Toronto Star - - BOOKS - Sarah Mur­doch, smur­

These five book are ob­ject lessons in why we should cher­ish our in­de­pen­dent presses, and as launch­ing pads for new ta­lent.

In the Wake, Ni­cola Davison, Va­grant

This ac­com­plished first novel fo­cuses on two women at dif­fer­ent stages of their lives. Emily, with her hus­band and tod­dler in Nova Sco­tia. Her clos­est neigh­bour is Linda, a plain­spo­ken woman.

No Good Ask­ing, Fran Kim­mel, ECW

The Ny­lands could fairly be called a fam­ily on the edge. Eric, a for­mer RCMP sergeant, is re­duced to work­ing as a rent-a-cop at the lo­cal plant. El­lie is at home with the kids — Danny, re­cently busted for crash­ing his grand­dad’s truck, and Sam, a 4-year-old with de­layed speech — and Eric’s dad Wal­ter, who has de­men­tia. The Al­berta writer’s sec­ond novel un­folds be­tween Dec. 20 and 26, mak­ing it a fine stock­ing stuffer.

Ramya’s Trea­sure, Pratap Reddy, Guer­nica

Ramya — re­cently job­less, hus­band­less, al­most 50, liv­ing in a house in sub­ur­ban Toronto — feels com­pelled to take the mea­sure of her ex­is­tence. So she pulls down the san­dal­wood box into which she’s placed her trea­sures and re­counts the sto­ries of her life.

Refuge, Mer­i­lyn Si­monds, ECW

Cas­san­dra MacCal­lum — priv­i­leged, self-con­tained, cu­ri­ous — is liv­ing out her 97th year alone in a cabin on an is­land in B.C. when she gets an email from a Burmese refugee claim­ing to be the old woman’s great-grand­daugh­ter. This novel, Mer­i­lyn Si­monds 18th book, is brac­ing and beau­ti­ful.

Find­ing Grace, Daphne Greer, Nim­bus

The nar­ra­tor, 13-year-old Grace, has grown up be­liev­ing that she and older sis­ter Dotty were aban­doned out­side this Bel­gian board­ing school when she was an in­fant. Find­ing Grace has a strong flavour of au­then­tic­ity.

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