Free Press Book Club
To help ease some of the isolation-related boredom, the Winnipeg Free Press has started 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.
Youíll be able to submit questions ahead of time, or drop them into one of the live chat boxes during the meeting. (And donít 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.
Ľ This Book Club is free, although pre-registration is required. Register online here.
- by Miriam Toews
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The beloved author of bestsellers Women Talking, All My Puny Sorrows, and A Complicated Kindness returns with a funny, smart, headlong rush of a novel full of wit, flawless writing, and a tribute to perseverance and love in an unusual family.
Fight Night is told in the unforgettable voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma takes on the role of teacher and gives her the task of writing to Swiv's absent father about life in the household during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In turn, Swiv gives Grandma an assignment: to write a letter to "Gord," her unborn grandchild (and Swiv's soon-to-be brother or sister). "You're a small thing," Grandma writes to Gord, "and you must learn to fight."
As Swiv records her thoughts and observations, Fight Night unspools the pain, love, laughter, and above all, will to live a good life across three generations of women in a close-knit family. But it is Swiv's exasperating, wise and irrepressible Grandma who is at the heart of this novel: someone who knows intimately what it costs to survive in this world, yet has found a way--painfully, joyously, ferociously--to love and fight to the end, on her own terms.
- by Kelly Bowen
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This heart-wrenching novel about family and war unearths generations of secrets and sacrifices--perfect for fans of The Paris Orphan and The Lost Girls of Paris.
2017, London: When Aurelia Leclaire inherits an opulent Paris apartment, she is shocked to discover her grandmother's hidden secrets--including a treasure trove of famous art and couture gowns. One obscure painting leads her to Gabriel Seymour, a highly respected art restorer with his own mysterious past. Together they attempt to uncover the truths concealed within the apartment's walls.
Paris, 1942: The Germans may occupy the City of Lights, but glamorous Estelle Allard flourishes in a world separate from the hardships of war. Yet when the Nazis come for her friends, Estelle doesn't hesitate to help those she holds dear, no matter the cost. As she works against the forces intent on destroying her loved ones, she can't know that her actions will have ramifications for generations to come.
Set seventy-five years apart, against a perilous and a prosperous Paris, both Estelle and Lia must summon hidden courage as they navigate the dangers of a changing world, altering history--and their family's futures--forever.
- by C. C. Benison
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Under the sway of a charismatic stranger, five friends at an isolated lakeside cottage find their idyll unravelling, leaving two of them -- Lydia Eadon and Dorian Grant -- trapped in an explosion of violence that shatters their young lives and propels them past the borders of conventional morality. Forty years later when a body is unearthed from the scene of their revels, Lydia -- a book editor in San Francisco -- and Dorian -- a vagabond actor -- are plunged into a terrible reckoning with the past. Like Donna Tartt's The Secret History, this is a chronicle of duplicity and collusion, of innocence corrupted, and of the terrible power of guilt.
- by Andrew Unger
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Timothy Heppner is a frustrated ghostwriter struggling to make ends meet in Edenfeld, a small Mennonite community bulldozing its way towards modernity--if it's old, it has to go!
A member of the Preservation Society but desperate to keep his job with the mayor's Parks and "Wreck" department, Timothy finds himself in an awkward position when he is hired to write an updated version of the town's history book. Fuelled by warring loyalties, the threat of personal bankruptcy, and a good deal of fried bologna, Timothy must find his own voice to tell the one story that could make--or break--him.
Honest and laugh-out-loud funny, Once Removed explores the real costs of "progress" in this new Canadian classic.
- by Ariel Gordon
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With intimacy and humour award-winning poet Ariel Gordon walks us through the streets of Winnipeg and into the urban forest that is, to her, the city's heart. Along the way she shares with us the lives of these urban trees, from the grackles and cankerworms of the spring, to the flush of mushrooms on stumps in the summer and through to the red-stemmed dogwood of the winter. After grounding us in native elms and ashes, Gordon travels to BC's northern Rockies, to Banff National Park and a cattle farm in rural Manitoba, and helps us to consider what we expect of nature. Whether it is the effects of climate change on the urban forest or foraging in the city, Dutch elm disease in the trees or squirrels in the living room, Gordon delves into our relationships with the natural world with heart and style. In the end, the essays circle back to the forest, where the weather is always better and where the reader can see how to remake even the trees that are lost.
- by Jillian Horton
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When we need help, we count on doctors to put us back together. But what happens when doctors fall apart? Funny, fresh, and deeply affecting, We Are All Perfectly Fine is the story of a married mother of three on the brink of personal and professional collapse who attends rehab with a twist: a meditation retreat for burned-out doctors.
Jillian Horton, a general internist, has no idea what to expect during her five-day retreat at Chapin Mill, a Zen centre in upstate New York. She just knows she desperately needs a break. At first she is deeply uncomfortable with the spartan accommodations, silent meals and scheduled bonding sessions. But as the group struggles through awkward first encounters and guided meditations, something remarkable happens: world-class surgeons, psychiatrists, pediatricians and general practitioners open up and share stories about their secret guilt and grief, as well as their deep-seated fear of falling short of the expectations that define them. Jillian realizes that her struggle with burnout is not so much personal as it is the result of a larger system failure, and that compartmentalizing your most difficult emotions--a coping strategy that is drilled into doctors--is not useful unless you face these emotions too. Jillian Horton throws open a window onto the flawed system that shapes medical professionals, revealing the rarely acknowledged stresses that lead doctors to depression and suicide, and emphasizing the crucial role of compassion not only in treating others, but also in taking care of ourselves.
- by Saleema Nawaz
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"In these dark days, Saleema Nawaz dares to write of hope. Songs for the End of the World is a loving, vivid, tenderly felt novel about men, women, and a possible apocalypse. I couldn't put it down." -Sean Michaels, author of Us Conductors and The Wagers
NATIONAL BESTSELLER. An immersive, deeply engaging, and hopeful novel about the power of human connection in a time of crisis, as the bonds of love, family, and duty are tested by an impending catastrophe. Named a Book of the Year by the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire, 49th Shelf, and a Book You Should Read by Maclean's and Chatelaine.
How quickly he'd forgotten a fundamental truth: the closer you got to the heart of a calamity, the more resilience there was to be found.
This is the story of a handful of people living through an unfolding catastrophe.
Elliot is a first responder in New York, a man running from past failures and struggling to do the right thing. Emma is a pregnant singer preparing to headline a benefit concert for victims of a growing outbreak--all while questioning what kind of world her child is coming into. Owen is the author of a bestselling novel with eerie similarities to the real-life crisis, and as fact and fiction begin to blur, he must decide whether his lifelong instinct for self-preservation has been worth the cost.
As we discover these characters' ties to one another--and to the mystery of the so-called ARAMIS Girl--what emerges is an extraordinary web of connection and community that reveals none of us is ever truly alone.
Brilliantly told by an unforgettable chorus of voices, Saleema Nawaz's glittering novel is a moving and hopeful meditation on what we owe to ourselves and to each other. It reminds us that disaster can bring out the best in people--and that coming together may be what saves us in the end.
- by Joan Thomas
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WINNER OF THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR FICTION
A GLOBE AND MAIL, CBC BOOKS, APPLE BOOKS, AND NOW TORONTO BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
In the tradition of The Poisonwood Bible and State of Wonder, a novel set in the rainforest of Ecuador about five women left behind when their missionary husbands are killed. Based on the shocking real-life events
In 1956, a small group of evangelical Christian missionaries and their families journeyed to the rainforest in Ecuador intending to convert the Waorani, a people who had never had contact with the outside world. The plan was known as Operation Auca. After spending days dropping gifts from an aircraft, the five men in the party rashly entered the "intangible zone." They were all killed, leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves.
Five Wives is the fictionalized account of the real-life women who were left behind, and their struggles - with grief, with doubt, and with each other - as they continued to pursue their evangelical mission in the face of the explosion of fame that followed their husbands' deaths.
Five Wives is a riveting, often wrenching story of evangelism and its legacy, teeming with atmosphere and compelling characters and rich in emotional impact.
- by David A. Robertson
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A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year
A CBC Books Nonfiction Book of the Year
A Maclean's 20 Books You Need to Read this Winter
"An instant classic that demands to be read with your heart open and with a perspective widened to allow in a whole new understanding of family, identity and love." --Cherie Dimaline
In this bestselling memoir, a son who grew up away from his Indigenous culture takes his Cree father on a trip to the family trapline and finds that revisiting the past not only heals old wounds but creates a new future
The son of a Cree father and a white mother, David A. Robertson grew up with virtually no awareness of his Indigenous roots. His father, Dulas--or Don, as he became known--lived on the trapline in the bush in Manitoba, only to be transplanted permanently to a house on the reserve, where he couldn't speak his language, Swampy Cree, in school with his friends unless in secret. David's mother, Beverly, grew up in a small Manitoba town that had no Indigenous people until Don arrived as the new United Church minister. They married and had three sons, whom they raised unconnected to their Indigenous history.
David grew up without his father's teachings or any knowledge of his early experiences. All he had was "blood memory": the pieces of his identity ingrained in the fabric of his DNA, pieces that he has spent a lifetime putting together. It has been the journey of a young man becoming closer to who he is, who his father is and who they are together, culminating in a trip back to the trapline to reclaim their connection to the land.
Black Water is a memoir about intergenerational trauma and healing, about connection and about how Don's life informed David's own. Facing up to a story nearly erased by the designs of history, father and son journey together back to the trapline at Black Water and through the past to create a new future.
- by Lauren Carter
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Winner of the 2020 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction and the 2020 John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer
When Melony Barnett's mother commits a violent murder, Mel is left struggling with the loss of her parents and her future. For more than two years, she drifts around the continent, trying to carve out a life that has nothing to do with her past, before returning to her Northern Ontario home and adopting a rescue dog--a mastiff with a tragic history. As she struggles to help the dog heal and repair her relationship with her brother, Matt, she begins to uncover layers of secrets about her family --secrets that were the fuel for her mother's actions. This Has Nothing to Do With You is a compulsively readable novel that follows a dynamic cast of characters, revealing the complexity of the bonds that are formed through trauma and grief--with siblings, lovers, friends, and dogs.
- by Tanya Talaga
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Tanya Talaga, the bestselling author of Seven Fallen Feathers, calls attention to an urgent global humanitarian crisis among Indigenous Peoples -- youth suicide.
"Talaga's research is meticulous and her journalistic style is crisp and uncompromising. She brings each story to life, skillfully weaving the stories of the youths' lives, deaths, and families together with sharp analysis... The book is heartbreaking and infuriating, both an important testament to the need for change and a call to action." -- Publishers Weekly *Starred Review*
"Talaga has crafted an urgent and unshakable portrait of the horrors faced by Indigenous teens going to school in Thunder Bay, Ontario... Talaga's incisive research and breathtaking storytelling could bring this community one step closer to the healing it deserves." -- Booklist *Starred Review*
In this urgent and incisive work, bestselling and award-winning author Tanya Talaga explores the alarming rise of youth suicide in Indigenous communities in Canada and beyond. From Northern Ontario to Nunavut, Norway, Brazil, Australia, and the United States, the Indigenous experience in colonized nations is startlingly similar and deeply disturbing. It is an experience marked by the violent separation of Peoples from the land, the separation of families, and the separation of individuals from traditional ways of life -- all of which has culminated in a spiritual separation that has had an enduring impact on generations of Indigenous children. As a result of this colonial legacy, too many communities today lack access to the basic determinants of health -- income, employment, education, a safe environment, health services -- leading to a mental health and youth suicide crisis on a global scale. But, Talaga reminds us, First Peoples also share a history of resistance, resilience, and civil rights activism.
Based on her Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy series, All Our Relations is a powerful call for action, justice, and a better, more equitable world for all Indigenous Peoples.
- by David Bergen
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SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2020 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE o A NEW YORK TIMES NEW & NOTEWORTHY BOOK o A GLOBE AND MAIL TOP 100 BOOK FOR 2020 o A CBC BEST FICTION BOOK FOR 2020 o "His third appearance on the Giller shortlist ... affirms Bergen among Canada's most powerful writers. His pages light up; all around falls into darkness."--2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury o "David Bergen's command is breathtaking ... His work belongs to the world, and to all time. He is one of our living greats."--Matthew Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves From the streets of Danang, Vietnam, where a boy falls in with a young American missionary, to fishermen lost off the islands of Honduras, to the Canadian prairies, where a teenage boy's infatuation reveals his naiveté and an aging rancher finds himself smitten, the short stories in Here the Dark explore the spaces between doubt and belief, evil and good, obscurity and light. Following men and boys bewildered by their circumstances and swayed by desire, surprised by love and by their capacity for both tenderness and violence, and featuring a novella about a young woman who rejects the laws of her cloistered Mennonite community, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winner David Bergen's latest deftly renders complex moral ambiguities and asks what it means to be lost--and how we might be found.
- by Jenny Heijun Wills
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Winner of the 2020 Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book and the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
A beautiful and haunting memoir of kinship and culture rediscovered. Jenny Heijun Wills was born in Korea and adopted as an infant into a white family in small-town Canada. In her late twenties, she reconnected with her first family and returned to Seoul where she spent four months getting to know other adoptees, as well as her Korean mother, father, siblings, and extended family. At the guesthouse for transnational adoptees where she lived, alliances were troubled by violence and fraught with the trauma of separation and of cultural illiteracy. Unsurprisingly, heartbreakingly, Wills found that her nascent relationships with her family were similarly fraught. Ten years later, Wills sustains close ties with her Korean family. Her Korean parents and her younger sister attended her wedding in Montreal, and that same sister now lives in Canada. Remarkably, meeting Jenny caused her birth parents to reunite after having been estranged since her adoption. Little by little, Jenny Heijun Wills is learning and relearning her stories and those of her biological kin, piecing together a fragmented life into something resembling a whole. Delving into gender, class, racial, and ethnic complexities, as well as into the complex relationships between Korean women--sisters, mothers and daughters, grandmothers and grandchildren, aunts and nieces--Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. describes in visceral, lyrical prose the painful ripple effects that follow a child's removal from a family, and the rewards that can flow from both struggle and forgiveness.
- by Daria Salamon
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Rob Krause and Daria Salamon sold their car, rented out their Winnipeg home, and packed up their two young children to embark on a 12-month journey around the world. In this dual retelling of their ambitious year abroad, Don't Try This at Home chronicles the hilarious and sensational misadventures of a Canadian family as they travel across 15 different countries in the Southern Hemisphere. In an honest reflection on parenting, marriage, and living for a year on a tight budget, Krause and Salamon take readers through some of the world's most stunning vistas while meeting the challenges of foreign customs, broken-down buses, stomach bugs, personal loss, and their often less-than-enthusiastic children.
- by Katherena Vermette
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Winner of the 2017 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Awards. When Stella, a young Metis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break -- a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house -- she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim -- police, family, and friends -- tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Metis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg's North End is exposed. A powerful intergenerational family saga, The Break showcases Vermette's abundant writing talent and positions her as an exciting new voice in Canadian literature.