A Call to Action – Update #3

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.” Ray Bradbury

Easier said than done, Mr. Bradbury, but some authors did just that, very successfully, this year. Here is my list of the novels I enjoyed in the last half of 2016. Next week, I will provide my recommended books of non-fiction. Hope this helps you with your Christmas shopping list. And speaking of Christmas giving, please don’t forget the Whistler Writers Festival on your list (I’m relentless. I know). Our fundraising campaign continues.

Any amount helps. And donations over $25 will receive an electronic tax receipt in the name of the donor. You can donate on our gofundmesite. If you’d like to watch a very quick video of the 2016 festival, check out this video. Or watch videos of our other programs here.

Thanks again to those of you who have already donated to our cause. We have now received some $7,000 in donations. Incredible! Our goal is $30,000.

Okay, on with my fiction recommendations.

The Parcel by Anosh Irani. Madhu, the novel’s protagonist, is a transgender sex worker in the red-light district of Bombay, given an unexpected task. You can already tell from my short summary that this is a dark novel. I can’t tell you much more about it without giving the story away. So I’ll just say, I’m attracted to fiction that explores weightier social issues. Somehow fiction penetrates a reader’s psyche, allows them to feel for tragic characters and experience issues such as child slavery and prostitution in a way that the headlines just can’t. This won’t be a book for everyone because not everyone wants to stare into such darkness, but for those who take the risk, it will be a satisfying read that will stay with them for a very long time.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill. This novel explores the life of twelve-year-old, Baby, who lives with her father Jules, a heroin addict. Yes, another dark novel. This seems to be the theme running in the books I read. I loved Baby’s voice, and I loved that Jules tries his best to be a good father despite his addiction. No one is demonized here. This is life, harrowing, and sometimes joyful, for those the rest of us pass on the street and look away.

The Dead Are More Visible by Steven Heighton. A collection of short stories with diverse characters and challenges. Here is a snippet of the note I wrote to Steven after I finished this collection.

“Lovely lines throughout that say so much about a character in one short sentence. In the story, The Dead Are More Visible, the line, To Ellen, anger was a rare detour, not a lifetime of highways, is only one example. Gorgeous! 

I loved the tenderness and the growing relationship between the boxers in A Right Like Yours, loved the conclusion in the story, Shared Room On Union, which spoke so much to Janna and Justin’s overall relationship and their shared experience, and I loved how you told a story through Nella’s unsent emails in Noughts and Crosses.

My favourites were Journeymen, Nearing the Sea, Superior and Swallow. All three speak to grief in such different ways. I loved the line, And you reach for the drug, tiny pill, blue as the walls of a nursery (enjoyed the contrast of something sinister against the peacefulness of a nursery), and of course the nursery is a beautiful hint of what is to come. Again, beautifully done.”

This is an incredible collection. Each story, with its many layers and character development feels like a fully drawn out novel.

Flannery by Lisa Moore. Flannery Malone is a sixteen year old who is losing her best friend to the “popular crowd”. She has a crush on Tyrone who doesn’t even know she exists anymore and she lives with her brother and artist mother who barely pays the bills and can’t afford to buy Flannery’s science textbook. This is a young adult novel. Here is an excerpt of the note I sent Lisa after I finished her novel.  “I loved Flannery’s voice, so smart and funny and sad too. Reminded me so much of my son when he was growing up, his loves, his disappointments, his need to be noticed. I guess this is true for all of us. 

I loved how Miranda tells her daughter to make the lines bigger after Flannery’s teacher complains that she doesn’t write properly between the lines. In that statement, a reader gets Miranda right away. Beautiful! Also liked very much how Flannery describes what welfare is like and the welfare police. 

I think kids will identify with all the pressures that Flannery and Amber and Tyrone and others deal with at their age. Your novel made me think of my own youth and being an outsider, and all the things I did to belong. Shudder!”

Every Lost Country by Steven Heighton. Dr. Lewis Book has practiced emergency medicine in faraway lands. This time he’s brought his delinquent teenage daughter, Sophie. He’s the doctor on a crew that is attempting to summit Mount Kyatruk on the Tibet/China border.

In a note I sent to Steven after I finished the novel, I said, "I loved many lines and descriptions, but in particular: There is no such thing, Book says to his wife after she tells their daughter he should learn how to be a bystander. Bystanders, he said the word quietly, as if emabarrassed to find it in his mouth. That told me all I needed to know about Book. I loved the description of yiayia too, wjo viewed domestic strife as a form of entertainment. Lovely! so like most of my own family. And there were so many other great lines: the cave was fanged with large icicles, or in a world without adults, every child is a refugee." The strenght of Steven's writing goes beyond beautiful lines. It's really in the multiple layers and complexity he builds into his work.  

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