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.