off on a new hilarious journey for romance.

A Boring Wife Settles the Score marks the return of Diane, the raunchy and entertaining heroine of the prize-winning and bestselling Autopsy of a Boring Wife. Despite the end of her marriage, Diane still has plenty of love to give. Determined not to waste her days -- that's just not her style -- she finds a job in a daycare and solace in cocktails with her best friend, Claudine, who convinces Diane her love life is not over. Diane wants romance and sees no reason why she shouldn't have it, but she soon discovers, in her typically chaotic and hilarious manner, that for a woman approaching her fifties the task is not so simple as it is for a man.

Antkind

- by Charlie Kaufman

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The bold and boundlessly original debut novel from the Oscar®-winning screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Synecdoche, New York.

LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE o "A dyspeptic satire that owes much to Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon . . . propelled by Kaufman's deep imagination, considerable writing ability and bull's-eye wit."--The Washington Post

"An astonishing creation . . . riotously funny . . . an exceptionally good [book]."--The New York Times Book Review o "Kaufman is a master of language . . . a sight to behold."--NPR 

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND MEN'S HEALTH


B. Rosenberger Rosenberg, neurotic and underappreciated film critic (failed academic, filmmaker, paramour, shoe salesman who sleeps in a sock drawer), stumbles upon a hitherto unseen film made by an enigmatic outsider--a film he's convinced will change his career trajectory and rock the world of cinema to its core. His hands on what is possibly the greatest movie ever made--a three-month-long stop-motion masterpiece that took its reclusive auteur ninety years to complete--B. knows that it is his mission to show it to the rest of humanity. The only problem: The film is destroyed, leaving him the sole witness to its inadvertently ephemeral genius.

All that's left of this work of art is a single frame from which B. must somehow attempt to recall the film that just might be the last great hope of civilization. Thus begins a mind-boggling journey through the hilarious nightmarescape of a psyche as lushly Kafkaesque as it is atrophied by the relentless spew of Twitter. Desperate to impose order on an increasingly nonsensical existence, trapped in a self-imposed prison of aspirational victimhood and degeneratively inclusive language, B. scrambles to re-create the lost masterwork while attempting to keep pace with an ever-fracturing culture of "likes" and arbitrary denunciations that are simultaneously his bête noire and his raison d'être.

A searing indictment of the modern world, Antkind is a richly layered meditation on art, time, memory, identity, comedy, and the very nature of existence itself--the grain of truth at the heart of every joke.

Via Negativa

- by Daniel Hornsby

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A heartfelt, daring, divinely hilarious debut novel about a priest who embarks on a fateful journey with a pistol in his pocket and an injured coyote in his backseat.

"A beautiful and meditative exploration of shattered faith." --Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half


Father Dan is homeless. Dismissed by his conservative diocese for eccentricity and insubordination, he's made his exile into a kind of pilgrimage, transforming his Toyota Camry into a mobile monk's cell. Then he sees a minivan sideswipe a coyote. Unable to suppress his Franciscan impulses, he takes the injured animal in.

With his unexpected canine companion in the backseat, Dan makes his way west, encountering other offbeat travelers and stopping to take in the occasional roadside novelty (MARTIN'S HOLE TO HELL, WORLD-FAMOUS BOTTOMLESS PIT NEXT EXIT!). But the coyote is far from the only oddity fate has delivered into this churchless priest's care: it has also given him a bone-handled pistol, a box of bullets, and a letter from an estranged friend. By the time Dan gets to where he's going, he'll be forced to reckon once and for all with the great mistakes of his past, and he will have to decide: is penance better paid with revenge, or with redemption?

The Paper Palace

- by Miran Cowley Heller

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REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK

INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

THE PAPER PALACE IS:


"Filled with secrets, love, lies and a summer beach house. What more could you ask?"--Parade

"A deeply emotional love story...the unraveling of secrets, lies and a very complex love triangle." --Reese Witherspoon (Reese's Book Club July '21 Pick)

"Nail-biting." --Town & Country


"A magnificent page-turner." --Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author

"Beguiling."--Vogue, The Best Books to Read This Summer

A story of summer, secrets, love, and lies: in the course of a singular day on Cape Cod, one woman must make a life-changing decision that has been brewing for decades.


"This house, this place, knows all my secrets."

It is a perfect July morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at "The Paper Palace"--the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside. Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn't forever changed the course of their lives. As Heller colors in the experiences that have led Elle to this day, we arrive at her ultimate decision with all its complexity. Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace considers the tensions between desire and dignity, the legacies of abuse, and the crimes and misdemeanors of families.

Transcendent Kingdom

- by Yaa Gyasi

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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
FINALIST FOR THE 2021 WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
 
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FOR FICTION
 
Yaa Gyasi's stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national bestseller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.


Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family's loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.

Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief--a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi's phenomenal debut.

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