Salty Ink’s Spring Fiction Spotlight: 15 Novels to Put on Your Reading Radar (Part 1 of 5)

I’ve been cherry picking novels by Canadians set to come out this spring. Maybe I got it all wrong, but, all week long I’ll post 3 novels a day that I, and you, should have on our reading radars.

Saleema Nawaz’s Bone & Bread (Anansi)

I know Saleema for winning my favoruite Canadian literary award: The Journey Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in Prairie Fire, PRISM international, Grain, and The New Quarterly, and her first collection, Mother Superior, was a finalist for the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s McAuslan First Book Prize. This is her debut novel, it’s been mightily endorsed by 2012′s superstar, Alix Ohlin.

Bone & Bread is a novel about two sisters who share a bond shaped by the most unusual of childhoods — and by shared tragedy. Orphaned as teenagers, they have grown up under the exasperated watch of their Sikh uncle, who runs a bagel shop in Montreal’s Hasidic community of Mile End. Together, they try to make sense of the rich, confusing brew of values, rituals, and beliefs that form their inheritance. When we first meet the adult Beena, she is grappling with a fresh grief: Sadhana has died suddenly and strangely, her body lying undiscovered for a week before anyone realizes what has happened. Beena is left with a burden of guilt and an unsettled feeling about the circumstances of her sister’s death, which she sets about to uncover. Her search stirs memories and opens wounds, threatening to undo the safe, orderly existence she has painstakingly created for herself and her son.

Claire Wilkshire’s Maxine (Breakwater Books)

Claire Wilkshire was a founding member of the famous Burning Rock Fiction Collective that included members such as Lisa Moore, Michael Winter, and, her husband, Larry Mathews. Her fiction and reviews have appeared in my journals and papers, and she currently works as a well-regarded freelance editor and writer. Maxine was a finalist for Newfoundland’s Fresh Fish Award, and of it.

“Here is a new kind of hero. Noble, funny, cautious, Maxine travels the same road as the rest of us, but in the opposite direction. You may just pull a U-turn and follow her. Wilkshire has written the book we’ve been longing for: a coming of age story, in reverse. Inspiring and triumphant.” – Jessica Grant

Maxine Carter suddenly finds herself searching for a fresh start—a way around her own gnawing fear of an untimely death and a wasted life.What she discovers is her neighbour’s nine-year-old son, Kyle. As Maxine becomes the boy’s constant companion and as Kyle deals with his parents’ increasing absence and with life as an outsider in a new city,he slowly manages to reinvent Maxine’s real and imaginative life. Smart, funny, and poignant, Claire Wilkshire’s impressive debut is a novel about overcoming personal fears in a world wracked by private loss and public anxiety, and about finding friendship in the most unlikely places. 

Rebecca Silver Slayter’s In the Land of Birdfishes (HarperCollins)

Rebecca’s writing has appeared in places like The Antigonish Review, Brick,, Quill & Quire and The Walrus. She has received numerous awards and scholarships,
including the David McKeen Award for In the Land of Birdfishes. Thomas Head Raddall finalist Heather Jessup promises Slayter’s debut will “have you rapt from the first page … and leave you changed.”

In In the Land of Birdfishestwo sisters witness the suicide of their wild, beautiful mother. Their father, sick with grief, blindfolds the children to shield them from the misery of the world. Left that way for years, they are each scarred in their own way: Mara is rendered fully blind, and Aileen partly so. When a neighbour discovers their condition, they are immediately separated for treatment, and it isn’t until decades later, after Aileen’s marriage has fallen apart, that she decides to seek out her lost sister. She heads to Dawson City, Yukon, where Mara is said to be living, but instead finds Mara’s angry young son, Jason. Aileen insinuates her way into the hard-drinking, hard-living existence of Dawson City’s residents, from whom she hears various conflicting stories about her sister. When the novel shifts to Jason’s perspective, the reader starts to understand the nature of these stories and the underlying secrets that compel their creation.


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