Small and independent presses are real treasure troves for great stories that you won’t necessarily see splashed across ad banners and subway stations but they. are. so. good. As much as I love seeing lists like this one pop up, there are so many indie titles that I would have LOVED to discuss with my friends over guacamole and wine (and, in some cases, probably would have helped me cope with my feeling afterwards)! So I’ve decided to make up my own lists, starting today, to spread the book club love around, even though my “book club” is basically just me reading with my cat in the room. (thanks for the inspo Buzzfeed!)
Full disclosure! Some of the books I pick will be from the company I work for, BUT were published before I got here, so I’m calling it a fair loophole.
In Da Club (Part I)
- Wet, Hot, and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex by Kaleigh Trace (Invisible Publishing)
Who doesn’t want to talk about sex? But, like, in a funny, positive, honest way with no “grey” in sight.
- Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis (Coach House Books)
If you’ve ever owned and/or loved a pet, this is a must-read.
- Every Little Thing by Chad Pelley (Breakwater Books)
Prepare to yell “What the hell happened to Cohen??” over and over in this love story + mystery.
- Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth (Cormorant Books)
Dive into the Spanish Civil War alongside a killer young heroine you can really root for.
- Enter, Night by Michael Rowe (Chizine Publications)
If you’re going to read a vampire book, make it a really good vampire book!
- Infidelity by Stacey May Fowles (ECW Press)
Cheaters are supposed to be bad people, right? Not exactly. Let’s discuss!
- The Indifference League by Richard Scarsbrook (Dundurn)
Light, fun, and truly super.
- Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Lynn Crosbie (House of Anansi)
Read this and then tell me you don’t want to devour this book right now.
I have a sister. She’s three years younger and we couldn’t be more different from one another. It’s always fascinating to think about how two people with the same parents and identical upbringings can turn out on opposite sides of the personality umbrella: one quiet, one outgoing, one social, one homebodied…and so on. The bond however, between sibling are the kind of thing that often can only be described accurately by the other half. You’re lucky if you end up with a sibling you can get along with, even remotely. Or you’re paired with one who seems to have been born solely to serve as your opposition. Either way, it gets complicated on that little island between family and friendship.
The novel Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz is about two sisters. Beena and Sadhana grew up 2 years apart in an apartment above their family-owned bagel shop in Montreal. Beena and Sadhana’s life is plagued with tragedies right from the beginning. Their father dies suddenly when they are young children. Then their mother’s passes away when both are still teenagers, leaving them orphaned and under the guardianship of their uncle. After her death, the sisters both begin divergent paths into adulthood. Sadhana develops severe anorexia, while Beena is faced with an unexpected pregnancy at 16. Both sisters become glued together in solace, though this takes turns as being both a blessing and a strain on their relationship. The novel opens with the revelation of Sadhana’s death at 32 and her sister Beena’s search for meaning in it’s wake. The present-day is a platform for flashback into the sisters’ lives as we come to understand every little bit about their unique and rich familial history.
Bone and Bread follows the ebb and flow of a life-lived between sisters. It encapsulates the need for connection and the desperation for space, the speculative jealousy of other relationships, and the unconditional loyalty that runs alongside unavoidable spite. It is the constant connecting and pulling apart between two separate pieces.
Beena and Sadhana’s story really grabs a hold of you by the exquisite depth of emotional history layered throughout the novel. I feel like I’ve known these two women my whole life. Saleena Nawaz’s writing and use of metaphor is especially wonderful. She has a way of salting the lives of the characters that is worth all the hours in bed with sore eyes for my inability to put this novel down.
Doppler by Erlend Loe is every bit the “modern fable” it promises to be. Originally publishing in Norway, it has been translated into English by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw and published by House of Anansi.
After his father dies, Andreas Doppler decides to withdraw from civilization and live in a tent in the nearby woods of Oslo. Coming to terms with having barely known his father and the transience of life, along with his growing disdain for people and their material wealth, he decides on a new rustic arrangement that includes a tag-along infant moose. Joining him at times are the likes of a WWII model builder, a lock-picking family man, a Reactionary and Doppler’s own wife and children who add their bits to the book’s theme of survival. Though each character appearing in Doppler have unique features about them, the female characters are the least explored, in fact, they are mostly avoided. Doppler’s wife and teenaged daughter represent the “others” in this case, the ones who cannot relate and do not understand his ultimate need for escape. Even the mother moose is killed off within the first few pages, leaving her son to navigate life on his own. The men however, including Doppler’s young son, are able to appreciate and even embrace his choice to eschew modern civilization and live (mostly) off the land. The crutch of the story is about men finding their place in the world – or out of it.
Since the story is a fable, it’s important to suspend any disbelief and go along with Doppler’s narrative without questioning how he manages to pull it all off. This isn’t a story about gritty survival at it’s most realistic, but rather a cultural and introspective survival – a back-to-basics approach that mixes modern thought with natural instincts. Doppler removes himself from the world in order to survive and survive he does, as explored through his eloquent and charming reflections. Doppler is a superbly fleshed out what if? that has flashed across many of our minds at one point or another. I smiled the entire way though it’s 180 pages. It’s told with a delightful voice by a loveable narrator that will immediately pull you in and nestle comfortably into the folds of your heart.
The book itself looks like it could have been plucked off your grandfather’s shelf, all the more appropriate for a contemporary fable about a man and his moose.
Doppler by Erlend Loe
House of Anansi Press 2012
Cover Image by Nicolas Cheetham