Category Archives: CanadianBookChallenge6

From Ink Lake: Canadian Stories edited by Michael Ondaatje

inklakeFrom Ink Lake: Canadian Stories

edited by Michael Ondaatji

Vintage Canada, Toronto, 1995

From my book shelves.  I suppose this is a bit of a cheat for the Canadian Book Challenge, as I haven’t read every story yet, but I keep this on my night stand and often pick it up between novels.  It is one I will keep forever.

This collection, which I have had for some time, is how I first became interested in reading Canadian authors.  I had read Ondaatji and Atwood, of course, but I don’t think I realized they came from the North.   This book introduced me to Alice Munro through Miles City, Montana, Alister Macleod through As Birds Bring Forth The Sun  and Carol Shields  through Scenes. There are so many other authors I can’t list them all.  As an introduction to Canadian literature it is worth searching for this one.

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Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart

Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart

McClelland & Stewart Ltd., Toronto, On, 2010

From my to-be-read pile.  Long-listed for the 2010 Giller Prize.

I first discovered Jane Urquhart by accident when I picked up “Away” off my library shelves.  I have followed her work ever since.

Sanctuary Line is the story of an Ontario farming family with roots in Ireland.  Liz Crane has returned to the family farm, works measuring the wings of Monarch Butterflies and regularly visits her mother at a place called The Golden Field and finds memories rising every time she picks up an object or looks out a window.

Haunted by the death of her cousin Mandy, Liz finds herself tangled in the stories of her large and varied family.  Drawn to the past, sifting through memories, she slowly discovers a truth that has been hidden for years.

Urquhart is an author whose characters are firmly rooted in the past.   Her novels delve into family histories, family secrets and what brings the past into the present.

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Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Aspect Fiction, New York, 1998

From my TBR pile.  My second read for R.I.P. VII.  Winner of the Locus Award and the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer in 1999.

Nalo Hopkinson is Jamaican, now living in Canada.  Her novels and stories are filled with Caribbean folklore, history and language.  The title comes from a traditional West Indian ring game song.

This dystopian novel takes place in Toronto.  The city center has collapsed politically and economically, leaving those who can’t afford to leave, mostly people of color, struggling to survive any way they can.    The wealthy population runs to the suburbs and edge cities, areas now protected by barricades and road blocks.

Ti-Jeanne, gifted with visions she does not understand, lives with her new baby and grandmother, Gros-Jeanne.  This is  a  situation she found herself in after running from her lover, Tony, and she is not at all happy with it.  Tony has a bad drug habit and is caught up in the Posse, a mob-like organization run by Rudy, a thug and spiritual practitioner. Rudy is the self-proclaimed boss of the central city, running a gang, terrorizing residents and keeping nasty spirits under his control.

In this dark urban fantasy  Ti-Jeanne finds herself with ancestors she didn’t know she had and powers she does not really want, but it is up to her to face the spirits and protect her family.

I have read newer works by Hopkinson, and now have a better understanding of her style of fantasy based in Caribbean history .  I found some of the patois hard to read, but enjoyed the story.  I am looking forward to reading So Long, Been Dreaming, a collecting of Science Fiction and Fantasy she helped edit in 2004.

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The Meagre Tarmac by Clark Blaise

The Meagre Tarmac by Clark Blaise

Biblioasis, Emeryville, Ontario, 2011

From my TBR pile.

I had never heard of Clark Blaise before seeing this book nominated for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller prize.  It turns out Blaise founded the postgraduate Creative Writing Program at Concordia University, served as the Director of the International Writing Program at Iowa from 1990 to 1998, and is the President of the Society for the Study of the Short Story.  He is married to author Bharati Mukherjee and has spent time traveling in India.

The Meagre Tarmac is a novel made of linked stories strung together like an assortment of beads, exploring the places where tradition, culture and change meet.  First and second generation Indo-Americans face intimate struggles of immigration and identity, trying to find home.  What do they cling to and what do they leave behind?

Initially it was difficult for me to accept stories of East Indians written by a white North American, but I believe Blaise’s connections through family and travel bring truth and compassion to his writing.  He is a master story-teller, this is a beautiful collection and I will search out more of his work.

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