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Editors' Picks: Week of September 23–29

By kileyturner
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New fiction from new and established authors, including Cherie Dimaline, author of The Marrow Thieves.
The Inquirer

The Inquirer

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

When an accident jeopardizing the family farm draws Amiah Williams back to Kingsley, Alberta, population 1431, she doesn't expect her homecoming to make front-page news. But there she is in The Inquirer, the mysterious tabloid that is airing her hometown's dirty laundry. Alongside stories of high school rivalries and truck-bed love affairs, disturbing revelations about Amiah's past and present are selling papers and fuelling small-town gossip. As the stakes get higher, Amiah must either expose t …

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Daughters of Silence

Daughters of Silence

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

Strong female voice, a clear-eyed narrator examining self and family.

Ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano fills the skies. Flights are grounded throughout Europe. Dessie, a cosmopolitan flight attendant from Canada, finds herself stranded in Addis Ababa — her birth place.

Grieving her mother's recent death, Dessie heads to see her grandfather, the Shaleqa — compelled as much by duty as her own will. But Dessie's conflicted past stands in her way. Just as the volcano's eruption disordered De …

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Empire of Wild

Empire of Wild

edition:Hardcover

From the author of the YA-crossover hit The Marrow Thieves, a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou--a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communities. A messed-up, grown-up, Little Red Riding Hood.

Broken-hearted Joan has been searching for her husband, Victor, for almost a year--ever since he went missing on the night they had their first serious argument. One terrible, hungover morning in a Walmart parking …

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Excerpt

prologue

A NEW HUNT

Old medicine has a way of being remembered, of haunting the land where it was laid. People are forgetful. Medicine is not.

The town of Arcand was a church, a school, a convenience store, a bootlegger and a crowd of stooped houses leaning like old men trying to hear a conversation over a graveyard of Greniers and Trudeaus. Sundays were for God, though most people prayed out on the lake, casting Hail Marys with their fishing lines into the green water, yelling to the sky when they didn’t get lucky or when they did.

Parties were held in kitchens. Euchre was a sport. And fiddles made the only sound worth dancing to. Any other music was just background noise for storytelling and beer drinking and flirting. Or for providing the cadence for fight choreography when you just had to beat the shit out of your cousin.

The people who lived in Arcand were brought from another place, moved off Drummond Island when it was handed over to the United States in 1828. They were halfbreeds, the children of French voyageurs and First Nations mothers, and Métis people who had journeyed from Manitoba. The new colonial authorities wanted the land but not the Indians, so the people were bundled onto ships with their second-hand fiddles and worn-soft boots. They landed on the rolling white sands of the Georgian Bay and set up their new homes across from the established town that wouldn’t welcome them. At first they were fine on their own, already flush with blacksmiths and hunters, fishermen and a hundred small children to toss stones into Lake Huron. If they had known then how each square inch would have to be guarded, how each grain of sand needed to be held tight, perhaps they would have stacked the rocks instead of gifting them to the lake.

Over the years, without treaty and without wealth, the halfbreeds were moved away from the shorelines where million-dollar cottages were built in a flurry of hammers on lumber, so many at one time it was as if the shore was standing to anovation. Family by family, the community was pushed up the road.

Catholic by habit, they prayed on their knees for the displacement to stop, for the Jesus to step in and draw a line between the halfbreeds and the new people. Those among them who carried medicine also laid down coarse salt as protection against the movement. This salt came from the actual bones of one particular Red River family, who drew their own boundaries when the hand of God did not reach down to do it for them.

Eventually, inevitably, the shore belonged to the newcomers who put up boathouses and painted gazebos and built docks where sunburnt grandchildren would cannonball into June waters, calling for someone to watch what they could do. And the halfbreeds? They got the small settlement up a dirt road. They got Arcand.

Some of the people managed to hold on to the less desirable patches of waterfront, areas with no beach or too many lilies like the decaying fingers of a neglected woman pushing out of the muck. These were the older people, who refused to head up the road to Arcand. They kept rickety docks where the fishermen tied their rusted boats in exchange for some of the catch. The heavily wooded acres that bloomed out from Arcand toward the highway and the smaller roads with hairpin curves snaking down to the occupied shore, these areas, too, remained up for grabs. In any halfbreed home there were jars of coins and a wistful plan to buy back the land, one acre at a time if need be.

On these lands, in both the occupied places and those left to grow wild, alongside the community and the dwindling wildlife, there lived another creature. At night, he roamed the roads that connected Arcand to the larger town across the Bay where Native people were still unwelcome two centuries on. His name was spoken in the low tones saved for swear words and prayer. He was the threat from a hundred stories told by those old enough to remember the tales.

Broke Lent? The rogarou will come for you.

Slept with a married woman? Rogarou will find you.

Talked back to your mom in the heat of the moment? Don’t walk home. Rogarou will snatch you up.

Hit a woman under any circumstance? Rogarou will call you family, soon. 

Shot too many deer, so your freezer is overflowing but the herd thin? If I were you, I’d stay indoors at night. Rogarou knows by now.

He was a dog, a man, a wolf. He was clothed, he was naked in his fur, he wore moccasins to jig. He was whatever made you shiver but he was always there, standing by the road, whistling to the stars so that they pulsed bright in the navy sky, as close and as distant as ancestors.

For girls, he was the creature who kept you off the road or made you walk in packs. The old women never said, “Don’t go into town, it is not safe for us there. We go missing. We are hurt.” Instead they leaned in and whispered a warning: “I wouldn’t go out on the road tonight. Someone saw the rogarou just this Wednesday, leaning against the stop sign, sharpening his claws with the jawbone of a child.”

For boys, he was the worst thing you could ever be. “You remember to ask first and follow her lead. You don’t want to turn into Rogarou. You’ll wake up with blood in your teeth, not knowing and no way to know what you’ve done.”

Long after that bone salt, carried all the way from the Red River, was ground to dust, after the words it was laid down with were not even a whisper and the dialect they were spoken in was rubbed from the original language into common French, the stories of the rogarou kept the community in its circle, behind the line. When the people forgot what they had asked for in the beginning—a place to live, and for the communityto grow in a good way—he remembered, and he returned on padded feet, light as stardust on the newly paved road. And that rogarou, heart full of his own stories but his belly empty, he came home not just to haunt. He also came to hunt. 

1

JOAN OF ARCAND

Searching for the one you lost feels like dying of exposure again and again and again. You are bloodless, single-minded, numb around the edges of the panic and loss. Fingers exist only to dig, legs to pump you forward on blistered feet.

You look.

You look.

You look.

You push granola bars between your teeth to get some fuel into your stomach. So you can keep going. You piss in the woods to save time, but only after meticulously checking the ground for evidence.

You hold your breath when you spot tracks and then you follow them. Any small sign that he may be close slams electricity into your nerves so that everything is on fire. You are a fever in the woods.

But then a broken shoelace is just a shoelace and nothing more. A clue is not a clue, just a dropped barrette, a drunken stranger sleeping it off, a used condom.

And your blood recedes like a red tide and your fingers close tight around another shitty cup of coffee. They rest over a broken heart held careless by inadequate ribs.

You look some more. 

Joan had been searching for her lost husband for eleven months and six days, since last October when they’d fought about selling the land she’d inherited from her father and he’d put on his grey jacket and walked out, the screen door banging behind him. She’d pored over that small sequence of movements and words every hour for eleven months and six days until the argument had distilled to a scream and a dash, then the door.

“Going to check the traps,” he’d thrown over his shoulderand into the living room where she sat.

“Yeah, good,” she tossed at his back from the couch. “Go enjoy the land you want to sell out from under us. Why not?”

Then she’d half laughed through her nose so that the last sound he heard from her was a derisive, mocking exhale. That was the punctuation at the end of their collective sentence, that horrible noise. Maybe he hadn’t heard her. She hoped that he hadn’t.

She couldn’t remember what it was to eat and sleep and dream. She couldn’t make herself cum and she couldn’t ease her lungs enough to sigh, which, she thought, was almost the same thing. Without Victor, Joan was half erased. Was he dead somewhere? Had he run off? She couldn’t grieve like a normal person—cut her hair, cry herself to sleep and wait for a day when she could live with his absence. The only thing she could do was search.

She was born in Arcand, like generations before her. Unlike them, she’d lived other places before moving back, in cities and towns around Ontario and once, years ago, in Newfoundland when she’d hooked up with a cod fisherman. Growing up in Arcand had made her itchy and absent-minded. She had to see what else was out there. There had to be someplace where she fit. As it turned out, the fisherman stopped being verbal and she couldn’t figure out how to play a decent hand of 120s like a respectable islander, so she’d made her way home.

Between Leading Tickles, Newfoundland, and Arcand, Ontario, she met Victor.

“Watch yourself,” Mere had warned when she heard Joan was taking the Greyhound. “Some fellow cut some other fellow’s head off on one of those things.” Her faraway voice on the phone was quick with concern.

“Don’t worry about bus murderers. With my luck, I would end up dating him.” Joan was only half kidding.

Mere clucked her tongue. “You just get home. Never mind about dating anyone.”

“Yeah well, once I get to Arcand, I can’t date anyone.They’re all related to me.”

She had a two-seater to herself for most of the trip, a good book, a bag of snacks and smokes, and eighty dollars left over from her cheap fare. So when the bus squealed and burped into Montreal with a four-hour layover until her Toronto connection, she decided to hit a bar near the station.

She climbed down the steep steps and hopped out of the bus onto the slushy asphalt in inadequate shoes, her backpack over one shoulder. She looked up into a sky layered to navy past the greasy halo of city lights. Snowflakes tumbled down so huge and slow it was as if they’d been cut from folded paper by a pair of delicate shears. The parking lot was a poem about white. The neon bar sign for Andre’s was a Christmas tree, all dressed. And the fat, black Harleys out front were eight little reindeer all in a row.

Joan ordered the first beer listed on tap and settled in at a corner table away from the loud regulars circling the bartender like thirsty seagulls. Drinkers hunkered over a couple of pool tables on the far side of the room, illuminated by a stained glass fixture of ships at sea. The tables were filled with bodies, spilling out clipped French like a burst pipe. She drank quickly to push back the anxiety of being alone and uncomfortable and ordered another beer when the waitress breezed by. Coming back from the ladies’ room after her second, she stopped by the bar to order another, armed with temporary confidence.

It was late now, almost eleven, and her bus was leaving at half past midnight. The front door opened often, blowing in mostly men but a few women too, and swirls of the constant snow. At some point, she was sucked into a group conversation about Osama bin Laden’s death. She lost track of drinks and details, speaking free and laughing easy with the security of a near departure. But then she saw Victor, beautiful Victor with his sharp cheekbones and old-fashioned tattoos of swallows and pin-ups and knives stuck in thick-lined hearts, Victor with his smart mouth and kind eyes whose colour was indefinite, and she knew she wasn’t getting back on the bus.

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Even That Wildest Hope

Even That Wildest Hope

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

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— …

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Here I Am!

Here I Am!

edition:Paperback

A 49th Shelf Editors’ Pick

MyMum said sometimes refugees don’t eat anything for days and days. Sometimes weeks and months so I am really lucky. I think she exaggerates. But I think she is right about the lucky bit. Or maybe not. Sometimes I forget that MyMum is dead. But that is probably better than remembering.

When Frankie’s mother dies, he tells his teacher, of course. But he can't seem to get anyone at his school in southern England to listen to him. So the six-year-old comes up with a …

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

FRIDAY

I'm starting on Friday because it's the first day. (Thursday doesn't count. It wasn't a whole day.)

When I got up the sea was pink. Yes really. It looked like glass all smooth. Pink glass. I didn't know if you were allowed outside yet so I went in one of the big metal doors. They have a little foot sticking down for souls who are not strong enough to open them by themselves. Luck me! I passed a man on the stairs but he was the only person. I went you know where and there was nobody in there either. I waited for a long time with the door shut sort of like hiding but not. When I could hear other people walking about and talking it was all right to go outside again. It was bright blue then like it is supposed to be and the sun was shining. I wanted to see how far away England was. It had completely disappeared! Yesterday you could still see a lumpy grey line at the back where it was. Today it was only sea. I looked for France at the front but it was not there yet so I went to the rail on the side to do looking at the sky and making the edge go away. It was a good job they had a rail for that. MyDad would say it was something to hang on to.

Three ladies came and stood a little way away to do chatting. They were wearing P.E. shorts and plimsolls even though it was not school and white towels round their necks like boxers (but they weren't!). I sat down on a round iron thing to wait for them to go away. You call it a capstan because MyDad said. While they were talking one of the ladies tapped her friend on the arm and pointed at me. It was very rude. You could tell she didn’t know how to behave because when her friends looked everybody laughed. I didn’t know what to do so I did a sort of smile and looked up at the sky. I pretended I was bird watching. The sea is not really a very good place for that. It felt a bit lonely. Some doorbell music came on the loudspeaker and they all started walking again. One of them called out Come on! You’ll be late.

I didn’t know what she meant because I wasn’t going anywhere (except France) so I put my head down to pretend I was shy. Actually I am shy so that was easy haha.

When they had gone I stood up and carried on looking. The sea was so shiny and smooth I wanted to swim in it but there was nowhere to climb down even if you were brave. I looked. Anyway I can only do twelve strokes. So maybe not swim. Maybe walk. Like Jesus. Holding my arms out sideways. Look. Jesus walking. That would be good I thought if we started sinking. Especially if you didn’t have a life jacket — like me.

—What are you doing? (That was the same boy I saw on Thursday. He's a noying.)

—Nothing.

—Can I play?

—No.

—Why not?

—You’re a noying.

—A what?

(See what I mean?)

When he had gone I carried on looking through the gap between the wire and the top rail. If you do that you can't see where the sea stops and the sky starts. If I stood on tiptoe I could make the top rail come down just enough so I couldn’t see the line where they joined up. If you do it right the sea and sky look like all the same thing. The only trouble was if people saw you doing it they asked you questions. The first man who came by did it.

—See any fish?

I shook my head but I felt silly. We were way too high up even downstairs to see a fish. You could see a whale but that wouldn’t count. It's a mammal.

We had a fish in a goldfish bowl at home when I was little. It jumped out and flopped down the back of the sideboard. I waited for it to come out until Blue Peter came on then I gave up. I ate my scrambled egg and put my jarmies on and went to bed. In that order. In the morning I told MyMum—that’s what I call her when she isn’t here—and she got it out with the egg flipper. It had fluff all over it like the stuff at the bottom of your coat pocket. And it wasn’t bendy any more. That was the funny thing. The not funny thing was when I said you could fry it. MyMum laughed and laughed. But I meant it. It wasn't a joke.

(By the way that's what I will have to call her all the time now. All the time. Forever and ever. By the way.)

When the man left I carried on looking but not for fish. I liked making the line disappear. I could have done it forever. And ever. To make it come back you had to breathe out just a little tiny bit of air so you were a bit shorter. Just a bit. Not even a quarter of a ninch probably and then it comes back. When you breathe in it disappears again because the rail comes down. It's not magic. It's because you’re taller when you breathe in so you can't see the join. It looks like all the same thing. You can’t tell if it’s air or water.

I did a nexperiment to see if it was better with my mouth open. It was like the sea and the sky were filling me up both at the same time. I was breathing blue in my mouth. Blue in. Blue out. Blue in. Blue out. Blue in. Blue in. Blue in. Blue in.

The man came back. I could see him out of the side of my eye.

—Still no fish?

Some questions are just stupid. You don’t even have to answer them. Probably. I blew out after he had gone.

I don’t like being with people when I am trying to enjoy something. It's too hard when people are talking to you all the time. And they always ask you things you don't want to talk about.

I went exploring instead. I wanted to see everything before we got to France. They let you go wherever you liked. Nearly. They had a special sign when you couldn’t go. It had a hand like a traffic policeman in a book but red. It's the sign for stop like on the door of the room where I went to bed. It is also the sign for Hallo but that's in other countries. We did countries with Miss Kenney. If I went through a red hand door by accident I decided to just say Hallo. That would surprise them.

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