Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Fiction Preview

The fiction selection for the first half of 2020 is shaping up beautifully! Here's what we're excited about.

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Part literary Western and part historical mystery, Ridgerunner (May) is the follow-up to Gil Adamson’s award-winning and critically acclaimed novel The Outlander. Jean Marc Ah-Sen’s second book, after Grand Menteur, is the story collection In the Beggarly Style of Imitation (April). Keepers of the Faith (April), by Shaukat Ajmeri, is a Romeo and Juliet story with a twist, set in modern India, in a Shia Muslim community that lives under the thumb of a clergy dictating every facet of their lives. Marianne Apostolides’ latest novel is I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind (April), a book that asks what it means to be human—to be physical creatures endowed with a conscious mind, aware of our finitude—and to love. And in Alone in the Wild (February), Kelley Armstrong’s latest thriller, the hidden town of Rockton is about to face a challenge none of them saw coming: a baby.

Set in the mid-1930s, Filthy Sugar (May), by Heather Babcock, tells the story of Wanda Whittle, a 19-year-old dreamer who models fur coats in an uptown department store, while living in a crowded rooming house in a world where "death is always close but life is stubborn." Evie of the Deepthorn (February), by André Babyn, is a novel about small towns, art, and loneliness, and—according to novelist Grace O'Connell—"announces Babyn as an unmissable talent." And Acha Bacha (April), by Bilal Baig, boldly explores the intersections between queerness, gender identity, and Islamic culture in the Pakistani diaspora. 

Taking readers from 19th-century Prince Edward Island to modern-day Iraq, Deni Ellis Béchard 's A Song from Faraway (February) pieces together "the stories that we tell about ourselves" in a picaresque novel of uncommon beauty and ferocity. Giller Prize-winner David Bergen returns with Here the Dark (March), a short story collection about faith, doubt and grace. Acclaimed writer Laura Best’s first novel for adults is Good Mothers Don’t (April), a story of motherhood and mental illness set in 1960s’ Nova Scotia.

The latest from Lisa Bird-Wilson—whose previous fiction release was a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and won four Saskatchewan Book Awards—is Probably Ruby (April), about a woman raised by an adoptive family who finds connections to her Indigenous identity in unexpected places. From Mark Blagrave, Commonwealth First Novel Award-shortlisted author of Silver Salts, comes Lay Figures (May), centred on a group of artists in World War Two New Brunswick. And Quebec musician Stéphanie Boulay's first novel has been translated into English as Where the Waters Meet (April), translated by Ghislaine Lefranc, a story with a sombre offbeat mood.

Bestseller Karma Brown's fifth novel is Recipe for a Perfect Wife (December), which Taylor Jenkins Reid calls "a bold, intoxicating, page-turner." Mina's Child (May), by Paul Butler, imagines a second generation springing from the "heroes" in Bram Stoker's Dracula. It all starts with an impossibly large set of tracks, footprints for a creature that could not possibly exist. The words sasquatch, bigfoot, and yeti never occur in Sarah Butler’s debut novel The Wild Heavens (March), but that is what most people would call the hairy, nine-foot creature that would become a lifelong obsession for its characters. And Brad Casey’s linked short story collection The Handsome Man (April) follows several years in the life of a young man (presumably handsome) as he travels around the world.

From Marjorie Celona, the Giller-nominated author of Y, comes How a Woman Becomes a Lake (March), a suspenseful novel about the dark corners of a small town. Janie Chang, bestselling author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road, publishes The Library of Legends (April), a captivating historical novel in which a convoy of student refugees travel across China, fleeing the hostilities of a brutal war with Japan. Secrets abound at a northern Ontario lodge when a teenage employee is murdered in Brenda Chapman's latest Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery, Closing Time (March). And Christopher Cook's play Quick Bright Things (April) explores a family’s struggle with understanding mental health, their ways of expressing love, and what it ultimately means to be “okay.”

From Ron Corbett, the Edgar Award and Arthur Ellis Award-nominated author of Ragged Lake, comes the third installment in the Frank Yakabuski series, Mission Road (June). Primary Obsessions (April) is the first book in a series of mysteries involving themes of mental health, written by author and stand-up comedian Charles Demers. Sleep is under siege in The Eyelid (April), a prophetic novel of ideas by S.D. Chrostowska that depicts the end of human reverie. And Eva Crocker follows up her prize-winning story collection Barrelling Forward with All I Ask (June), about Stacey who wakes to the police pounding on her door. They search her home and seize her computer and her phone, telling her they’re looking for “illegal digital material,” and she must find a way to take back to the privacy and freedom she feels she has lost.

Its original French version (Déterrer les os) won Best First Novel at the Biennale littéraire des Cèdres in 2018 and now appears in English as Lightness (March), by Fanie Demeule, translated by Anita Anand. Award-winning playwright Dolly Dennis's The Complex Arms (April) depicts residents of an apartment complex in the Mill Woods neighbourhood of Edmonton. Lawyers whose clients are less than savoury start second-guessing the ethics of their profession and going to court becomes a possible bloodsport in William Deverell's latest, Kill All the Lawyers (April). And Rolling Thunder (May) continues A.J. Devlin’s hard-hitting, award-winning mystery series with its unbeatable one-two punch of over-the-top-rope humour and elbow-to-the-face adventure.

Disgraced pro-hockey enforcer Shane “Bronco” Bronkovsky crashes his motorcycle in the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico and his life takes a turn in Bury Your Horses (January), by Dan Dowhal. When a Bigfoot researcher goes missing, help is summoned in the form of his former star pupil, an online science populist and avowed skeptic, in Roanoke Ridge (March), by J.J. Dupuis. But what begins as a simple search and rescue operation takes a drastic turn when a body is discovered—and the body isn’t the professor... And on opposing sides of a long-simmering feud between their husbands’ families, two women meet again after years of estrangement in Gaylene Dutchyshen's A Strange Kind of Comfort (January).

Award-winner Anne Emery's latest mystery is Postmark Berlin (May), which takes readers from the historic Navy town of Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the history-laden city of Berlin. At once a tribute to boyhood enthusiasm and the heroes of classical quests, Like Rum-Drunk Angels (March), by Tyler Enfield, is an offbeat, slightly magical, entirely original retelling of Aladdin as an American western. Katherine Fawcett’s wry humour and prodigious imagination make for an addictive mix in her short story collection, The Swan Suit (March), following up The Little Washer of Sorrows, shortlisted for the ReLit Short Fiction Award and for a Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.

April Ford's Carousel (May) is a story about secrets—secret yearnings, lives, and losses—and the measures we take to protect our loved ones from the monsters we see ourselves to be. Dayle Furlong's Lake Effect (March) charts the emotional lives of characters in the midst of private sorrows and triumphs. A woman must emerge from the virtual world she's created to confront her flesh-and-blood past and family in Karoline Georges’ The Imago Stage (June), translated by Rhonda Mullins. Tara Gereaux's second novel is Saltus (April), about a teenage boy growing up in a prairie town who asserts that he is female. William Gibson's latest is Agency (January), the sequel to The Peripheral. And with compassion and insight, Five Little Indians (April), by Michelle Good, chronicles the desperate quest of residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.

Written by Giller Prize finalist John Gould, The End of Me (May) is a set of sudden stories that explore the experience of mortality. Genevieve Graham's latest is The Forgotten Home Child (March), about a young girl caught in a scheme to rid England’s streets of destitute children, and the lengths she will go to find her way home—based on the true story of the British Home Children. February is the month of romance, but in North Vancouver it’s also the month of murder in R.M. Greenaway's latest mystery, River of Lies (March). Robyn Harding, bestselling author of The Party, delivers a riveting tale in The Swap (June) about the toxic relationship between two couples after a night of sexual shenanigans, and the manipulative teenager with an explosive secret at the centre of it all.

Deborah Hemming’s debut novel is Throw Down Your Shadows (June), a coming-of-age story set in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. All it takes to unravel a life is one little secret in Jennifer Hillier's new novel, Little Secrets (April). Kate Hilton's third novel is Better Luck Next Time (June), a generational family comedy about the calamitous offspring of a feminist icon. Ava Homa's debut novel is Daughters of Smoke and Fire (May), the story of a young woman’s perilous fight for freedom and justice for her brother, and the first novel published in English by a female Kurdish writer. And, inspired by the history of the British “brideships,” The Brideship Wife (May), by Leslie Howard, tells the story of one woman’s coming of age and search of independence.

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to preserve the legacy of one of literature's most important authors in The Jane Austen Society (May), by Natalie Jenner. The second book in Sharon Johnston's Bread and Roses Series is Patchwork Society (March), a sweeping tale of life in Sault Ste. Marie from the 1930s through the Second World War. In The Last High (May), a new riveting novel from international bestselling author Daniel Kalla, a Vancouver doctor and a detective face the deadly consequences of the opioid crisis as they track down the supplier of fentanyl that landed a group of teens in the ER with critical overdoses. And Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters (January), by Anita Kashwaha, is about about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together and the secrets that tear them apart.

In Dominoes at the Crossroads (January), Kaie Kellough (whose novel Accordéon, which was a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award) maps an alternate nation—one populated by Caribbean Canadians who hopscotch across the country. Award-winner Joseph Kertes' new novel is Last Impressions (March), a story set in both mid-20th-century Hungary and contemporary Toronto, about lost love and newfound connections, and a father and his sons desperately reaching out to bridge an ever-widening gap...even as their time together ebbs away. Poet and agricultural journalist Alexis Kienlen's fiction debut is the novel Mad Cow (April), examining farming life in small-town Alberta, a life 14-year-old Allyson wants only to escape. And in Thomas King's latest mystery, Obsidian (January), Thumps DreadfulWater’s world is turned upside down when Nina Maslow, the producer of a true-crime reality-TV show, turns up dead after working on a cold case that Thumps has spent years trying to forget.

Theresa Kishkan's latest fiction offering is a novella, The Weight of the Heart (April). Acclaimed author Sonya Lalli is back with Grown-Up Pose (March), a delightfully modern look at what happens for a young woman when tradition, dating, and independence collide. The Neptune Room (May), by Bertrand Laverdure, translated by Oana Avasilichioaei, is a melancholic tale about the mysteries of identity and the power dynamics associated with it. In a fantastical debut, In Veritas (May), C.J. Lavigne concocts a wondrous realm overlaying an Ottawa that brims with civic workers and pigeons. And Taiwanese-Canadian Chih-Ying Lay's story collection Home Sickness (March), about characters who yearn for escape but end up longing for home, appears in translation by Darryl Sterk.

Claire Legendre's The Lily Pad and the Spider (Le nénuphar at l'araignée) was a finalist for the 2016 Quebec Booksellers' Prize in the Quebec novel category, and now appears in English with a translation by David Homel. Sarah Leipciger’s second novel is Coming Up for Air (March), described (by writer Francis Spufford) as “an extraordinary three-century braid of air and water: the way we float, the way we drown, the way we surface again against the odds.” And spanning 15 years in the lives
 of a multi-generational family and their neighbours, Sidura Ludwig’s You Are Not What We Expected (May) draws an intimate portrait of a suburban Jewish community and illuminates the unexpected ways we remain connected during times of change.

A ghost-writing opportunity brings surprising experiences and revelations for the protagonist of Logan Macnair's debut novel, Panegyric (April). The Girl He Left Behind (May), by Beatrice MacNeil, is a moving story about how confronting life’s greatest uncertainties is often the only way forward. A multidisciplinary dark comedy about the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Dora Mavor Moore Award-winning play Bears (May), by Matthew MacKenzie, asks what the hell it is we think we’re doing here. Underneath the Water with the Fish (May), by Carol Malyon, is a collection of short fiction exploring the murky underwater existence of women's uncensored thoughts and desires. And, in Jordi Mand's play Bronte: The World Without (May), told over five days in the span of three years, the fascinating story of the Brontë sisters’ pioneering literary careers unfolds to show what it was like to be an ambitious woman in the 1800s, and how similar it seems to the struggles women still face today. 

Emily St. John Mandel follows up her smash hit Station Eleven with The Glass Hotel (March), a 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 conclusion of Cynthia Masson's The Alchemist's Council series is The Amber Garden (March). You Can't Catch Me (June) is a new novel of suspense by bestseller Catherine McKenzie, about a disgraced young journalist caught up in a grifter’s game, and the trail of identically named victims she uncovers.

Michael Melgaard’s first book is Pallbearing (February), an honest and unaffected collection of human experiences that deftly tackles themes of grief, loss, missed opportunities, and the pain of letting go. Can a lesbian couple find Mr. Right? Natalie Meisner (author of the memoir Double Pregnant) explores the question in her play, Speed Dating for Sperm Donors (April). Celebrated and prize-winning Quebec noir novelist Andrée A. Michaud (whose Boundary won a Governor General’s Award and was longlisted for the Giller Prize in its English translation) releases Back Roads (March), translated by Juliet Sutcliffe, a genre-defying and ethereal mystery in which a
 writer encounters her double and must grapple with an undetermined crime—and her own identity.

Martin Michaud's award-winning Victor Lessard series appears in English with Never Forget (January). Angela Misri brings her acclaimed Portia Adams to adult fiction in The Detective and the Spy (April), and nothing—not being a woman in the detective field, nor as an immigrant in London in 1932, nor being the granddaughter of Holmes and Watson—prepares her for the explosion that robs her of her abilities. Lisa Moore is editor of Hard Ticket (June), showcasing 13 of the most exciting emerging writers in Newfoundland. Shani Mootoo’s latest is Polar Vortex (March), a story of secrets, deceptions, and revenge. The war may be officially over, but journalist Billie Walker’s search for a missing young German immigrant plunges her right back into the danger and drama she thought she’d left behind in Europe in Australian-Canadian writer Tara Moss's The War Widow, a tale of courage and secrets set in glamorous post-war Sydney. And A Diary in the Age of Water (May), by Nina Munteanu, follows the climate-induced journey of Earth and humanity through four generations of women, each with a unique relationship to water. 

In Dirty Birds (May), Morgan Murray generates a quest novel for the 21st century—a coming-of-age, rom-com, crime-farce thriller—where a hero’s greatest foe is his own crippling mediocrity as he seeks purpose in art, money, power, crime, and sleeping in all day. Molly Falls to Earth (April) is the debut novel by Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist Maria Mutch, an inventive exploration of time, absence, and desire. Adrian De Leon, Natasha Ramoutar, and Téa Mutonji (acclaimed author of Shut Up, You're Pretty) are editors of anthology Feel Ways (June), a collection of works by writers from Scarborough, ON. In The Starr Sting Scale (February), by C.S. O'Cinneide, which launches the The Candace Starr Series, a hard-drinking former hitwoman agrees to help catch a killer—though the murderer might just be her. And Katrina Onstad’s new novel, Stay Where I Can See You (March), about a family's experience with a lottery windfall, explores whether our most intimate relationships can survive our most unforgivable actions. 

Book Cover Stormsong

Seeds and Other Stories (May), by Ursula Pflug, is a cross-genre collection including prose poems, literary fiction, speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, and slipstream. In Apple S (April), the kaleidoscopic worldview of celebrated Québécois novelist Éric Plamondon (translated by Dimitri Nasrallah) sets its sights on Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and the seeds of Silicon Valley. After Witchmark, the winner of the World Fantasy Award for best novel that was praised as a can't-miss debut" by Booklist, and as "thoroughly charming and deftly paced" by the New York Times, C. L. Polk continues the story in Stormsong (February).

Journey Prize-winner Alex Pugsley’s debut is Aubrey McKee (February), following a group of freaks and geeks as they navigate late adolescence in '70s/'80s Halifax. Kate Pullinger’s Forest Green (April), for readers of Elizabeth Strout and Anne Tyler, begins on a Vancouver sidewalk in 1995 as a homeless man fights for breath—and the rest of the novel is the story of how he got there. The House of Izeiu (May), by Jan Rehner, is a novel inspired by the life and experiences of Sabine Zlatin who, as a Jew using a fake identity, managed to find families to care for Jewish children imprisoned in French refugee camps and created a safe home for a number of other children, which is now a museum dedicated to their memory.

The fiction debut by poet Lisa Robertson is The Baudelaire Fractal (January), about a poet who wakes up one morning to realize that she’s written the works of Baudelaire. A case brings PI Dan Sharp to the northern Ontario wilderness, where he has to face his own dark past in Jeffrey Round's latest, Lion's Head Revisited (February). Tell Me My Name (June), by Erin Ruddy, is a roller-coaster domestic thriller featuring a rustic cottage retreat, a suspicious new neighbour, a violent kidnapping, and a wife who learns her husband isn't telling her the whole truth. And buttoned-down insurance manager Hector Thompson hates two things: change and science fiction. Finding himself in the middle of both, Hector must embark on a road trip across North America in Mark Sampson’s latest novel, All the Animals on Earth (May).

Huckleberry Finn meets The Catcher in the Rye meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (wow!) in Paddy Scott’s debut novel, The Union of Smokers (March). Celebrated multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya’s second novel, The Subtweet (April), is a stirring examination of making art in the modern era, a love letter to brown women, an authentic glimpse into the music industry, and a nuanced exploration of the promise and peril of being seen. Anne Simpson's Speechless (May) tells the story of how a Canadian journalist's life becomes intertwined with that of a Nigerian teenager sentenced to death for adultery. The stories in Traci Skuce's Hunger Moon (April) echo with the yearning to be replenished, to be made full. Vanishing Monuments (April) is the debut novel by John Elizabeth Stinzi, 2019 recipient of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award, a story whose main character returns home to their long-estranged mother who is now suffering from dementia.

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt 35 years before, in the The Sun Down Motel (February), a new atmospheric suspense novel from the USA Today-bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls. A young girl navigates her trauma in a world that can’t help but forget in Anne Stone’s Girl Minus X (May). Cordelia Strube returns with Misconduct of the Heart (April), another caustic, subversive, and darkly humorous book. The third novel in Amy Stuart's series about PI Clare O'Dey is Still Here (June) A debut novel for readers of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Girls, Mallory Tater's The Birth Yard (March) is a gripping story of a young woman’s rebellion against the rules that control her body. And featuring stories that have appeared in Harper’s, Granta, and The Paris Review, the revelatory debut collection from O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife (April), establishes her as an essential new voice in Canadian and world literature.

Two generations grapple with identity, oppression, and redemption rooted in the chilling history of the 1950s and 60s conflict between the BC government and the Doukhobor community in B.A. Thomas-Peter’s novel, The Kissing Fence (March). Larry Tremblay, one of Québec’s most accomplished novelists and playwrights of the last two decades, offers his readers a riveting mystery, a self-reflective enigma whose decoding places on trial the literary form itself, in Impurity (April). Doreen Vanderstoop's debut is Watershed (May), a fast-paced dystopian novel, about family bonds in the face of climate change, set in near-future Alberta after the glaciers have gone. Stories in Jack Wang’s debut collection, We Two Alone (June), have been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and longlisted for the Journey Prize, and  appeared in PRISM International, Malahat Review, New Quarterly, Humber Literary Review, and Joyland.

From Dianne Warren, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, The Diamond House (June) is an engaging new novel about the unconventional Estella Diamond and her struggle with the expectations that bind her family. Andrew Wedderburn’s The Crash Palace (May) is a joy ride set on a crash course with the past. Thelma Wheatley follows up her nonfiction "And Neither Have I Wings to Fly": Labelled and Locked Up in Canada's Oldest Institution with her fiction debut, Taramind Sky (May), the story of a Welsh woman who marries a Sri Lankan man during the 1960s.

Is there a German word for the sweet anticipation of waiting for the latest installment in your favourite mystery series? Iona Whishaw’s next Lane Winslow book is A Match Made for Murder (April), in which Lane and Darling’s honeymoon is interrupted by gunshots. The latest by Carol Windley, whose story collection Home Schooling was a nominee for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, is historical novel Midnight Train to Prague (April), a tale of what we owe to those we love, and those we have left behind. And a thriller by cult favourite Phyllis Brett Young (author of The Torontonians), The Ravine (May) was first published under a pseudonym in 1962 and returns to print with an introduction by Amy Lavender Harris.

January 9, 2020
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