2020 Reading List
Since the festival is online this year, we encourage you to buy or pre-order your books in advance of the events to support authors at this time.
If you live in Whistler or Squamish, order your book from Armchair Books in Whistler, for pick up or delivery.
If you live elsewhere in Canada or beyond, click on the URL included with each book to order, or visit your favourite Canadian Independent Bookseller at the Bookfinder.
Enjoy, and we’ll see you at the festival!
A Russian Sister
By Caroline Adderson
A Russian Sister gives the reader a glimpse behind the curtain to the fascinating real-life people who inspired Chekhov’s The Seagull, and the tragedy that followed its premiere. The novel offers a clever commentary on the role of women as prey for male needs and inspiration, a role they continue to play today. At the same time the novel is a plea for sisterhood, both familial and friendly. (Release: Aug. 18, 2020)
By David A. Robertson
Black Water is a family memoir of intergenerational trauma and healing, of connection, of story, of how David Robertson’s father’s life—growing up in Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, then making the journey from Norway House to Winnipeg—informed the author’s own life, and might even have saved it. Facing a story nearly erased by the designs of history, father and son journey together back to the trapline at Black Water, through the past to create a new future. (Release: Sep. 22, 2020)
Breaking the Ocean
By Annahid Dashtgard
In Breaking the Ocean, diversity and inclusion specialist Annahid Dashtgard addresses the long-term impacts of exile, immigration, and racism by offering a vulnerable, deeply personal account of her life and work. Breaking the Ocean introduces a unique perspective on how racism and systemic discrimination result in emotional scarring and ongoing PTSD. It is a wake-up call to acknowledge our differences, addressing the universal questions of what it means to belong and ultimately what is required to create change in ourselves and in society.
By Laesa Faith Kim
Charlee LeBeau and the Gambler’s Promise
By C.V. Gauthier
It’s 1858, and Charlee Lebeau isn’t your typical girl. Although she has always wanted a life of adventure, Charlee is slated to take an ordinary job in the local town until her Uncle Jack, a professional gambler, offers to take her to live with him in San Francisco. Charlee LeBeau & The Gambler’s Promise is the story of one girl’s fight for independence and survival.
By Annabel Lyon
From the award-winning and internationally bestselling author Annabel Lyon comes Consent, a smart, mysterious and heartbreaking novel centred on two sets of sisters whose lives are braided together when tragedy changes them forever. Consent is a startling, moving, thought-provoking novel on the complexities of familial duty and on how love can become entangled with guilt, resentment and regret.
Darling Rose Gold
By Stephanie Wrobel
A dark, shocking, and unputdownable thriller debut about a mother and daughter—and the lengths to which a daughter will go to find independence.
By Jennifer Rouse Barbeau
Stan Templeman is a late-night radio deejay. Timothy is the nine-year-old boy who calls in. Part prose, part radio play, part theatrical script, Dying Hour immerses the reader in the darkest hours of night, where fate and desperation bring every radio show listener face to face with their own sharp and personal secrets.
Tùkhòne: Where the River Narrows and Shores Bend
By D.A. Lockhart
From up and coming poet D.A. Lockhart, Black Moss Press is pleased to present Tùkhòne: Where the River Narrows and Shores Bend. The name itself comes from the from the southern Unami dialect of Lenape meaning “bend in the river”, and is the name for the Windsor/Detroit region that the Lenape people once inhabited. Tùkhòne blends Japanese style poetry with traditional indigenous imagery and music from Detroit’s greatest musicians, to present an examination of the land that was stolen from his ancestors. Divided into two parts, one section focuses on merging Haiku with the moon cycle/calendar used by the Lenape, while the other section is made up of Haibun inspired by musicians such as MC5, White Stripes, Eminem, Stevie Wonder, JR JR, Model 500, Aretha Franklin, etc.
By Amy McDaid
Fake Baby is a dark funny novel about three people on the edge of life and society. Jaanvi is grieving the death of her son and is hiding a reborn doll in her closet. Her husband is furious and demands she returns him. Lucas the pharmacist is having one of the worst weeks of his life: his date won’t return his calls, his mother’s gone manic, and a medication error has put his favourite customer in hospital. Meanwhile, Stephen has a plan to annihilate his dead father’s spirit by throwing himself into the Manukau Harbour. But first he must escape the psychiatric facility he’s been locked in.
Five Little Indians
By Michelle Good
Taken from their families when young and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention. Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens strive to find a place of safety and belonging. The paths of the five friends cross over decades as they struggle to overcome the trauma they’ve endured. Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.
Forty-One Objects Prose poems
By Carsten Rene Nielsen. Translated by David Keplinger
The Bitter Oleander Press, 2019 – ”It should be of little surprise to us that Nielsen’s strangeness has been embraced—perhaps more than in Denmark—in the United States. His books have found a following here where a cerebral, Pythonesque silliness stands a chance to draw a crowd. Nielsen’s archeological excavations, with its grown men in baby carriages, spider theaters, and sneezing trumpets, serve as antidote where politics have sickened us: the delusion of self-importance is momentarily washed away, and a clown sings from inside his barrel, rolling down a dark and lonely street.” (From David Keplinger’s introduction)
Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments
By Ulrikka Gernes
Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments is a collection of poems that zooms in and out of places and states of mind, from a lit bicycle shed in the back yard to a root canal in November, from a typhoon in Hong Kong to instincts astray in various Copenhagen neighborhoods. Elegantly translated by Canadian collaborators Per Brask and Patrick Friesen, these dreamlike poems attempt, with honesty and humour, to fathom what it is to inhabit a specifically unspecific point in life—not to mention in the Universe. In 2016, the collection was a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize.
By Zalika Reid-Benta
Set in the neighbourhood of “Little Jamaica,” Frying Plantain follows a girl from elementary school to high school graduation as she navigates the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation immigrants experiencing first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity in a predominantly white society. A rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds, Frying Plantain shows how, in one charged moment, friendship and love can turn to enmity and hate, well-meaning protection can become control, and teasing play can turn to something much darker.
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens
By Tanya Boteju
Judy Blume meets RuPaul’s Drag Race in this funny, feel-good debut novel about a queer teen who navigates questions of identity and self-acceptance while discovering the magical world of drag.
Here the Dark
By David Bergen
From the streets of Danang, Vietnam, where a boy falls in with a young American missionary, to the Canadian prairies, where an aging rancher finds himself smitten, a teenage boy’s infatuation reveals his naiveté, and a young woman in a cloistered Mennonite community is torn between faith and doubt, Here the Dark deftly renders complex moral ambiguities and asks what it means to be lost—and how, through grace, we can be found.
By Roz Nay
From the bestselling author of Our Little Secret comes a suspenseful new thriller featuring two estranged sisters desperate to keep their deepest and darkest secret where it belongs—in the past.
It Happened on Sweet Street
By Caroline Adderson
Monsieur Oliphant’s cake shop, the only bakery game in town, has long had customers lining up outside its door for Oliphant’s delicious jelly rolls and marvelous wedding cakes . . . until the day cookie concocter Mademoiselle Fée takes over the old shoemaker’s shop. And it isn’t long before the divine piemaker Madame Clotilde soon moves into the old bric-a-brac shop. Three different bakers all trying to outclass one another means their little cul-de-sac is packed with customers every day and night, so, one morning, when everyone is bumpling and jostling each other with their cakes, cookies and pies, a food disaster — a massacre of cream, a devastation of crumbs — is inevitable! Only one little girl has the drive (or appetite?) to find a solution, but can it last? This madcap tale of frenzied cooks and zany eats (and one very lucky town) will delight readers with a sweet tooth of any age!
Magdalena: River of Dreams
By Wade Davis
Travelers often become enchanted with the first country that captures their hearts and gives them license to be free. For Wade Davis, it was Colombia. Now in a masterful new book, the bestselling author tells of his travels on the mighty Magdalena, the river that made possible the nation. Along the way, he finds a people who have overcome years of conflict precisely because of their character, informed by an enduring spirit of place, and a deep love of a land that is home to the greatest ecological and geographical diversity on the planet. Braiding together memoir, history, and journalism, Wade Davis tells the story of the country’s most magnificent river, and in doing so, tells the epic story of Colombia. (Release: Sep. 2020)
Misconduct of the Heart
By Cordelia Strube
Stevie, a recovering alcoholic and kitchen manager of Chappy’s, a small chain restaurant, is frantically trying to prevent the people around her from going supernova: her PTSD-suffering veteran son, her parents with dementia, the eccentrics who work in her kitchen, the geriatric dog she inherits, and a damaged five-year-old who landed on her doorstep and might just be her granddaughter. In the tight grip of new corporate owners, Stevie battles to save her kitchen, while trying to learn to forgive herself and maybe allow some love back into her life.
Moon of the Crusted Snow
By Waubgeshig Rice
A post-apocalyptic novel set in a remote northern First Nations community. As their tenuous links to the southern world wink out, Evan and his community learn to rely again on the old ways to survive. But a wendigo southerner arrives to threaten everything. Publishers Weekly says, “This slow-burning thriller is also a powerful story of survival and will leave readers breathless.”
Outlasting the Weather: Selected & New Poems, 1996-2020
By Patrick Friesen
Spanning a quarter century of Friesen’s work, the poems in Outlasting the Weather speak to what is meant by “a life lived in poetry.” The poems in this Selected are inseparable from the poet. To read them is to enter his thinking and ride his breath: to experience the art of making in as immediate a way as is humanly possible. The old has become new, as the earliest poems here explore human violence, and the new has become old, as the later work both explores new directions and returns to old themes. Memory, its fallibility and insistence on uncovering not one truth, but many, is a thread that runs throughout this book. Sometimes it is unclear whose memories we are reading: those of the poet or our own. (Release: Aug. 30, 2020)
People Like Frank, and Other Stories from the Edge of Normal
By Jennifer Ashton
A young woman in a group home investigates a mysterious piece of knitting. An obsessed bag boy does grim battle with a squirrel. A woman, an asparagus bag and a garbageman have a tumultuous short-term relationship. In the tradition of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Room and If I Fall, If I Die, this uplifting collection explores the world through the eyes of protagonists whose perspectives are informed by their unique circumstances. Far from being defined by their limitations, these characters revel in achievements others take for granted and find wonder in unexpected places.
By Genni Gunn
The stories in Permanent Tourists feature displaced protagonists loosely connected through a support group, all of them dealing with loss precipitated by elusive fathers, husbands and lovers, by a wife’s death, a lost child, sibling rivalries. Tourists in their own lives, these characters are often paralysed by emotional inertia. The protagonists in this collection flee to evade their responsibilities, their failed relationships, their own shortcomings. Within the unfamiliar, their problems resurface and they’re forced to confront and re-examine them. Permanent Tourists presents physical, emotional and psychological tourists, all striving to delve more deeply into themselves, their friendships, their families, their love relationships, and ultimately, to spur themselves to action. (Release: Oct. 1, 2020)
Radical Acts of Love. How we find hope at the end of life
By Janie Brown
In this profound and moving book, oncology nurse Janie Brown recounts twenty conversations she has had with the dying, including people close to her. Each conversation uncovers a different perspective on, and experience of death, while at the same time exploring its universalities. Offering extremely sensitive and wise insight into our final moments, Brown shows practical ways to facilitate the shift from feeling helpless about death to feeling hopeful; from fear to acceptance; from feeling disconnected and alone, to becoming part of the wider, collective story of our mortality.
Seven Year Summer
By Anna Byrne
Part memoir, medical guide and spiritual text, Seven Year Summer is the story of an unlikely friendship between two women destined for death—Anna, diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma in her early 30s; and Eleanor, a woman in her 70s dying of renal failure. Together they explore the nuances of illness, life, loss and renewal.
By Amy Stuart
PI Clare O’Dey is hunting for two missing persons. Little does she know she’s the one being hunted. Malcolm and his wife Zoe have disappeared without a trace. His colleague Clare is certain she can find him, as she holds the key to his past. Everyone who knew the couple sees Malcolm as the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Everyone except Clare. She’s certain there’s more at play. As Clare pulls back the layers, she discovers that Malcolm’s past is far more sinister than she imagined, and that many women are in grave danger. And she is among them.
The Art of Losing It: A Memoir of Grief and Addiction
By Rosemary Keevil
When her brother dies of AIDS and her husband dies of cancer in the same year, Rosemary is left on her own with two little daughters and antsy addiction demons dancing in her head. This is the nucleus of The Art of Losing It: a young mother plunged into crisis mode, a high-functioning radio show host trying to raise her two girls who just lost their daddy and finally, rehab and sobriety that usher in a fresh brand of chaos. Heartrending but ultimately hopeful The Art of Losing It is a story of a struggling mother who finds her way—painfully—from one side of grief and addiction to another. (Release: Oct. 6, 2020)
The Barren Grounds
By David A. Robertson
The first book in a middle-grade series that reads like if The Chronicles of Narnia were influenced by Cree folklore. The story follows Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous kids taken from their families and brought together in foster care in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They feel a total disconnection from their culture until they find a secret entrance in their unfinished attic. The entrance takes them to another reality, Aski, where they meet a man-sized Fisher, Ochek, and a sassy squirrel, Arik. The four of them soon become embroiled in an epic quest to save Ochek’s community, Misewa, from an eternal winter. (Release: Sep. 8, 2020)
By Aislinn Hunter
From Aislinn Hunter, award-winning author, comes a vivid novel about the entwined fates of two very different refugees in two distinct moments: war-torn Europe in the 1940s as fascism spreads; and a British island in the 1980s as a ship full of migrants approaches a treacherous shoreline. By turns elegiac and heart-pounding, a love letter in the guise of a song of despair, The Certainties is about survival in the face of fascism, forced migration, and the cost of war. It is also a moving and transformative blend of historical and speculative fiction, a novel that shows us what it means to bear witness, and the price and power of paying attention to those who seek refuge. (Release: August 8, 2020)
The Crooked Thing
By Mary MacDonald
For fans of Alice Munro and Carol Shields, The Crooked Thing is an emotional and hopeful collection of short stories that delve into the tragedies that befall each of us in the search for goodness and meaning. In her debut story collection, Mary MacDonald brings each narrator to face their own existence, taking the reader into darkness, passing through fear and resistance, to seek redemption and freedom. At their core these are love stories; they move us, disturb us, and upend our beliefs, to show us characters not all that different from ourselves.
By Marina Endicott
From one of our most critically acclaimed and beloved storytellers comes a sweeping novel set on board the Morning Light, a Nova Scotian merchant ship sailing through the south pacific in 1912. Kay and Thea are half-sisters, separated in age by almost twenty years, but deeply attached. When their stern father dies, Thea returns to Nova Scotia for her long-promised marriage to the captain of the Morning Light. But she cannot abandon her orphaned young sister, so Kay too embarks on a life-changing voyage to the other side of the world.
The Glass Hotel
By Emily St. John Mandel
From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel is a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it.
The Gospel of Breaking
By Jillian Christmas
In The Gospel of Breaking, Jillian Christmas confirms what followers of her performance and artistic curation have long known: there is magic in her words. Befitting someone who “speaks things into being,” Christmas extracts from family history, queer lineage, and the political landscape of a racialized life to create a rich, softly defiant collection of poems. Christmas draws a circle around the things she calls “holy”: the family line that cannot find its root but survived to fill the skies with radiant flesh; the body, broken and unbroken and broken and new again; the lover lost, the friend lost, and the loss itself; and the hands that hold them all with brilliant, tender care. Expansive and beautiful, these poems allow readers to swim in Jillian Christmas’s mother-tongue and to dream at her shores.
The Long Answer: New and Selected Poems
By David Keplinger
Selected from five books highlighting more than twenty years of work, The Long Answer marks the best of David Keplinger’s engagement with the lyric form from his first collection, chosen by Mary Oliver for the T.S. Eliot Prize, to his most recent, winner of the Rilke Prize in 2019. The collection also features over thirty pages of new material. Influenced by the French prose poet Max Jacob as well as by earlier voices—from Rilke, the French symbolists, William Blake, Dante, the medieval contemplatives, and the Anglo-Saxon riddles, Keplinger’s work may, on the one hand, serve as one poet’s long answer to a question of originality: what of the work belongs to tradition and what, if any part, stands alone?
The Mill of Lost Dreams
By Lori Rohda
Three immigrant families and one orphan risk everything to find a better life in the textile mills of Fall River, Massachusetts, which by 1868 was the largest manufacturing center in the US. The Mill of Lost Dreams chronicles the intertwining destinies of their lives and asks: what happens to people when they aren’t allowed to build the lives they dreamed about? It is a poignant story of survival, sacrifice and heart-breaking loss for people who simply wanted to find a place where they could belong and thrive. (release Aug. 11, 2020)
The Swan Suit
By Katherine Fawcett
The Swan Suit is an inventive mash-up of fairytales, folklore and twenty-first century feminism. In 15 razor-sharp, sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying, always unforgettable stories, Katherine Fawcett explores what it means to live in a body that betrays and a world that isn’t always as it seems. Acclaimed Canadian author Lisa Moore said, “Wicked and charming by turns, this collection is nothing short of magical.”
This is Not the End of Me: Lessons on Living from a Dying Man
By Dakshana Bascaramurty
For readers of Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air and Will Schwalbe, the moving, inspiring story of a young husband and father who, when diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of thirty-three, sets out to build a legacy for his infant son. (Release: Aug. 18, 2020)
By R.E. Donald
Just west of the Rocky Mountains, a frightened horse with a bloody saddle is found running loose on the Yellowhead highway. Former RCMP investigator Hunter Rayne is on the road in his eighteen-wheeler when he is flagged down to help calm the horse and find its missing rider. The horse with the bloody saddle leads Hunter and a good-natured French Canadian cowboy into a complicated murder mystery. The police are none too happy with his interference, but Hunter strongly believes the RCMP have arrested the wrong man and sets out to uncover who stood to gain from the death of a wealthy ranch owner. His belief in the suspect’s innocence is shared by a rookie female RCMP constable who joins him in the search for the truth. She befriends the dead man’s young fiancé in an effort to get answers, and discovers that the vulnerable Texas beauty is not who the victim believed her to be. This is the fifth novel in a unique mystery series set on the highways of North America.