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5 Canadian First Novels to Watch For

Yesterday we highlighted some forthcoming novels from big name Canadian authors, today we are moving to first novels.

If the Canadian literary awards season this past year taught us anything, it’s that Canada has a lot of great up-and-coming authors to watch for. It can be difficult in advance to know which first novel will be the one that jumps to notice, best perhaps to check out them all! Or at least a few, like one of these…

Into That Darkness: a novel
by Steven Price (March)

First novel from a young (born 1976) British Columbia poet whose first poetry collection The Anatomy of Keys traced the life of escape artist Harry Houdini. The collection won the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first collection. Price’s novel seems to come from a place of anxiety about the future of society and with the recent popularity of apocalyptic novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is sure to find an audience. From the publisher: “Set in the city of Victoria, British Columbia, Into That Darkness opens at the moment when a massive earthquake hits the entire west coast with devastating results. With the city destroyed, survivors are left to negotiate a veritable hell on earth in which bonds of civility are pushed to their limits and often broken….Here is a novel for our age of anxiety and end times, a novel that reflects back to us our deepest fears and strongest hopes in the face of impossible odds. Steven Price delivers a powerful story about the physical manifestation of the darker things lurking in our culture, and in ourselves.”

Nobody Cries At Bingo
by Dawn Dumont (March)

A book that wins my award for the best title of the season. Although billed as a novel, it seems to have strong autobiographical links, including a main character named Dawn Dumont who grows up on the Okanese First Nation. and shares the story of her family and experiences. The publisher says “It’s all here — life on the Rez in rich technicolour — as Dawn emerges from home life, through school life, and into the promise of a great future. Nobody Cries At Bingo embraces cultural differences and does it with the great traditional medicine of laughter.”

Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew: a novel
by Stuart Ross (April)

Runner up for my favourite title award (I can’t wait to find out what the connection between the three title elements could be). The author won a ReLit award for his (also awsomely titled) short story collection Buying Cigarettes for the Dog). Here’s how his publisher describes the latest : “Struggling with the sudden, nagging notion that his mother once assassinated a prominent neo-Nazi leader, Ben—a performance artist, about to turn 40—doesn’t know where to turn. His parents are both dead and his brother, having previously been institutionalized, is a lousy source of information. In a non-chronological montage of memories, this inventive tale blends suburban realism with out-of-body surrealism as Ben travels back and forth through life events, attempting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

The Water Man’s Daughter
by Emma Ruby-Sachs (April)

Publisher McClelland & Stewart seems poised to take advantage of the current favour for South African set thrillers with this debut from a Brooklyn based Canadian author and lawyer. From the publisher: “The violent death of a Canadian water company executive in a black township of Johannesburg throws together a South African anti-privatization activist and the water executive’s daughter, Claire, who arrives suddenly from Canada desperate to understand her father’s death. The murder investigation — led by an officer who is finding her own loyalties increasingly unclear — and Claire’s personal quest become entwined, and the young Canadian’s involvement with the activist brings her ever closer to a shocking truth she might not be able to bear. The Water Man’s Daughter, like its characters, is fierce and tender, thought-provoking and emotionally rich. It introduces Emma Ruby-Sachs as an enormously talented, original, and fearless new voice in Canadian fiction.”

Kalila
by Rosemary Nixon

An author from Calgary, currently living in Ontario, and with her first novel being released this spring from New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions. “Kalila chronicles the lives of Maggie and Brodie, whose joy collides with devastation when their daughter’s birth also heralds the news of her congenital heart condition. In this startlingly inventive novel, Rosemary Nixon braids light and darkness into a narrative chain pulled exquisitely taut. Through Maggie and Brodie’s shifting viewpoints; the isolating impenetrability of hospital life; and the mediation of physics, music, and family, Nixon propels the reader into unmapped emotional terrain where a shell-shocked family grapples with the horror, joy, and mystery of impermanence. The result is a spellbinding tale, provocative for the emotions and the intellect.” (Publisher’s description)

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